New Delhi, March 10: In an attempt to check the growing incidence of female foeticide, the Centre plans to give Rs 1,000 to a woman who delivers a girl child at the primary health sub-centre in her village. This, the government hopes, will also help in bringing down maternal and infant mortality rates.
Announcing this in the Rajya Sabha today, Union health minister Sushma Swaraj said: “We are planning to incorporate some changes in the existing national maternity benefit scheme in order to bring the pregnant woman to the primary health sub-centre in the village where she can have safer deliveries than at home.”
A recent report by the department of women and children quotes the maternal mortality rate given by the registrar-general of India. According to this report, in 1999, the rate stood at 407 per 1,000,000 live births.
“High maternal mortality rate is mainly due to the large number of deliveries conducted at home by untrained persons, severe anaemia and poor nutritional status of women,” the report adds.
Uttar Pradesh has the highest maternal mortality rate at 707 and Gujarat the lowest at 28.
Swaraj said the government will change the national maternal benefit scheme to offer more incentives to women. Now, the scheme offers Rs 500 to a woman who delivers a baby at a primary health sub-centre and not at home. From now on, it will be Rs 500 for a male child and Rs 1,000 for a female child.
Rajya Sabha chairperson Bhairon Singh Shekhawat asked why there was discrimination between a male and a female child.Swaraj replied: “We want the girl child to live. At present, she is killed in the womb itself. Very often it is the male child and not the female who gets milk.”
Primary health sub-centres in villages now number 137,000. The government is planning to have a sub-centre in every village with a population of 5,000.
“We want the woman to start visiting the health centre from the third month of pregnancy. She will have free medical check-ups, including blood tests,” Swaraj added.
“It is estimated that at least 15 per cent of all pregnant women require obstetric care — in the absence of which they suffer from serious morbidity and disabilities,” the report adds.
Swaraj said the new plan aims at having a trained midwife in every village so that she can take care of the pregnant woman even if she cannot reach the primary health centre.
A host of schemes exists to address the problem of maternal mortality. Under the maternal health-care programme, several interventions have been identified. There are also schemes like the National Nutritional Anaemia Control Programme, TT Immunisation of Pregnant Mothers and the Dais Training Programme.
Non-government organisations working at the grassroots say the schemes are faltering because of the poor condition of primary health centres and the lack of awareness among women.