Ranchi, Sept. 6: Fresh Mother and Child Protection Cards haven’t been printed this fiscal, leaving expectant and new mothers across Jharkhand bereft of vital health check-ups.
Popularly known as “Jachcha-Bachcha Suraksha” cards, the scheme was launched in 2011 by the former government of Arjun Munda — Hemant Soren was deputy chief minister then — to offer the expectant mother her first point of contact with the public healthcare system, anganwadi or any state health hub.
It was a response to Jharkhand’s maternal mortality rate that stood at 267 per 1,00,000 in 2011, much higher than the national average of 212.
The state also set a target to reduce it to 100 by 2015.
Now, Hemant and his health minister Rajendra Prasad Singh have an opportunity to set things right. The cards are supposed to be distributed through 38,432 anganwadi centres run under integrated child development scheme, department of social welfare.
Problems started at the start of the 2013-14 fiscal. Health department sources said cards got exhausted this April-end. Ideally, tenders should have been floated by April first week for printed cards to be distributed in May, but the health department claims finance raised many queries, delaying the process.
“Finance department raised queries on the number of print orders, process of estimation of expectant mothers and so on. The tender was floated by June-end. We hope for prints soon,” said a source.
Finance department mandarins refused to comment, saying it was an “internal matter”.
Minister Singh, who also happens to hold the finance portfolio, is also going slow on clearing files of this department, keeping up the chant of “being very careful”.
But though he may have his reasons, the delay behind the printing of cards has hit lakhs of expectant mothers hard. In both 2011 and 2012, 10 lakh cards each were printed and distributed.
Aimed at keeping track of antenatal check-ups, deliveries and immunisations of mother and child, the card, printed by the department of health and family welfare, scored over the earlier jachha-bachcha pamphlets.
It printed information on nutrition, breast-feeding, infant diseases and precautions in a booklet-like format; it offered a four-year validity till the child turned three; and it was accessible to any mother, irrespective of the number of pregnancies she had before.