Aayog follows Gujarat on child tracker

The government's new policy think-tank is set to launch its social sector plans with a scheme for women and children, tracking an expectant mother's first visit to a doctor till the tiny form that has stirred to life inside her completes primary school.

By Ananya Sengupta
  • Published 30.03.15
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New Delhi, March 29: The government's new policy think-tank is set to launch its social sector plans with a scheme for women and children, tracking an expectant mother's first visit to a doctor till the tiny form that has stirred to life inside her completes primary school.

Officials said the Niti Aayog, which recently replaced the Planning Commission, had decided on the Aadhaar-based project when it met for the first time this February.

The womb-to-birth monitoring is a replication of a scheme Gujarat had conceived of and implemented when Narendra Modi was chief minister.

What the Aayog now plans to do is combine this scheme with another model - also conceived by Gujarat - to track the child's academic performance till Class VIII, to evolve a nationwide project.

Modi had attended the first meeting of the Aayog, but it's not clear if it was the Prime Minister who suggested the idea.

An official who was privy to the discussions at the meeting explained how the scheme would work. "The plan is to track a woman from her first visit to a doctor - a primary health centre or a hospital - to the birth of the child and then his/her vaccinations and his/her enrolment in school. This will be done through the Aadhaar number," the official said.

"The system will be such that parents would be alerted about vaccination days and health checkups automatically."

Sources said the scheme was part of the government's efforts to address what figures reveal are grim statistics (see chart) .

According to Unicef, 12.7 lakh children die every year in India before they complete five years of age, while 50,000 women die during pregnancy. As for schooling, some 14 lakh children don't have any idea of what a classroom is.

Under the Aayog's scheme, the unique identification (Aadhaar) numbers of both the woman and her husband would be noted down when she goes for her first check-up and fed into a centralised database, which will be accessible online.

The original idea, e-Mamta - a mobile-based technology being used by health workers to transmit and store information on pregnant women and infants - was first conceptualised and implemented by the Gujarat government in 2010.

The system has since then been rolled out in states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand.

Not everyone is impressed, though.

"Mobile or web-based tracking will not make up for the lack of doctors, nurses, schools, teachers and toilets. What is the point of generating so much data if there are no guarantees for the people? Instead of tracking the children, the government should track the delivery of basic facilities in every district. They are planning to do all this when there is a 50 per cent cut in the budget for the social sector," said child health activist Vandana Prasad of the Public Health Resource Network.

The Union budget for 2015-16 has slashed the allocation for children under the women and child development ministry by nearly 56 per cent, compared to last year's outlay, while funds for women under the WCD ministry is down by nearly 25 per cent.

Figures from Gujarat have, however, shown a positive trend since e-Mamta was introduced. If there were 48 child deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2010, the mortality rate dipped marginally to 44 in 2012.

The school-tracking scheme, another Gujarat innovation conceived in 2012, was launched in June 2014, the month after Modi took over as Prime Minister. It now covers around 87 lakh students.