The NDA government is likely to increase the budget allocated to the Ministry of Woman and Child Development (WCD) by 20% from the next fiscal year, a report in the Hindustan Times said on December 8. A part of the extra funds will be used to universalise maternity benefits for all BPL families, the report has claimed.
The schemes launched will provide nutrition, free health check-ups, and cash benefits to pregnant women. The programme will include all families living below the poverty line.
“We are universalising maternity benefits for all BPL families. And for this, extra allocation will be made for the ministry of WCD, which will be responsible for rolling out this scheme,” a finance ministry official has told the newspaper. Currently, the government only provides benefits to pregnant women in high burden districts, which are districts selected in each state on the basis of backwardness.
Although the current Union government has announced schemes focussed on women since it came to power, the move is significant because it was Maneka Gandhi, the WCD minister, who had criticised the government severely for budget cuts in 2015.
Expressing concern over the ministry’s inability to even pay wages, Gandhi had then said, “There is no door-to-door checking. The supervisors don’t check the workers, workers don’t check the women.” She was speaking about a programme that caters to children below six years of age and pregnant and lactating women.