News Detail

An open letter to PM Modi on Maternity Entitlements as per National Food Security Act Norms

An open letter to PM Modi on Maternity Entitlements as per National Food Security Act Norms Published Date : 08 Mar 2018
An open letter to PM Modi on Maternity Entitlements as per National Food Security Act Norms
More than half of India’s pregnant women are anaemic. It has longstanding adverse effects not only on the woman’s health but also on the baby. The Maternity Benefits Act amendment of 2017 takes this into consideration. However, women employed in the unorganised sector are most vulnerable, since they do not receive maternity benefits. A group of gynaecologists and paediatricians have recognised this social issue, and addressed Prime Minister Modi in an open letter. Through this they seek to ensure proper care and nutrition for women and their children, as an essential part of the nation’s progress.

8 March 2018
Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minister
Government of India

Dear Mr Modi,

Implementation of Maternity Entitlements as per National Food Security Act Norms

We, the undersigned are a group of concerned Gynaecologists and Paediatricians writing to you to draw your attention on the status of pregnant and lactating women in our country. We write to you during the time when the world celebrates Women’s Day. As you may agree, we will not be able to make progress if half of our population is left behind anaemic and undernourished.
We appreciate your earlier efforts to promote the importance of food and health security of pregnant women but much remains to be done. The recent announcement of the National Nutrition Mission is aiming at reducing stunting, under-nutrition, and low birth weight by 2 per cent and anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) by 3 per cent annually over the three-year mission period. This goal will remain unrealised if women continue to remain undernourished and anaemic during pregnancy. It will contribute to intergenerational cycle of malnutrition by passing the burden of malnutrition to the new born child.
The WHO website states “Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. Review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants.”
To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, WHO and UNICEF recommend:
— Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life
— Exclusive breastfeeding – that is the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water
— Breastfeeding on demand – that is as often as the child wants, day and night
— No use of bottles, teats or pacifiers
The implementation of the above, which are so critical for health, nutrition and care of women and children, is not possible, unless women can withdraw from her regular responsibilities of work to be with the child in the first six months. The recent amendment in National Maternity Benefit Act does acknowledge this fact by providing 6 months of paid leave to women in organised sector. In India 95% women workers are in the informal and unorganized sector and do not receive any wage compensation during pregnancy and after childbirth, although we expect them to rest, gain weight, improve their own health and then provide the baby with exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

The Economic Survey of India 2016 (Ministry of Finance, Government of India) points out that ‘42.2% Indian women begin pregnancy too thin and do not gain enough weight during pregnancy’ and recommends that ‘some of the highest economic returns to public investment in human capital in India lie in maternal and early life health and nutrition interventions.’

Sir, to address this crisis, as Doctors, we would earnestly request you to implement the National Food Security Act 2013, within which:
• Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), the Central Scheme for Maternity Entitlements should immediately be made universal and free of conditionalities and not linked to the number of children or age of the woman, as that is fundamentally discriminatory to both women and children as citizens.
• Guarantee of at least Rs. 6000 instead of Rs. 5000 and be increased progressively to achieve coherence with wage compensation.
• Supplementary nutrition through locally prepared foods – preferably hot cooked meals to be supplied to all pregnant and lactating women at the local Anganwadi centre.
We do hope you will appreciate our concern and respond.
Many thanks.
Yours sincerely,
1. Anshu Sharma (National Centre for Disease Control)
2. Arun Gupta (BPNI and IBFAN)
3. Chanda Khanna (private practice)
4. J P Dadhich (BPNI and IBFAN)
5. Jyotsana Aggarwal (private practice)
6. Vandana Prasad (Public Health Resource Network)
7. Vineet Khanna (private practice)



Media Coverage

Calendar 2018