research institute for compassionate economics

Reflections on the SBM and maternity entitlements

Written by Payal Hathi on January 21st, 2016

Rahul Jacob wrote a piece today in the Business Standard, highlighting r.i.c.e.’s research and calling on the government to convince people to use latrines if the SBM is to have any impact on public health, rather than simply meeting latrine building targets.  See the article here.

Also, we’ve recently been thinking more about maternity entitlements – check out Diane and my op-ed in the Hindu here.

Diane’s research shows the depth of poor maternal nutrition in India, which leads to low birth weights and high rates of child malnutrition, and poor health, cognition, and productivity later in life.  The 2013 National Food Security Act mandates a maternity entitlement of 6,000 Rs. to pregnant women, which we argue is an important opportunity to improve maternal nutrition.  In reality, however, the benefit has only been implemented as a pilot in very few districts. And rather than being applied universally, as stated in the law, its structure disproportionately leaves out many poor and minority women.  Arguments against universalization are based on misguided concerns that government programs which give cash transfers to mothers will increase fertility, but there is no evidence showing that such small amounts of money will actually motivate a family to have another child.

In response to a Supreme Court notice to the Ministry of Women and Child Development for its non-implementation of maternity entitlements, the MWCD suggests an expansion of the pilot.  But without making improvements in its design, this won’t be enough.  The policy door is already open for maternity entitlements to address India’s maternal nutrition deficits, but in order to do so, they must be funded adequately, applied universally, and used to educate families about the importance of healthy pregnancies.

(Photo source: The Hindu)