The Indian government, quite recently announced that it might be planning to restructure its plan to de-prioritise women and child rights, something that has been an important aspect of development since the establishment of Women and Child development ministry in 2006. According to IE, the government seems to be inching towards such a step as it could only provide maternity care and benefits to the mothers and their firstborns. According to the report, the budget allocation for the Ministry of Women and Child Development is merely 1% of the total amount while gender budgeting across ministries remains to be at 5%. It has to be noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared that a sum of Rs 6,000 would be given to pregnant and lactating women across the country under the Maternity benefit scheme.
But if the recent development in the budget 2017 is to be considered, it seems that only first-time mothers would be getting that benefit. According to IE reports, women pregnant with their second child are in more need of financial aid and other maternity benefits since they already have one child to take care of. According to the report, there is a wide gap between the wages of men and women in India. A woman’s average salary is 30% lower than a man’s, according to the International Labour Organisation, which necessitates the need for an extra financial help, especially during pregnancy for them to be able to afford a comfortable life.
Now, it can be argued that the limitations on maternity benefit for firstborns is a reflection of the government’s strategy of population control and discouraging women from producing more than one kid. It is, however, to be noted that India, despite all the arguments against it, is a patriarchal country and males are mostly responsible for pushing women into having more than one children. We also have had BJP leaders and MPs in the past speaking about the need for “Hindu” women to have more children in order to maintain a balance in the Hindu population and secure a future for the “race”. BJP MP from Unnao, Sakshi Maharaj had spoken about the necessity for Hindu women to produce at least 4 kids. One of the BJP district Presidents in West Bengal had urged his Hindu “mothers and sisters” to have 5 children or there would be no balance in India in the future. Union Minister Giriraj Singh had also joined the bandwagon by saying that Hindus should consider increasing their population by producing more children.
Well, to be quite honest, it doesn’t look like the government or its offices have an idea of what they might be doing here. Women in India already live in terrible conditions and the more we go down the economic ladder, the worse it gets. Hence, the government should realise that it cannot simply cut down on the costs of Women and Child Development Ministry but work towards improving the living standards for women and children.