ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reproductive Rights and Exclusionary Wrongs: Maternity Benefits

Women contribute to the economy with their unpaid labour as well as social reproduction work but maternity protection in India is sector-specific and employer-employee centric. It thus leaves out the large majority of women in the unorganised sector. A new scheme such as the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana which is being piloted in 52 districts implicitly recognises the need to compensate for wage loss due to maternity and provide support for the mother and child's nutrition. However, a series of exclusionary clauses mar the objectives of the scheme. This paper attempts to demonstrate the misguided "targeting" of this scheme. The Planning Commission is preparing to scale it up at the national level in the Twelfth Plan, perhaps with the same set of incentives and disincentives as are currently spelt out in the pilot phase document. The data clearly shows that if these exclusionary clauses remain they will "victimise the victim".

 

Among the various rights to secure the working and living conditions of workers, maternity protection for women workers had attained significance during the early 20th century. Women’s organisations that work with women workers in the unorganised sector and children continuously flag women’s right to social provisioning of maternity leave and childcare support. The legal framework developed in post-independent India, to provide for maternity protection is limited in its scope and coverage, resulting in the exclusion of large majority of women who are in the unorganised sector. The period of liberalisation has transformed the organisation of production and labour leading to a further erosion of the limited rights that women workers enjoy. A new scheme such as the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) which is being piloted in 52 districts implicitly recognises the need to compensate for wage loss due to maternity and support for the mother and child’s nutrition. However, a series of exclusionary clauses dampen the objectives of the scheme.

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