Lok Sabha

March 9, 2017

Ratna De Nag speaks on Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016

Ratna De Nag speaks on Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016


At the very outset, I am really glad to say that this Bill recommends to extend maternity leave to 26 weeks from the present 12 weeks.  As the House is aware that the Bill seeks to increase the maternity leave from twelve weeks to 26 weeks for two surviving children and the said will be applicable to all establishment employing 10 or more people.

The Bill also provides twelve weeks leave for commissioning and adopting mothers and makes it mandatory to provide creche facility in establishments where the number of workers is 50 and above. At present, the Maternity Benefit Act does not provide a maternity leave for commissioning and adopting mothers. Hence, I have apprehension because no establishment will follow this provision of the law. Hence, I would suggest that the monitoring mechanism should be strictly adhered to. The provisions of the Act should be put in place in organised and unorganised sector.

The legislation must include decentralised grievance redressal system for non implementation of the Act. But women in unorganized sector, including government front-end workers – like Asha workers, who provided maternal healthcare linkage to all women, mid-day meal workers, Anganwadi worker and helpers, women working under MGNREGA – do not get any wage compensation during pregnancy and childhood.

The object of maternity leave and benefit is to protect the dignity of motherhood for providing for full and healthy maintenance of a woman and child when she is not working. In today’s age more and more women are joining the workforce and in this scenario it is important to ensure that women who are striving for self-sufficiency do not have to compromise in a role as a caregiver to her child.

Studies have shown that longer  maternity leaves are likely to produce health benefits. Expectant and nursing mothers require special protection to prevent harm to their own health and infant’s health. They need adequate time to give birth, to recover, to nurse their children at the same time they also require protection to ensure that they will not lost their job simply because of pregnancy at maternity leave. Such protection ensures a woman equal access to employment.

Sir, women are estimated to be only 30 % of all economically active individuals even though they account for 48% of the population Only 1% of women are employed in State and Central Government and 3% are registered in management and senior official positions.

Maternity benefits are crucial as malnutrition continues to be a huge hurdle. In India, almost 1 in every 3 children or an alarming 4.8 crore children are stunted. Without benefits it often becomes difficult for a single mother to provide adequate nutrition for her child. A mother also has to ensure that a child is fully immunised against all types of diseases. India is still long way off from securing 100% immunisation for all children. In fact, the first phase of National Family Health Survey, 2015-16, revealed that the highest percentage of fully immunised children are from Goa, Sikkim, Puducherry and Bengal.

India Gandhi Matritva Sahayog Yojana is conditional cash transfer scheme for improved health and nutrition of pregnant and lactating mothers. This scheme is being implemented in 52 districts for women above the age of 19 years for their first to birth, it is estimated that around 3 to 4 women get pregnant every year. If Rs 6000 is given to each of them then Rs 18000 crore is needed every year. However, in the current Budget only Rs 400 crore has been allocated in the scheme. This needs to be re-looked by the government.

Sir I would like to mention something about my State; what is Bengal doing for pregnant women? In the case of construction workers in unorganised sector, baby boy is given an amount of Rs 6000 and baby girl is given an amount of Rs 12000. If the women stay in hospital even after 3 days then around Rs 200 is given per day.

Earlier we lived in a joint family where when a newborn arrived , the whole family attended to the newborn. But now we have nuclear families where you have none to take care of the newborn. The mother and the father have to do everything in order to take of the newborn. Hence there is a need for certain facilities for the father also – that is paternity leave. In our state Bengal, our CM is giving paternity leave for 30 days.

In the Bill it is stated in other cases the existing period of 12 weeks maternity benefits shall continue; those women who are having more than 2 children will be given 12 weeks of maternity leave. Hence, I would like to suggest to the Hon. Minister to have a relook at this. How will the mother manage with the 12 weeks leave because she needs more time to bring the child to a certain stage before she joins work. Hope the Hon. Minister will respond to this. Let there be a clear method of extending 26 weeks of maternity leave as per the Bill.

Let  there be a clear method of extending 26 weeks of maternity leave as per the Bill. When does the mother go on leave? When would the 26 weeks of maternity leave start? For example 2 months before delivery and 4 months after delivery would be ideal as per as I am concerned.

I would like to request the Hon. Minister to take care of the women in the unorganised sector where women work in a large number and in majority and that is the reason why women in the unorganised sectors are the worst sufferers. I hope the Hon. Minister will pay special emphasis on women workers in the unorganised sector.

I appreciate the thought the government has put behind the bill, we all need to work towards building a future where women hold an equal stake in every aspect of India’s social, political and economic life, for a child the most important person in their life is their mother, let us insure that we will build an India with every women is free to achieve her dreams and no child is deprived of the mother’s love.