By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Dec 1 (IANS): Two landmark central schemes fostering pregnant women - the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY - April 2005) launched by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritya Abhiyan (PMSMA-July 2016) kickstarted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi - have apparently done wonders for expectant mothers in the country since their implementation.
The JSY has benefitted a whopping over 15.81-crore women, while the more recent PMSMA has reached out to around 36 lakh women, according to a RTI reply by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to Jalna's well-known paediatrician Dr Swapnil B. Mantri.
The JSY comprises a cash assistance of Rs 6,000 per pregnancy, plus delivery and post-delivery medical care and with ASHA workers serving as the "link" between the government and to-be-moms.
On the other hand, the PMSMA offers full medical checkup to all pregnant women on the 9th of every month, at all government hospitals and also at all registered private medicare institutions across India.
As per official data, the two schemes effectively address India's Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) which was staggeringly high in 1990 - with 556 mothers dying/100,000 live childbirths - against the (then) global MMR of 385 deaths/100,000 live-births.
By 2013, India's MMR came down to 167/lakh live-births compared with the world average MMR of 216/lakh live-births (2015), or a massive fall of 70 per cent (1990-2015) compared with the global decline of 44 per cent.
"The JSY has shown amazing results in 17 years with the MMR further plummeting - from 130/lakh in 2014 to just 97/lakh by 2020," Dr Mantri told IANS.
Over 25,000 'Delivery Points' in India were strengthened in terms of infrastructure, equipment and trained manpower, plus 102 different types of medical services etc. among the comprehensive prenatal health solutions to would-be-moms, under JSY.
From 2016 till now, more than 37-lakhs pregnant women were checked under PMSMA at over 17,000 public health facilities in India and another 19,215 recognised private centres, including nearly 7,000 which have voluntarily registered.
Citing statistics, Dr Mantri said that in India, there are an estimated 70,000 recorded hospitals (2019), of which some 43,000 are in the private sector and the rest 27,000 are run by the government at all levels.
Despite these stupendous achievements on the MMR front, the tragedy is that around 44,000 women still succumb to pregnancy-related cases while 6,60,000 infants continue to die within the first four weeks of birth in the country.
"This is where PMSMA is crucial as many of these pregnant women's deaths could be prevented during their antenatal period by timely tackling of high-risk factors like severe anaemia, pregnancy-induced hypertension, etc.," Dr Mantri explained.
The medico said that owing to the low registration of private hospitals for the PMSMA, particularly in small towns and villages, "the real benefits fail to reach the pregnant women in the remotest areas and consequently hits the MMR and infant mortality chances".
From several women from the lower-middle class who spoke with IANS, nearly 50 per cent happily confirmed getting the JSY benefits (Rs 6,000) during their first pregnancy.
However, many women who became pregnant for a second time (including one with twins) complained they got nothing (under JSY), though a majority unflinchingly acknowledged getting all the necessary medical checkups under PMSMA even during the Covid pandemic.
"There is a strong need for a major awareness programme, a drive to ensure all the private hospitals come under the PMSMA umbrella so that 'the last pregnant woman' in the country gets due care in her time of need," urged Dr Mantri.