An Exploratory Case Study of the Dr. Muthulakshmi Maternity Assistance Scheme, Tamil Nadu
Maternity entitlements have been long recognized as a labour right, with a significant role to play in the promotion of maternal and child health. However, the absence of implementation mechanisms has left over 90% of working women who are the poorest, uncovered. Experts have been making recommendations to the government of India for universalizing maternity entitlements for some time and this has been taken cognizance of in the Eleventh Five Year Plan. As a result, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has declared its intent to launch a maternity benefits scheme in some districts as a pilot.
The Dr Muthulakshmi Maternity Assurance Scheme (DMMAS) is a pioneer state-wide scheme for maternity benefits to poor women launched by the Tamil Nadu Government in 1987. Since then, to our knowledge, this valuable and unique scheme has not been formally studied. Now that the country is at the brink of launching a country-wide maternity benefits scheme, many of us who have been involved with the issue for some time felt it was worth understanding the Tamil Nadu experience. Resultantly, a collaborative study was planned and done by Public Health Resource Network, M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and Tamil Nadu-Forum for Crèche and Childcare Services to look at the DMMAS with a view to analyzing its history and objectives, as well as current implementation, utilization and benefits.
The Planning Commission hosted a round table meeting on the 2nd of June 2010 to disseminate the findings of the study “Towards Universalisation of Maternity Entitlements: An Exploratory Case Study of the Dr. Muthulakshmi Maternity Assistance Scheme, Tamil Nadu” . The meeting was attended by 35 participants who were involved in policy making on the issue, including participants from Ministry of Women and Child Development, MoWCD-TN, NHSRC, NAC, Commissioner’s Office, UN bodies, Social Action Networks, Public Health Institutions and field based NGOs, with Dr. Syeda Hameed (Member, Planning Commission) as Chair.
We hope that this study report will inform imminent policy and programmes with a view to ensuring more equitable entitlements in the best interests of poor women and children.