Congress president Sonia Gandhi has written to the chief ministers of the states where her party is in power, asking them to ensure that all pregnant women and lactating mothers receive a payment of at least Rs 6,000, as envisioned under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
Mrs Gandhi has written to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy.
"I would like to urge you to critically review the cumbersome requirements, which significantly reduce the coverage of pregnant women and lactating mothers under the scheme," she wrote in her letter dated November 26.
Mrs Gandhi asked the chief ministers to take steps to ensure that the scheme reached every eligible woman and that they received at least Rs 6,000, as envisioned under the NFSA.
"Once we are able to improve the performance of this scheme in the Congress-run states, we can take up the issue with greater strength at the national level," she wrote in the letter.
It was reported that barely 22 per cent women received this benefit, even a single installment, in 2017-18, the Congress chief pointed out.
"This is largely due to the implementation architecture prescribed for the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY). The online payment scheme, which is linked to the Aadhaar card, has proven somewhat unreliable. Misallocation of the amounts, wrong Aadhaar linkage etc. have been reported repeatedly," she said.
"As you are aware, the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 promises a cash transfer of Rs 6,000 to all pregnant women and lactating mothers, excluding those who are already receiving similar benefits from elsewhere," Mrs Gandhi said.
After ignoring to act on this for more than three years, the Centre introduced the maternity benefit scheme, PMMVY, in 2017, she noted.
"The PMMVY has reduced the payment amount from Rs 6,000 to Rs 5,000. In addition, it restricts the benefits to just one child per woman in violation of the NFSA," Mrs Gandhi said.