Pregnant women to benefit 4-fold from new amendment

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New Delhi, Mar 19 (UNI) The Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill which henceforth would help women get Rs 1,000, in place of the earlier Rs 250, during maternity was today passed in the Lok Sabha, along with the Constitutional (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2008 of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2007, for the organised sector, provides that every woman would be entitled to receive a medical bonus of Rs 1,000 from her employer - if no pre-natal confinement and postnatal care is provided to her.

Also, the Central government would increase the medical bonus to a maximum of Rs 20,000 through a notification -- in stages.

During discussions, house members were unanimous that the amount was still too meagre to cover the medical expences incurred during pre and post pregnancy period.

Demanding that it be increased from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 Rupatai Patil of the BJP said the amendment would be useful only when it reaches the lower strata of society.

M Shivanna of the JD (S) recommended that the benefit be extended to all women working in factories, unorganised sector and in the field of agriculture and that the maternity leave be increased from 12 weeks to 135 days.

Ruing the fact that the modern women avoided breast-feeding, Varkala Radhakrishnan of the CPI(M) demanded that an amendment be brought to make provision for breast-feeding mandatory in order to benefit the growing child.

Welcoming the Bill, Ms Kiran Maheshwari of the BJP said the government must ensure that whatever provisions it made reached the right people.

''It is suggested, the condition that Rs 1,000 would be given only if no other care or help is being given by the employer, be removed as it would often make the benefit not reach women. Also, a state-level monitoring committee be set up to check that the real people benefitted from the decision.'' Ms Pratibha Singh (Congress) said in order to ensure a healthy mother and a healthy child the maternity benefit amount must be raised to a minimum of Rs 5,000 and working time for women during pregnancy period be reduced.

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