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According to scheme guidelines, pregnant women have to apply no later than 730 days of pregnancy to become eligible under PMMVY 2.0. Further, eligible citizens are given a Mother and Child Protection Card (MCP), which records the date of pregnancy as that of their Last Menstrual Period (LMP). MCP is a tool for mapping and documenting the provision of continuous maternal and child health.

Till 21 November 2022, enrolment of eligible citizens under PMMVY was low in FY 2022-23. There were only 38 lakh enrolled eligible citizens under PMMVY, 46% less than the previous year, found Accountability India.

This decline could partly be because of new guidelines, which state that scheme benefits can be availed only on the basis of eligible citizens’ Aadhaar numbers. As per an RTI response by MWCD, dated 17 January 2023, there were 50 lakh Aadhaar linked accounts in FY 2021-22 (72% of the enrolled eligible citizens), compared to 62 lakh in FY 2020-21. In FY 2022-23, till 21 November 2022, there were 37 lakh PMMVY eligible citizens linked to Aadhaar.

Why is there low coverage?

Find out: IndiaSpend Story

Challenges in PMMVY Application Process:

-- Forms available for free at AWCs, but rural female literacy is low.
-- Applicants often pay someone to fill forms.
-- Requirements include multiple documents like MCPC, Aadhaar, bank passbook, and child's birth certificate.
-- Difficulties in opening bank accounts and linking with Aadhaar, with costs up to Rs 700 for account opening and Rs 200 for Aadhaar generation.
-- Field supervisors collect forms and documents from AWCs, then DEOs enter data into PMMVY-CAS.
-- Potential for discrepancies at data entry stage.
-- CDPO approves, rejects, or corrects applications.
-- Approved applications verified by UIDAI and PFMS.
-- Final approval by state's ministry of women and child development.
-- Disbursement via PFMS within 30 days, but varies by block and district.

The first installment is supposed to be deposited into the beneficiary’s bank account through PFMS gateway within 30 days, as per the scheme’s guidelines.

The time taken to disburse the money varies in each block and district. For example, in Surguja district, the average time taken to complete the process has been 111 days since the scheme started, according to the PMMVY-CAS dashboard. Read more: IndiaSpend Story

Registration for PMMVY often acts as a barrier for applicants, with 96.63% of 565 beneficiaries found by Chaupal workers not receiving benefits due to applications being stuck at the registration level. In Rajpur and Bharatpur blocks, none of the applicants, some dating back to 2017, progressed beyond the 'correction queue' to receive benefits. The severity of this issue was evident in Lakhanpur, where nearly 90 out of 104 applications were in the correction queue due to typographical errors, according to data entry operator Ram Kumar.

"A spelling mistake or a dot after the name or even an extra space can take the application to the correction queue."

In comparison, the maternity benefits schemes in both Odisha and Tamil Nadu rely on simple procedures and few barriers, unlike the Centre’s PMMVY. Read more: IndiaSpend Story

In its analysis for Budget 2023-24, Accountability Initiative estimated that there were 19.8 million pregnant women and lactating mothers in 2022, over 16.1 million more than the enrolled eligible citizens in 2022-23. Consequently, the estimated cost for the first live birth under the scheme alone was three-fold higher than the allocations for 2022-23, the analysis showed. The estimated cost of second live birth payment results in an additional cost of Rs 2.05 crore. This suggests that the existing allocations did not even cover for the first live birth in 2021-22, the analysis said.

Read more: IndiaSpend Story