The period from conception, delivery and early childcare is the most vulnerable and critical period of human life, particularly for women and children. It has been neglected by the State and by society in spite of our Constitution having directed the state to provide special protections for maternity and the care and protection of children. This neglect has led to untold suffering, exploitation, injustice and poor health and development.
More than 90 per cent of women in India are engaged in informal employment or in unpaid work and are denied of any maternity entitlements or childcare provisions when they have children. The Maternity Benefits Act covers only women in the organised sector and that too with a limited entitlement of paid leave for four months.
Other than in the public sector, it is not even clear how much this Act is being implemented even in workplaces that come under its purview. There is now a proposal to extend the period of leave under this Act to 26 weeks, however there is no discussion of including the vast majority of women who are outside of all the labour laws.
The National Food Security Act (NFSA) which was passed more than two and a half years ago entitles all pregnant and lactating women to maternity entitlement of at least Rs 6,000 per child birth. While there is no link to wage and the amount is very low, this is still significant as for the first time there is recognition of a universal maternity entitlement. However, the scheme through which this entitlement is to be delivered is yet to be expanded and universalized. Currently the scheme that is considered by the government for this provision is the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana which is a conditional cash transfer scheme poorly implemented in 53 districts of the country. The budget allocation for this scheme for 2016-17 is only Rs 400 crores against the required Rs 15,000 crores which is less than 3 per cent of the allocation that is required to implement the minimum guarantee under the NFSA.
The Time Use Survey, 2000 has shown that on an average women spend six hours a day on unpaid care work. In the current context the burden of childcare work falls almost exclusively on women who are engaged in both productive and reproductive work. There are nine labour laws including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) where crèches are mandated. This entitlement is linked to the number of women employed; often resulting in underreporting and discrimination of women workers or the entitlements are just not implemented as is the case with crèches under MGNREGA.
The Restructured Integrated Child Development Services committed 70,000 anganwadi-cum-crèches in the 12th Five Year Plan period. Not more than 500 such centres have been operationalised in last three years. As per a recent Ministry of Women and Child Development press note, the Rajiv Gandhi National Crèches Scheme, a grant-in-aid programme by design, hardly covering a little over half a million children, is probably set to become the State response to the need of crèches.
Surveys have shown at least six out of ten women working in the unorganized sector require crèches. The issue is not only of inadequacy in number and budget but also of design and accountability.
To intensify the campaign on maternity entitlements and childcare provisions and to build public action around this issue the Right to Food Campaign and Alliance for the Right to Early Childhood Development is planning on organizing a Jan Sunwai on 3 May in Delhi.
We would like to invite all groups/organisations to jointly organise for the Jan Sunwai. We suggest that we bring together testimonies/case studies for the Jan Sunwai (in person and/or on paper) for violations related to (1) discrimination in employment during pregnancy (2) women who had to labour till the last day of pregnancy or rejoin work less than six weeks after delivery in the absence of any entitlements (3) absence/denial of child care provisions in public/private sector or communities. We also welcome any case studies on the alternatives that are in operation currently, which are community based, related to maternity entitlements and childcare services in the public or private sector. We would specifically welcome complainants who would like to pursue some of the cases legally. We are getting in touch with friends in the legal community to take this forward. This will also be an opportunity to plan a longer term joint campaign on this issue.
For more information and to confirm participation, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Dipa Sinha (9650434777) / Sudeshna Sengupta (9811065400) / Sejal Dand (8130200062).
While we are just initiating this process we hope to get endorsements and participation from many other organisations/networks. Please send your endorsement and the way in which you would like to participate to email@example.com
Kavita, Dipa, Sejal, Jashodhara, Devika and Sudeshna
(On behalf of the Right to Food Campaign and the Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Development)
Jan Sunwai on Maternity Entitlements and Childcare Provisions
Venue to be confirmed*, New Delhi
3rd May, 2016
Panellists / Facilitators
09:30 – 10:00
Registration and Tea
Right to Food Campaign and the Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Development
10:00 – 17:00
Lawyers support group runs a help/information desk (to check with HRLN* and NLU*)
10:00 – 10:20
Welcome and setting the context
Representative of Working Group for Children under Six and Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Development – Sejal and Sudeshna
10:20 – 10:40
Status of maternity entitlements in the country
10:40 – 10:55
Current status of implementation of maternity entitlements – National Food Security Act
11:00 – 13:00
Jan Sunwai on Maternity Entitlements
(8-10 cases of violations totally to present in person)
( Delhi, MP, WB, Gujarat, UP confirmed)
Supreme Court Judge (Retd)
13:00 – 14:00
14:00 – 14:20
Status of crèches in the country
Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Development
14:30 – 16:30
Jan Sunwai on Child Care Services
Justice A.P. Shah
Nikhil Dey*/ Aruna Roy*/ CEGC member (on MGNREGA crèches)
16:30 – 17:30
Way Forward – Planning for action
Facilitated by Right to Food Campaign and the Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Development
(Kavita, Dipa and Devika)
Public action / Rally / Demonstration