Indian mother newborn baby
[Representational Image]Reuters

The ministry of women and child development is likely to get an increased allocation of funds in Budget 2017. The increased allotment will be used to universalise the maternity benefits scheme for families living below the poverty line.

The government is likely to increase the allocation for the WCD ministry by 20 percent as compared to last year, according to reports. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present the BJP government's third Union Budget on February 1, a month before it has been done in the previous years.

The maternity benefits programme aims to provide better healthcare facilities to pregnant women, including free nutrition advice and health check-ups, officials said, according to PTI. The scheme currently includes women in "high burden" districts, which are identified on the basis of the backwardness of the location and lack of basic amenities. With the increased budget allocation, the scheme is likely to be universalised for all BPL families.

Quality pre-natal and post-natal care continues to provide challenges to the government. India accounts for 17 percent of deaths occurring globally during childbirth. Almost 45,000 mothers die due to causes related to childbirth every year in India, and a woman dies every five minutes during pregnancy and childbirth in the country, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Indian government's Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), a conditional maternity benefit scheme launched in 2010, provides cash incentives for improved health and nutrition to pregnant and lactating mothers to partly compensate for wage loss suffered by them both prior to and after delivery of the child. Pregnant women of 19 years of age and above are entitled, for the first two livebirths, to benefits under the scheme.

In 2016, the WCD ministry received a total allocation of Rs. 17,408 crore, which is likely to get a hike in the upcoming budget.

With the reinforced funding, the government will also be better able to implement its various schemes for women and child development, such as Beti bachao beti padhao; Ujjawala that aims at prevention of trafficking and rehabilitation and re-integration of victims of commercial sexual exploitation; and women helpline scheme.