The Uttar Pradesh health and family welfare department would have one believe that 60-year-old Nankai gave birth to five children in a year, pocketing Rs 1,400 under a maternity welfare scheme each time.
But the benefit under the Janani Suraksha Yojana meant to check maternal mortality by promoting institutional delivery has come at a heavy cost, exposing the woman from Boundi village in Bahraich district to villagers’ taunts for receiving the money.
A health department officer insists Nankai delivered five children in hospital and the amount was credited into her account. The claim draws howls of protest from the woman.
“My husband died 25 years ago. I have six children. All are married. My life is in a mess since the health department officials informed me that I had five deliveries in 2014-15. I never even visited the hospital,” she says and blames the gram pradhan and the accredited social health activist (ASHA) for corrupt practices.
“The money was transferred into my account but my passbook is with gram pradhan Sarvjeet Singh,” she says.
Singh, however, says five women delivered at the health centre and the amount payable to them was deposited in Nankai’s account as they did not have accounts.
But a health department officer says money meant for a beneficiary cannot be deposited in the account of another person.
Call it inefficiency, corruption or a nexus of gram pradhans and health workers, but Nankai’s is not the only such case.
The tale of 14-year-old Savita, a resident of Kusumhi village in Maharajganj district, is no different. She is unmarried, yet money has been credited into her account under the scheme.
The Class 8 student says, “I am mocked by friends for receiving the money. A few days ago, the gram pradhan and ASHA activist took my passbook. They told me that Rs 1,400 had been deposited in my account. They gave me Rs 100 and took the remaining Rs 1,300.”
Kalawati, a Bahraich resident, says, “I don’t even have a child. The gram pradhan took me to the primary health centre where the doctor took my signature. After a few days, Rs 1,400 was transferred to my account. I handed the money to the gram pradhan and ASHA. They gave me Rs 100 in return.”
The Centre released Rs 350 crore to Uttar Pradesh under the scheme in 2014-15 and the state distributed the money among 28.58 lakh beneficiaries, an official said.
Dr Neera Jain, incharge of the maternal health project under the National Health Mission, says the department has taken measures to check irregularities.
The beneficiaries will no longer get cash or cheques and money will be transferred directly into their accounts.
“We have distributed mobile phones to ASHAs to maintain a database of pregnant women and monitor the distribution of money,” she says.
The health department has tied up with the State Bank of India under which business correspondents will visit villages and assist women in opening accounts.
“We have also introduced a public financial management system for transparency. All details will be maintained electronically. The system is in transition phase. The department has taken action against chief medical officers and other staff who indulged in corruption,” she says.