‘Why not give 270 days maternity leave?’

Judge seeks Centre’s view on breastfeeding as fundamental right, info on creches in government offices.

Published: 03rd January 2018 02:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd January 2018 11:07 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Why not the Union government enhance the maternity leave from the existing 180 days to 270 days (nine months) as done by the Tamil Nadu government by virtue of a GO dated November 7, 2016?

Justice N Kirubakaran raised the on a writ petition from U Ishwarya praying for a directive to the authorities to exclude maternity leave period she had availed while calculating two years’ service period and to permit her to undergo PG course.

Though the judge directed the authorities concerned to admit her in PG diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics for 2018-19, he issued a set of questions to be answered by them.

They are: Why not the Centre direct the States that do not offer maternity leave of even 180 days to make it at least on a par with what  Central government women employees get at present? Why not the Centre invoke Article 249 viz., power of Parliament to legislate in respect of a matter in the State list to treat maternity benefits, including maternity leave and the right of the child to be breastfed as issues of national interest?

Why not the court declare the right of newborn to have mother’s milk up to six months, exclusively and up to two years along with substitution as a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and as a human right as per international treaties?

Is a ‘creche facility’ provided for women to have easy access to child and to feed during office hours in Central as well as State governments offices, where more women government employees are serving?
Why not the governments come out with special insurance coverage for all women covering maternity risk by making one time deduction of a specific amount from the salary in the first month of pregnancy and the government itself pay insurance premium for non-working women?  Why not the make it mandatory to get an undertaking from women employees to get maternity benefits, including leave, that they would not have more than two children as a measure of population control, taking into consideration the population issue.

Why not insert a penal provisions to punish the officials who are not granting maternity leave in time? Why not the government make it obligatory on the part of women government servants availing themselves of maternity benefits to give breast milk exclusively to the child at least during the said maternity leave period as medical experts opine that mother’s milk is not only healthy for the child, but also for the mother, as research revealed that it would bring down incidence of breast cancer?

Why not sensitise the masses, especially employed women, about the importance of the breastfeeding through media roping in celebrities such as actors and cricketers  as well as organise seminars and discussions in government offices, also through medical counsellors? Why not the Central government bring in a law making it obligatory on the part of women to breastfeed, as has been done by UAE government?  Are the provisions of “the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992, are properly implemented,  including banning infant foods through advertisements and breastfeeding is promoted?

Can the Centre and State governments could bring in a new law to provide breastfeeding rooms/spaces in public places such as bus stand, railway stations, malls and workplaces in the interest of feeding mothers? Why not the governments spend more amount per child, as per global breastfeeding scoreboard, 2017, released by global breastfeeding collective, which states that India spends only a negligible amount of less than `10 per child?

Why not the governments further improve maternal health services to reduce maternal mortality rate, even though the recent World Bank data puts the rate at 174 per one lakh live births in 2015 compared to 215 per one lakh in 2010?

The judge impleaded the secretaries of Union Ministries of  Law, Women and Child Welfare, Commission for Women Development, Secretaries State Law and Health. They should file their response to the queries through video-conferencing on January 22, the judge said.


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