CHENNAI: Mala (30) works as a domestic help in two houses. When she was pregnant, she delivered at the government hospital and received the State government’s maternity assistance fund which was then Rs 6,000 and has now doubled. Along with health check-ups, baby-care kits and other facilities, she received some timely help.
But with rising cost of living, she is worried for her sister who is to deliver soon. “She will get her Rs 12,000 but with expenses like baby food, diapers and a single income for a few months, how will she manage? She contributes equally to the household income and now she has to be jobless for at least six months,” she rues.
One has to wait for a month or so to receive the money from the State, apart from the generous tips to the staff in-charge to sanction the amount without delay. “For those who are registered with the Welfare Board, they get help from the Maternity Benefit Act. But what about the large number of migrant workers who constitute around 50% of the unorganised workforce?” asks R Geetha, a member of the Unorganised Workers Federation.
Along with increasing the maternity assistance to Rs 20,000, based on minimum wage for three months and to cover the increasing living costs, another key demand the federation is pitching for is to include unorganised workers like domestic help and construction workers in ESI.