Modi Government’s Claim of Reducing Maternal And Neonatal Deaths Misleading





The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed in a tweet on December 1, 2016, that the “Modi government” is improving the lives of average Indians by improving maternal health and reducing child mortality rate.



While the 25-year data in the tweets are correct, it is misleading for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to take credit for these advances.


Indeed, found that the year-on-year decline in neonatal and under-five deaths over the past five years was the lowest in 2014-15–during BJP rule.


Maternal mortality reduced by 70% in 25 years


Maternal deaths in India reduced 70% over a quarter century–from 152,000 in 1990 to 45,000 in 2015. The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) declined from 556 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 174 in 2015, according to 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) data. India’s MMR was 167 in 2010-12, according to the latest government data available


Despite the steady improvement, a MMR of 174 is worse than countries in the neighbourhood, such as Sri Lanka (30), Bhutan (148) and Cambodia (161). India does worst among the BRICS countries: Russia (25), China (27), Brazil (44), and South Africa (138), according to the World Bank’s latest estimates, which differ somewhat from the government’s count of 167 but confirm the trends.


The Modi government came to power in May 2014, and barring the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Yojana (PMSMY or Prime Minister’s Safe Pregnancy Scheme) in June 2016, it has not launched any major intervention to reduce maternal mortality.


Under PMSMY, pregnant women are eligible for free health check-ups and medical treatment on the 9th of every month in government hospitals nationwide, with additional support from private practitioners where government doctors are unavailable.


As the data reveal, maternal deaths and the MMR have declining since 1990. The first BJP-led government, headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was in power for five years–1998 to 2004–during this period.


Source: World Health Organization


Neonatal  deaths down by 20% in 5 years, under-five deaths down by 25%


Neonatal deaths in India fell by 20% over five years, from 871,000 in 2010 to 696,000 in 2015, while under-five deaths were down 25% over the same period, from 1.6 million in 2010 to 1.2 million in 2015, according to the WHO.


Source: World Health Organization


The year-on-year decline in neonatal death was 3.6% between 2014 and 2015, the lowest in five years; for under-five deaths, it was 4.74%, the lowest in five years.


Source: World Health Organization


The money allocated for key centrally sponsored social schemes—Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and National Health Mission—declined 10% and 3.6%, respectively, over two years ending 2016-17, IndiaSpend reported in March 2016.


Over the same period, money set aside for the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission) increased almost three times.


In 2016, the Modi government cut funding for the ICDS, the world’s largest programme for maternal and child care, at a time when 42% of children are underweight and 40% below average height in India, IndiaSpend reported in January 2016.


(Saha is an MA Gender and Development student at Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.)