In its endeavour to counter Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality Rate, the Central

Government has initiated the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyaan, the results of which

will be soon be witnessed in the upcoming days.

Twenty year old Sonia Sahu, a class 10 graduate, is one of the many other expecting mothers, who visit

the community health centres at Bilha block of district Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, for their neonatal

checkups on the 9 th of every month. Under the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyaan(PMSMA),

many such women from different villages are availing prenatal medical assistance being provided at

these health camps. According to Dr Geeta Pradhan, one of the serving gynaecologists at these

centers, the month of March witnessed an increase of aproximately 40% beneficieries under PMSMA.

The number which was much lower in the previous months, amounting to only 30-35% visiting pregnant

women, increased to almost 80% in the month of March, even though the target is 100%. The purpose

behind these prenatal checkups under this campaign is to counter infant and maternal mortality rate

rigorously. Maternal death rate in Chhattisgarh is 221 to one lakh births, which is actually 261 in

Bilaspur, while the nation wide rate is 167, which goes to prove that the count is alarmingly high in the

Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh. Other states like Assam, Odisha, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh

and Uttar Pradesh fall in the same vulnerable category.

As per a report by the widely distributed jouranl Lancet, there is a vast disproportion between infant

deaths in urban and rural areas. While it must be acknowledged that there has been a commendable

improvement in institutional prenatal care and skilled births, the infant and maternal mortality rate is still

an unresolved issue which is exponentially rising. In India, every year, about 44,000 women succumb to

complications in their pregnancy. Around 6.6 lakh new borns do not make it beyond 28 days after their

birth. The key to prevent these deaths is the requisite medication that needs to be administered to

mothers on time, which in turn would help in saving these infants too. Hence essentially, the focussed

agenda behind PMSMA is to provide and regulate optimal prenatal care along with necessary

medication and treatment to pregnant women, which shall also simultaneously help in tackling the high

infant and maternal mortality rates. The main challenge, however, that we as a country are facing is the

need to improve mother and child healthcare. This new health policy has been devised to combat the

mortality rates of mothers and infants with an endeavour to achieve the goals of sustainable

development. This policy aims to reduce the maternal death rate to 100 by the year 2020 and the infant

death rate to 28 by 2019. What needs to be considered is that India is aspiring to achieve the goal of

sustainable development by 2030, hence these pursuits have to be accomplished within the next 13

years. However, to be able to pride itself as a nation that has countered these grave issues, the

maternal mortality rate should be less than 70 per one lakh females and infant mortality rate per

thousand new borns should be lss than 12.

As a part of this campaign, on the 9th of every month, a detailed health checkup of all pregnant women

of every village is conducted, who are also given requisite medicines and an exhaustive consultation

and guidance for the period of pregnancy. This is especially beneficial for women in the second or third

quarter of their pregnancy, as they can avail facilities like ultrasound, blood pressure monitoring,

exhaustive prenatal examination, etc. all free of cost and under skilled monitoring.

The campaign particularly targets those women who have not been able to avail prenatal services of

government hospitals or have been dropped out of it. This policy therefore essentially works towards

prenatal care for females who have not been able to undergo basic minimal checkups. The rationale

behind the campaign is that if every expecting mother is given the requisite medical attention and is

administered with necessary health services, there would definitely be a drastic decline in maternal and

infant deaths. But a pertinent question which is needed to be addressed is- how will the government be

able to achieve this? India is facing a deficit in terms of skilled doctors, especially gynecologists.

Considering this worrisome scenario, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his monthly programme ‘Mann Ki

Baat’ had appealed to doctors from private hospitals to provide their voluntary services in these

government health camps. The intent behind this appeal was to speed up this initiative which has now

seemingly brought about evidently positive results.

Thousands of doctors, who have been associated with the Gynaecologist Federation of India, have

come forward to catalyze this campaign through their voluntary services. 58 doctors from private

hospitals in the last three months have registered themselves in these health camps of Chhattisgarh’s

Bilaspur district. Dr Maya Dubey, who has been serving at the community health centre of Bilha Block in

Bilaspur, has expressed that such schemes and efforts are essential in a country like India. At the same

time, the government believes that the execution and success of PMSMA is largely attributed to the

commitment of government officials and to the timely voluntary services provided by many doctors.

Hence to make this campaign a success, the government has highly encouraged and largely focused on

the participation of private doctors. To recognize the voluntary participation of these gynaecologists at

the national and state level, the government has introduced various awards at significantly special and

personal levels. It has also announced the ‘I pledge for 9’ achiever award, which apart from

acknowledging their services may also serve as an incentive to the rest of the private doctors. The sole

agenda behind this health programme and all the efforts behind it is bringing down infant and maternal

mortality rates, which is evident from the very execution of this scheme.