Opinion DC Comment 11 Mar 2017 A progressive step

A progressive step

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Mar 11, 2017, 12:41 am IST
Updated Mar 11, 2017, 6:21 am IST
The bill itself will benefit 1.8 million women who can resume their careers without loss of pay.
The one point against the bill is that it isn’t forward-looking enough to allow paternity leave, which so far is only a concept in India.
 The one point against the bill is that it isn’t forward-looking enough to allow paternity leave, which so far is only a concept in India.

The passage of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha is a progressive step, a compassionate one that recognises mothers’ special role in bringing up children. The comprehensive law, granting expecting mothers working in India’s formal sector up to 26 weeks of paid leave, is in tune with modern times. Surrogate mothers can also get 12 weeks’ leave, also those who adopt very young kids (below three months), although the numbers could be minuscule. The bill itself will benefit 1.8 million women who can resume their careers without loss of pay. Mothers can take eight weeks’ leave before childbirth and the rest afterwards, and can avail of the privilege in their first two pregnancies, while benefits taper off after that, which is sensible too from the point of view about mothers’ health and India’s population perspective.

The one point against the bill is that it isn’t forward-looking enough to allow paternity leave, which so far is only a concept in India. Of course, family cover is what allows women to bear with the difficulties of juggling a career and children, but times are changing and we must recognise that women’s independence must be respected. It’s a moot point whether mnadatory paid leave for one section of the workforce might discourage employers from hiring women. Also, what can be done for women who work in the non-formal sector remains a challenge. We must do a lot more to bring down maternal and child mortality rates. But at least a beginning has been made with a modern day Maternity Bill.

 

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