New Delhi: Union Minister Krishna Tirath today pitched for extending maternity benefits under law to those working in the unorganised sector, comprising half of the women population, saying "discrimination" against them must be eliminated.
The women and child development minister voiced concern that the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 has failed to help this large section of women and emphasised on effective implementation of the Act so that they too can be covered.
The Act regulates the employment of women for certain period before and after child-birth and is aimed at protection of their rights.
"Almost half of our country's women population is employed in the unorganised sectors like agriculture labour, construction workers and domestic workers and they do not derive benefits under this Maternity Benefit Act.
"Many are not even aware about the Act. Women are forced to join their work soon after delivery from the fear of losing their job which in turn affects their children's and their own health," Tirath said addressing a gathering at the National Consultation on Maternity Benefit Act 1961 held in New Delhi.
The minister said that this discrimination needs to be eliminated by bringing changes in the way the Act is being operationalised.
Although there are many schemes of the government such as IGMSY and Janani Suraksha Yojana, the benefits still have eluded a large section of women in the unorganised sector, she said. The Act does not benefit the casual workers as also the 'contractual' employees as opposed to 'contract labour'.
The aim of the national consultation with different ministries, civil society organisations, academicians and other stakeholders, she said, is to deliberate on the myriad issues affecting effective implementation of the Maternity Benefit Act.
The consultation was attended by senior officials from the ministries of women and child development, labour and employment, and labour commissioners from several states, representatives from Planning Commission among others.