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05 July 2009
By Vijay Chavan

Maternal and infant mortality rates mount in Pune as authorities utilise only one–third of the Rs 30 crore alloted for National Rural Health Mission
RTI Activist Sharad ShettyRTI Activist Sharad Shetty
The state health department has failed in implementing various schemes under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in Pune, both in urban and rural areas. These schemes are aimed at reducing the number of maternal and infant mortality rates (M& IMRs) which has been increasing over the last 10 years.

The funds allotted to these welfare schemes were sparingly used. The data indicates that even one–third of the total funds were not used. This explains the increase in (M&IMRs).

Records from March 2006 to 2008 indicate that NRHM was alloted Rs 3064.96 lakh out of which only Rs 1203.55 lakh was utilised by the authorities. The unused funds amounting to Rs 1861.41 lakh were returned to the state coffers.

Number of Deaths
Year Deaths
  Mothers Infants
2001-01 13 173
2001-02 18 147
2002-03 28 93
2003-04 15 181
2004-05 27 225
2005-06 13 157
2006-07 8 225
2007-08 14 243
2008-09* 15 134
*Till February
Funds for NRHM
Year Allocated Used
2005-06 Rs.254.72* Rs.73.39
2006-07 Rs.849.52 Rs.390.33
2007-08 Rs.1960.72 739.83
Total Rs.3064.96 Rs.1203.55
*All the Figures Mentioned are in Lakhs
Despite the increase in welfare funds, M& IMRs show an upward trend. In the last 14 months 28 mothers lost lives during pregnancy and 377 infants died. However, District Health Officer Hanamantrao Chavan plays down the increase in the numbers.

He said, “The increase in the mortality rates is just because reporting of such incidents has increased. The funds are not utilised because local authorities failed in using such funds.”

Zealous Activist
Right–To–Information (RTI) activist Sharad Shetty had received the information from the Health Department of Pune Zilla Parishad and Health Department of Government of Maharashtra. Earlier he had filed an RTI application after receiving complaints that there were inadequate funds to mitigate health issues plaguing mothers and infants. He also found that the earmarked money was not reaching the intended beneficiaries.

In his application, filed on December 5, 2008, Shetty sought to know the fund allocation to NHRM activities in Pune and its use. From whatever information received on these, for the period 2005 to 2008, it was found that not even one–third of allotted fund was not utilised by the the Zilla Parishad (ZP) which releases the money for the health department. The lower box indicates the amount of money received and utilised by the ZP.

Deaths Mount
Shetty filed another RTI application in March this year, asking for the number of lives lost by infants and lactating mothers in the city and district. The information he received proved that despite several health schemes, there has been no significant effect on M&IMRs. In other words the schemes like Janani Suraksha Yojana and ASHA implemented under the NRHM have failed when the funds alloted for such schemes lapse.

Why Govt schemes Fail
Shetty says the reasons behind the increasing M&IMRs is that the people are unwilling to take delivery cases to health centres or government hospitals, as the service there is bad and the staff inefficient. He attributes the failure of NHRM to the reluctance of doctors to offer good service at government–run health centres as they themselves run their own clinics and hospitals. Moreover, the health department is not proactive in spending money for improving the health condition in the state.

District Health Officer Hanamantrao Chavan says, “The mortality rate is decreasing because of various schemes. But the ratio shows hike just because the increasing number of incidents of reporting such deaths.”

Chavan says, “The money was unutilised because there are various loopholes in implementing the scheme. The local authorities are not using the fund. Many a time the Patient Welfare Committee (PWC) working at the district level takes time in spending the money. At the village level there are various problems in distributing the funds. Many a time beneficiaries avoided taking the benefit of various health schemes.”

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