Hope for Health under Dr Harsh Vardhan
– By Prof. K G Suresh, Former Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communication and Executive Director & Editor in Chief for HEAL Foundation
While there is criticism in certain quarters that health care just got a passing mention in the maiden Union Budget presented by the country’s first full time woman Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, what needs to lauded is the fact that allocation to the sector has jumped 15.4 percent to Rs 62,659.12 crore for FY20, compared to last year’s revised budget.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of this largesse is the National Health Mission (NHM) which covers most of the Central sponsored schemes related to healthcare. The allotment for NHM which went up by 8% to a whopping Rs 32, 995 crores is in consonance with the ruling BJP’s manifesto which promised setting up of 1.50 lakh Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) by 2022. These Centres not only provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services but also free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
While the budgetary allocation for Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) or Aysuhman Bharat Scheme remained the same as the interim budget’s allocation of Rs 6,400 crore, the other areas which witnessed a jump included the National AIDS and STD Control Programme (30%), family welfare schemes (35%), health research (9%), the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY), which received Rs 4,000 crore and the National Urban Health Mission which went up from Rs 875 crore earlier to Rs 950 crore.
Another highlight of the Budget which has been widely appreciated is the proposal to establish a National Research Foundation to boost research in all areas, which could benefit pharma and healthcare sectors as well.
However, industry and sectoral experts have expressed concern over absence of any fresh proposal to incentivize setting up of hospitals in tier-II & tier-III cities, change of weighted deduction for R&D and a substantial 35% reduction in the allocation for upgrading district hospitals to medical colleges.
With a dynamic and honest Health Minister like Dr Harsh Vardhan at the helm of affairs, one sincerely hopes that shortcomings, if any would be taken care of. Moreover, the Government would be presenting a full fledged Budget six months later and the experiences and inputs obtained till then would pave the way for the much needed reforms in the health sector.
We look forward to invaluable inputs from our enlightened readership in this mission for a healthy and happy India.