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19th February 2021 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Topic

  1. Hitting the right notes with the health budget

Editorial: Hitting the right notes with the health budget

Context:

  • Health care has taken centre stage due to an unfortunate novel coronavirus pandemic that has devastated lives and livelihoods across the globe.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: Social Sector & Social Services (health, education, human resources – issues in development, management);

Mains Questions:

  1. The Union Budget has laid a strong foundation to increase the resilience of the health sector in the post-COVID-19 era. 15 Marks
  2. Public health system has limitations in providing universal health coverage. Do you think that the private sector could help in bridging the gap? What other viable alternatives would you suggest? 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan packages

  • Production-Linked Incentive schemes have been announced to boost domestic manufacture of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
  • Mission COVID Suraksha has also been launched to promote the development and testing of indigenous vaccine candidates. At least 92 countries have approached India for a COVID-19 vaccine, thus bolstering the country’s credentials as the vaccine hub of the world. 
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package for providing free foodgrain to 800 million beneficiaries.
  • One Nation One Ration Card: To facilitate access to subsidized grains across the country, the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme has been enabled in 32 States/Union Territories covering 690 million beneficiaries.

Good water, vaccine coverage

  • Water Supply: The government would launch a mission to provide universal water supply to areas under all the 4,378 urban local bodies and the next phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission focusing on management of sludge, waste water and construction and demolition waste in cities.
  • The World Health Organization has repeatedly stressed the importance of clean water, sanitation, and clean environment as a prerequisite to achieving universal health.
  • The Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) will be launched. It aims at universal water supply in all 4,378 Urban Local Bodies with 2.86 crore household tap connections, as well as liquid waste management in 500 AMRUT cities.
  • Second round, The Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), which is being implemented by the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, would get a second round.
    • For further swachhta [cleanliness] of urban India, we intend to focus on complete faecal sludge management and waste water treatment, source segregation of garbage, reduction in single-use plastic, reduction in air pollution by effectively managing waste from construction and demolition activities and bioremediation of all legacy dump sites.

Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (PMANSBY)

  • PMANSBY lays emphasis on the health system being strengthened at all levels, including establishing integrated public health laboratories and institutes of virology.
  • This is crucial as experts have repeatedly highlighted the need for enhancing disease surveillance and diagnostic capabilities to be better prepared for disease outbreaks.
  • Additionally, the emphasis on expansion of health and wellness centres under PMANSBY, together with a ₹13,192 crore Finance Commission grant for strengthening the primary health system through local government bodies, is also noteworthy.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY)

  • The Economic Survey estimates a 20% decline in the infant mortality rate between 2015–16 and 2019–20 in States that adopted PM-JAY, compared to a 12% decline in States that did not.
  • It is important, therefore, to persist with this highly ambitious scheme and accelerate its roll-out as the absorptive and governance capacity of States improve.

Promoting Ayurveda

  • Increasing Fund Allocation: A less talked about aspect of the health Budget is the nearly 40% hike for the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH).
  • The pandemic has catalyzed a behavioral shift in favour of preventive care, holistic health and wellness.
  • There is considerable potential for promoting Ayurveda and yoga as well as integrative health-care approaches in the post-COVID-19 scenario, especially for stress reduction and the management of chronic diseases.

Way Forward

The health sector has found a prominent place in the government’s agenda over the last few years, with the implementation of a series of well-thought-out and carefully sequenced reforms. While much remains to be done, the Union Budget 2021–22 has laid a strong foundation to increase the resilience of the sector in the post-COVID-19 era and achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

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September 2022
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