This is the last full budget of the present government and the last opportunity for it to demonstrate its commitment to India’s health and nutrition.
India has made reasonable progress in improving access to last-mile healthcare over the last decade. However, the improved access has not reached the 29 states equally.
Should the focus be on improving public health systems or should we instead strengthen and support the development of the private health systems?
The government should keep the secretary of the health department unchanged for three years for him/her to be able to show results. But that has not been happening.
The policy falls somewhere between a comprehensive plan for major expansion of public health services, socialisation of the private sector and extreme privatisation.
The policy has proposed institutional reform, and steps to improve and upgrade the quality of services. But there is no correlation between the ambition targets and the public investment proposed.
The new National Health Policy identifies what needs to be done, but fails to address who will do it and in what manner.
Explaining what ‘non-governmental’ means, two bureaucrats clarified it meant both NGOs as commonly understood as charitable organisations as well as private for-profit organisations.
The new policy unveiled in parliament also envisages an increase in the health budget to 2.5% of GDP but only by 2025.
Sources said the new policy will strengthen primary healthcare centres.
The Budget allocation for the health sector is not even one-third of the target laid out in the draft National Health Policy.
Despite emphasis on ’empowerment’ over ‘entitlements’, which comes with its own set of problems, health and education remain invisible in the Modi government’s social policy agenda.
Sources in the government said the final health policy was expected to be further delayed and the steering committee of the government needed to address the dissenting views.