Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday hoped for a GST Council-like cooperation between the Centre and the states for roll-out of the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), which promises an annual insurance cover of up to Rs 5 lakh each for 10 crore families. Jaitley told Rajya Sabha that NHPS could be an area of “strategic cooperation” even though health is a state subject and there is no statutory requirement for collaboration between the Centre and states.
When Congress leader Jairam Ramesh asked whether the government plans to set up an agency like the GST Council for NHPS, Jaitley said he was just thinking aloud, and that NITI Aayog and the Health Ministry are working on the finer details. Jaitley was responding to Congress member P Chidambaram’s charges on the government’s economic policy, including NHPS, for which he alleged that no budgetary provision had been made.
Refuting allegations regarding India’ economic condition, Jaitley said the Narendra Modi government had implemented structural reforms, which may lead to some difficulty initially but will prove to be beneficial in the long run. To endorse this view, Jaitley cited increase in income tax net. “The tax net has widened and the direct tax collection is up by 19.3% between April and January as a result of the campaign against black money,” he stated.
Jaitley also slammed his predecessor for being a “know- all” and said the economy under the Congress-led UPA was in the hands of a “terrible doctor”. “Please appreciate the journey we have undertaken. We have covered journey from policy paralysis to structural reforms,” he said.
On Thursday, Chidambaram had called Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian “a good doctor” but asked, “what do you do when the patient is very ill?” Responding to this statement, Jaitley said, “A good doctor can cure a terrible illness. But what did you do in 10 years when you had a terrible doctor?”
Jaitley then drew comparisons between the last three years of UPA-II and the performance of NDA-II with help of data on GDP growth, fiscal account deficit, inflation and current account deficit. He said that GDP growth under UPA in 2012-13 was 5.3% — the lowest in recent years — and 6.3% the following year. GDP growth under the Modi government, he added, was 7.5% in the first year, 8.2% in the second, 7.1% in the third year and 6.7% in the fourth.
Earlier in the day, Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien accused the government of “feku federalism”, alleging that the Centre was passing on financial burden of railways infrastructure development to states. O’Brian had 12 posers for the government on railways. Neeraj Shekhar of Samajwadi Party called the Budget a “betrayal” of the people, especially because farmers are still being forced to sell their produce below MSP.