The flagship programme of the Union Ministry of Health — the National Health Mission (NHM) — is facing an uncertain future with the Expenditure Finance Committee (EPF) not clearing a proposal for the scheme’s continuation beyond March 31 and asking the ministry for a revised proposal.
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With the EPF raising questions about the way the programme has been implemented, it may as well be the end of the road, at least in its current form, for one of the previous UPA government’s biggest success stories.
The NHM is one of several programmes set to end on March 31, 2017, when the 12th Five Year Plan comes to an end.
Incidentally, the NHM was one of the schemes shortlisted in 2015 for withdrawal of central support. Niti Aayog too had wanted the NHM to end.
Among the objections raised by the EFC are the lack of convergence in a submitted proposal, the lack of sufficient focus on preventive and promotive elements of health care and states not being allowed enough flexibility in developing their own programme implementation plans (PIPs).
The ministry has also been asked to reduce the estimates and bring them on a par with the allocations in the 2017-18 Union Budget, which earmarked around Rs 27,000 crore to the NHM.
Asking for renewal of the Mission, the Health Ministry had asked for a little over Rs 33,500 crore for next year and a little over Rs 1,37,000 crore for the next five years. After its detailed presentation to the EFC, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa, according to sources, had picked holes in the presentation, questioning the very basis of the proposal for continuation of NHM.
An official who attended the meeting said: “The committee felt there was a lack of convergence — which has been highlighted by the Prime Minister time and again as one of his key priorities for the government… They also felt PIPs are dictated by the ministry which is not true at all.”
While the ministry will now have to go back to the EFC with a revised proposal, the official added that there is no question of the mission being discontinued. “The biggest proof of that is the allocation for NHM in this year’s Budget. Niti Aayog has revised its stand (on discontinuation),” the official added.