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Govt wants to use PMJAY for free coronavirus testing in private labs, but 2 cr families missing from database

Coronavirus (COVID-19): The only states that are not implementing the PMJAY are West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana, while Delhi has announced it will do so.

Written by Harikishan Sharma | New Delhi | Published: April 15, 2020 4:15:16 am
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Coronavirus (COVID-19): In an affidavit before the Supreme Court on Monday over its interim order directing free coronavirus testing by private labs, the government said around 10.74 crore poor and vulnerable families covered under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) should be among those allowed the benefit.

However, an internal note prepared by the National Health Authority (NHA), which is responsible for implementing the PMJAY or Ayushman Bharat scheme, says over two crore families are “missing” from those who should qualify for the PMJAY as per deprivation points under the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011.

The SECC database is used nationally to identify the scheme’s beneficiaries.

The government affidavit, filed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), also said that the PMJAY beneficiaries only had to produce their PMJAY cards and identification numbers, to avail free testing at private laboratories. But, as per data on the NHA website on April 14, just 12.45 crore e-cards have been issued under the PMJAY — the government’s data of 10.74 crore families translates into at least 50 crore people, as per its own affidavit in court.

Sources attributed this to problems with the SECC 2011, which is nearly a decade old.

Against a target of identifying at least 47.28 crore PMJAY beneficiaries through it, the figure stands at only 3.83 crore (8%). So, of the 12.45 crore PMJAY beneficiaries holding e-cards, the remaining have been identified through other means — 4.68 crore through schemes run by states; about 65 lakh from the existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana; 1.4 crore from the SAMAGRA portal of Madhya Pradesh; as well as several other databases.

As per the NHA’s own admission in an internal note, over two crore families are missing from the SECC.

“Almost all states have reported that several genuinely poor and vulnerable households have been excluded from the scheme because the SECC data is old,” the note says. “No state has been able to identify more than 75 per cent of households from SECC. Excluding the states (which) have not joined, more than 2 crore households are missing. Some states have reported that many villages and some groups have been systematically left out. The NHA has been routinely receiving letters from various states e.g. Goa, Chandigarh, North Eastern states etc. regarding their unfair exclusion due to erroneous database.”

The only states that are not implementing the PMJAY are West Bengal, Odisha and Telangana, while Delhi has announced it will do so.

Sources said that Uttar Pradesh has been able to identify only 89.66 lakh PMJAY beneficiaries of a target of 6.47 crore (14%) given in the SECC database. Bihar has identified only 53.28 lakh of 5.55 crore (10%), and Chhattisgarh 8.35 lakh of 1.52 crore (5%).

Sources said some states like Kerala are using own database to identify the PMJAY beneficiaries.

Says the NHA note, “There are large number of mismatches in dependents’ information in the family, different families have been clubbed as part of the same family (in one case, more than 200 members in one family), and incorrect names have been captured. In addition, there are about 2 per cent household IDs with no entries (more than 20 lakh families).”

It talks of some states/UTs like Rajasthan, Odisha and Jammu & Kashmir reporting that they had not been able to zero in on beneficiaries to issue PMJAY cards in spite of sincere efforts.

Says the note, “While the scheme is entitlement-based, most of the beneficiaries do not know about their eligibility. SECC eligibility criteria (are) difficult to communicate, as compared to any other usual simpler approach such as BPL, Ration Card eligibility.” It attributes this to the fact that only 50% families entitled to the PMJAY in Bihar, for example, are using it and that too mostly in government hospitals.

Launched in September 2018, the PMJAY aims to provide health cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.

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