DESCRIBING IT as one of the biggest schemes ever implemented for change in the life of the common man, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday launched the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), under the Ayushman Bharat umbrella, which aims to provide an annual health cover of Rs 5 lakh to over 50 crore beneficiaries across India.
“Sampraday ke aadhar par Ayushman Bharat yojana nahin hai, jaati ke aadhar par Ayushman Bharat yojana nahin hai, oonch-neech ke bhedbhaav ke aadhaar par Ayushman Bharat nahin hogi (The Ayushman Bharat scheme is not based on communal lines, not on caste, and will not be on the basis of any backward-forward bias),” said Modi, while officially rolling out the scheme in front of a gathering of thousands at Prabhat Tara Maidan.
The PMJAY will cover beneficiaries identified on the basis of the Socio Economic Caste Survey (SECC) 2011 from 10.74 crore families in 444 districts of 26 states, and provide reimbursements for bed charges, and drugs and diagnostics two days before, during, and 15 days after hospitalisation.
Dedicating the scheme to the “service of the poor”, Modi hit out at previous governments of “30-50 years ago”, saying that policy makers in the past never tried to empower the poor, but only paid lip service to their cause in the hope of getting their votes.
There was a “fundamental mistake” in their thinking, Modi said. “Garibon ke naam ki maalayen japte rahne waale log…agar aaj se 30-50 saal pehle gareebon ke naam par rajneeti karne ki bajay gareebon ke sashaktikaran par bal dete toh desh aaj jo Hindustan dekh raha hai waisa nahin hota (Those who invoked the name of the poor…had they worked to empower the poor 30 to 50 years ago, India would not have been in the position that it is in today),” he said.
Continuing on the same vein, Modi said: “Unhone gareebon ke sambandh mein sochne mein galti ki. Yeh moolbhoot galti hai jo aaj desh ko bhugatna padh raha hai. Unhone yahi socha ki gareeb kuchh na kuchh maangta hai. Gareeb ko kuchh muft mein do jo usko chaahiye…yehi unki sabse badi galat soch thi. Gareeb jitna swabhimaani hota hai, shaayad us swabhimaan ko maapne ki aapke paas koi tarazu nahin hai.
“(They committed a fundamental mistake in their understanding of the poor. They thought that the poor always ask for one thing or the other….just give them those as freebies…this was the biggest fault in their thinking……you didn’t have a scale to measure the amount of self-respect a poor man has).”
Elaborating on the scheme, Modi said: “The number of people to be benefited under the scheme is around the same as that of all of the European Union… or all of the population of the US, Canada and Mexico.” He pointed to how ‘Lancet’, the reputed journal of medical science, had taken note of the scheme.
“Our government thinks of health in a holistic manner. While we are investing to improve infrastructure and human resources to provide medical care, we are also working towards preventive health care. Be it the ODF (open defecation free) mission, the scheme for concrete houses — all help towards improving the health sector,” said Modi, while recalling Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s views on how spending on education and health was always an investment.
“People are calling the scheme Modicare and by other names, but for me it is an opportunity to serve the poor. Even the ones living in the lowest strata of society will benefit from the scheme,” he said.
“No one needs to register for the initiative. A health card will be provided to the beneficiaries for availing the benefits. A toll-free number will be made available to the people for finding out more about the scheme,” the Prime Minister said.
According to Modi, as the scheme progresses, there will be many more job opportunities as around 2,500 hospitals and healthcare facilities would come up in tier-II and III cities requiring professionals from the core health sector, besides IT professionals, managers, paramedics and call-centre executives.
“I hope and pray that the poor don’t have to visit hospitals but, if they do, the Ayushman cover will be at their service. The poor of my country must get all facilities that the rich enjoy,” he said.
The Prime Minister also handed out “gold cards” to some beneficiaries of the scheme that entitles them to reimbursement benefits under PMJAY.
Earlier Sunday, Modi laid the foundation stone of two medical colleges to be opened in Koderma and Chaibasa, besides 10 wellness centres.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das said that Opposition parties have been rattled by the fact that the central government has been working for the poor in a “life-changing manner without any corruption taint”. “That is why they are trying to form a mahagathbandhan (mega alliance), which is actually mahathugbandhan (alliance of cheats), and are trying to spread misinformation. But the people of the state and the country know everything,” he said.
According to officials, the beneficiaries of PMJAY can get cover in government and empanelled private hospitals for around 1,350 treatment packages, with the amount reimbursed to the medical facilities after discharge.
They said that every beneficiary will also get a letter from the Prime Minister. Beneficiaries can approach the hospital’s liaison staff, or Arogya Mitra, with the letter and a valid ID document to generate the “gold card”, following which they would either be admitted or referred to the relevant department for admission.