Amid signs that there may not be too much funds available for the social sector in this Budget, health ministry is hoping to get enough funds for a nationwide roll-out of the free drugs scheme and a partial rollout of free diagnostics — both of which were a part of finance minister Arun Jaitley’s budget speech last year — and additional funding for focussed intervention in backward districts.
Health ministry has asked for Rs 50,000 crore for budgetary allocation although indications are that the most that they may receive is a 15 per cent hike from last year’s allocation of Rs 30,645 crore.
“We have been encouraging states to increase their uptake so this year has been exceptionally good with almost 80 per cent of allocations having been used by the states so far. That is the track record that we hope will help us get more funds this year. Most of the plans we have would be under the National Health Mission,” said a senior official in the ministry. Of the Rs 50,000 crore, a demand for Rs 40,000 crore has been sent for the National Health Mission.
The ministry also wants additional allocation for the upcoming AIIMS-like institutions and the upgradation of district hospitals, both of which are existing schemes. Free drugs in particular has been a scheme stuck for long due to lack of funds. Ballpark estimates suggest the ministry needs Rs 6,000 crore for a countrywide rollout.
At present there are some states like Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan that run their own free drugs schemes, but till the Centre has enough in its kitty for a central free drugs scheme it will have to be left at the will of the states. Even while the health ministry is hoping that it may finally get the funds, it is being realistic in its assessment that free diagnostics as a nationwide scheme may yet have to cross some more financial hurdles.
That is why health ministry is hoping that a partial rollout in some districts, on a pilot basis, could strike a balance between the financial realities and the health essentials.