When Health Minister J P Nadda meets his counterparts from the eight Northeastern states in Guwahati on Saturday, the performance of the states in the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) will feature high on his list of priorities.
The average expenditure of the eight states on the mission that aims to provide basic health infrastructure in urban areas is a dismal 13 per cent.
In fact, with the exception of Arunachal Pradesh which managed to spend 40 per cent of the budget released during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years and Sikkim which spent 29 per cent of the money, no state in the Northeast managed to spend more than 20 per cent of their allocation.
Launched in 2013 as a sub-mission of the National Health Mission, NUHM aims to meet healthcare needs of the urban population with focus on the urban poor. The emphasis is on making essential primary health care services available at a convenient distance from their places of residence in order to reduce their out of pocket expenses for treatment. This is to be achieved by strengthening the existing health care service delivery system, targeting the people living in slums and converging with various schemes relating to wider determinants of health like drinking water, sanitation, school education, etc.
According to data available with The Indian Express, of the Rs 71.17 crore released by the Centre for the Northeastern states, they managed to spend only Rs 9.19 crore till March 2015. Assam spent 17 per cent of its allocation, Manipur 11 per cent, Mizoram 13 per cent, Nagaland 11 per cent and Tripura per cent. Meghalaya — which is also a part of Nadda’s itinerary in the Northeast — managed to spend just 1 per cent of its allocation. The states are also tardy in submission of utilisation certificates, which as per Finance Ministry rules could jeopardise Centre’s release of their next instalments.
“The low expenditure on NUHM is a matter of concern. However, there is also a realisation the Northeast states have their own unique issues and should be given autonomy to resolve them in a localised way. In his discussion with the health ministers, Union Health Minister J P Nadda will seek their suggestions on how those processes can be simplified to the the best interests of both,” said a ministry source.