February 2, 2021 3:22:02 am
Some health activists on Monday said they had some expectations from the Union Budget but were disappointed as no growth in healthcare spending was visible for the forthcoming fiscal year. Despite the much touted emphasis on health, the Union Budget has increased only by Rs 7000 crore from Budget Estimates of 2020-21 and declined by 9.8 per cent from Revised Estimates of 2020-21, health activists have said.
Dr Abhay Shukla, national co-convenor of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said there was no major increase in health expenditure. “Even if we keep the Covid-19 pandemic aside for instance, there should have been a 30 per cent increase on health expenditure but the budget shows an actual increase of less than 10 per cent… The only big increase was on emergency response measures to the Covid pandemic, which was around Rs 11,000 crore,” Dr Shukla explained.
The previous year’s budget for FY 20-21 showed a total outlay was 65,000 crore and then the revised budget for FY 20-21 was an approximately 78,866 crore. The significant increase then was due to the emergency Covid preparedness measures and it took place last year, Dr Shukla said, adding that there has been no major increase this year.
Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, said that while the commitment of a 137 per cent increase is welcome, this was spread across the next six years. He also said allocation of Rs 35,000 crore for Covid vaccination might be insufficient to ensure free, universal and timely vaccination, given that it would cost Rs 52,000 crore. The allocation for the National Health Mission, however, has witnessed 4.4 per cent increase.
Despite frontline health workers such as Anganwadi and ASHA workers being at the forefront of the Covid response, the Budget fails to allocate funding for ensuring minimum wage and insurance for all frontline health workers.
“Look at the titles in the budget, they are so misleading… instead of health and family welfare, it is health and well-being, and they have added money to be spent on drinking water and sanitation and hence the budget shows a larger increase – there is no genuine substantial increase,” said Anant Phadke, co-convener of Jan Aarogya Abhiyan. He said the budget was “misleading” and there was no growth in healthcare spending for the forthcoming fiscal year. He also pointed out that if vaccination was being done for three lakh people per day, then in a year the drive will cover only 10 crore people and the budget is for Rs 35,000 crore, which he feels will remain unspent.
Ravi Duggal, an activist associated with the People’s Health Movement, told The Indian Express that the budget on healthcare was a “disappointment”, especially as the spending on healthcare was clubbed together with other titles like drinking water and sanitation, and hence the rise in the figure seemed to be an eyewash, he said.
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