Follow Us:
Thursday, June 30, 2022

Union Budget 2022: Fighting Covid stress, mental health strain on priority list

The rollout comes in the backdrop of growing scientific evidence that shows mental health sequels post Covid-19 infection.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: February 2, 2022 9:10:54 am
School students get vaccinated against Covid-19 at a government school in Gurugram on Tuesday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

As India enters the third year in its fight against the global pandemic, the focus of the public health sector will be to further strengthen the health systems at levels of primary, secondary and tertiary in responding effectively to the future wave of infections.

In 2022-23, the Budget estimate for the health sector is Rs 86,200.65 crore — a 16.59% increase compared to 2021-22 Budget estimate.

Besides augmenting the health infrastructure, the government has also placed its priority on another critical issue related to the pandemic: mental health.

This year’s Budget will take forward the announcements made last year in the backdrop of the strain on health systems experienced during the pandemic.

Best of Express Premium
UPSC Key-June 30, 2022: Why to read ‘Collective Responsibility’ or ‘Inver...Premium
TN Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan: ‘Don’t know of a ...Premium
Efforts to estimate poverty from 2011-21 are commendable, given absence o...Premium
Uddhav Thackeray: The reluctant politician who in the end hung on to chai...Premium

In her last Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made the big announcement on the launch of Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana scheme, now renamed Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PMABHIM), with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore over six years. This year, the government will transfer Rs 4,176.84 crore to the states — to be utilised to support wellness centres, setting up of integrated public health labs, and critical care hospital blocks in districts with a population of more than 5 lakh.

The allocation is a significant increase: under revised Budget estimates for 2021-22, only Rs 595 crore was allocated under this scheme, compared to Rs 4,176.84 crore this year.

With Covid-19 negatively affecting mental health and triggering an exponential rise in mental health issues among vulnerable population groups, the government announced the roll-out of the national tele-mental health programme.

The development comes in the backdrop of growing scientific evidence that mental health sequels post-coronavirus infection. During the pandemic, patients have been reporting anxiety and depression, as well as ‘Long Covid’, where recovered patients experience brain fog and are not able to think clearly. Patients also show neurological symptoms.


How tele-mental health service helps

The programme will include a network of 23 tele-mental health centres of excellence, NIMHANS being the nodal centre and IIIT-Bengaluru providing technology support. The 23 centres have specialised mental healthcare resources and will help states and UTs set up tele-health helplines to train counsellors to provide first-level psychological care, according to NIMHANS's Dr Murthy.

The third big focus of the Budget has been on digital health.

In her Budget speech. Sitharaman announced the roll-out of an open platform for the national health ecosystem. She said the digital ecosystem will comprise an exhaustive list of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity, consent framework and universal access to health facilities.

Significantly, the national digital health mission has been allocated Rs 200 crore, compared to just Rs 30 crore allocated in the previous Budget.

At the same time, another important flagship initiative — Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana — has Rs 6,412 crore, which is almost at the same levels of allocation of Budget estimation of 2021-22 (Rs 6,400).

Under the Central sector schemes and projects, the government has allocated Rs 15,163.22 crore — a 43.5% increase compared to 2021-22 Budget estimates. Under this, Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana has been further increased this year: Rs 10,000 crore has been allocated to the scheme, a 35% increase compared to 2021-22 Budget estimates.

The Department of Health Research, which played a key role in development of vaccines in India, has been allocated Rs 3,200 crore. However, this is only a 4-percent increase compared to the revised 2021-22 estimates.

Experts welcomed the focus on mental health.

Dr Pratima Murthy, director, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), welcomed Budgetary announcement for a national tele-mental health programme and said that as per a recent national mental health survey, 10.4% people have a diagnosable mental health condition but that did not mean that everyone needs to be seen in a hospital. “This programme will be useful to identify mild forms of mental illness, which may not require medication or in patient care,” she told The Indian Express.

According to a 2019 ICMR study, one in seven persons suffered from mental disorders of varying severity in India. Noted psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty said, “We are in the middle of a mental health pandemic. Setting up a tele-mental health helpline is a small gesture and we hope it multiplies. However, this is not enough. We need intensity on mental health as much as the Centre and states have done for combating Covid-19…”

Inputs from Anuradha Mascarenhas

UPSC KEY Have you seen our section dedicated to helping USPC aspirants decode daily news in the context of their exams?

📣 Join our Telegram channel (The Indian Express) for the latest news and updates

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard
0 Comment(s) *
* The moderation of comments is automated and not cleared manually by