The Integrated Child Development Scheme came in for praise from Finance Minister P Chidamabaram during his budget speech for having spent its entire budget allocation it had got a 50 per cent hike last year but the hike it got this year was modest. The Rs 17,700 crore allocation works out to a modest 13 per cent higher than the Rs 15,850 crore that had been given,and spent,under the scheme last year.
Alongside a commitment to expand the National Rural Health Mission into a National Health Mission to cover urban areas too,the allocation is of Rs 21,239 crore,a hike of 25.4 per cent over the revised estimate for NRHM,and a total that may not count for much after accounting for inflation once the urban health mission proposal,which aims to cover 779 cities,is passed.
The budget reinforced the buzz in the health ministry that tight finances were the reason behind the deferment of the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) at last week’s cabinet meeting.
The total allocation for health went up about 23 per cent to Rs 37,330 crore. Sources in the health ministry say given the financial constraints,the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) pilot will still take some time coming and there is little movement on the plan to provide free drugs at government health setups. There was also an allocation of Rs 4,727 crore for medical education and Rs 1,650 crore for the six AIIMS-like institutes that have been holding classes for their first batch since September 2012.
There were no tax benefits on any new life-saving drugs; the only taxation proposal with a health angle was an 18 per cent increase on excise duty on cigarettes. Anti-tobacco lobbyists questioned the continued exemption of the bidi,which affects many thousands more than cigarettes do,and at a socioeconomic strata where both resources and access to healthcare is poorer.
Apart from the allocation for ICDS,Chidambaram announced that a multisectoral programme to tackle malnutrition,started in 100 districts last year,will now be extended to another 100 for which Rs 300 crore was earmarked. The 2013-14 gender budget has Rs 97,134 crore (including the Nirbhaya Fund of Rs 1,000 crore) and the child budget has Rs 77,236 crore. Chidambaram urged the Ministry of Women and Child Development to frame schemes keeping in mind particularly the needs of single women and widows and allocated Rs 200 crore to begin work in that direction.
Under the scheduled caste and tribal sub-plans,allocations of Rs 41,561 crore and Rs 24,598 crore respectively were announced. The total represents an increase of 12.5 per cent over last year’s budget estimate and 31 per cent over the revised estimate.