Two days ahead of the first phase of elections to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha, the BJP has released its manifesto, calling it their Sankal Patra (Pledge Document) 2019. The party aims to fight the Lok Sabha polls with 75 goals for 2022 – the year India celebrates its 75th year of independence.
Prime Minister Modi bills his vision document as a roadmap for a ‘New India’ – a commitment for strength, prosperity, and security. The document recaptures the party’s stand on nationalism and zero tolerance against terrorism. “Probably, this is for the first time, that the manifesto is based on a government that will continue to remain in power,” Modi said at the launch event.
“The document is silent when it came to increasing the budgetary allocation for healthcare. Congress, meanwhile, has promised to increase the health budget to three percent from the current figure of 1.15 percent of the GDP.”
To carry forward promise of ‘Health For All’, the document aims to increase the coverage under the flagship health insurance scheme Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJAY), better known as Ayushman Bharat. Efforts to strengthen strides made under the PMJAY will include establishment of 1.5 lakh healthcare centres. However, since September last year, when Ayushman Bharat was launched, 17,000 health and wellness centres have become functional.
Despite an increase in health promises, the document is silent when it came to increasing the budgetary allocation for healthcare. Congress, meanwhile, has promised to increase the health budget to three percent from the current figure of 1.15 percent of the GDP.
Telemedicine has acted as an effective catalyst to increase healthcare access across rural India. The Government undertook this effective way for doctor consultations and now the sector sees a high scope of development with integration of artificial intelligence technology and utilisation of health data. The BJP recommends provisioning of telemedicine and diagnostic laboratory at health and wellness centres by 2022, to ensure quality primary medical care to the poor at his doorstep.
“To bridge the dismal patient-doctor gap of one doctor for over 11,000 patients, the BJP proposes to set up one medical college or postgraduate medical college in every district, through public or private participation, by 2024. Initially, 75 such medical institutes will be set up by 2022.”
To bridge the dismal patient-doctor gap of one doctor for over 11,000 patients, the BJP proposes to set up one medical college or postgraduate medical college in every district, through public or private participation, by 2024. Initially, 75 such medical institutes will be set up by 2022.
The party claims that, in the last five years, the number of Bachelor of Medicine or Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) seats increased by 18,000. Postgraduate medical seats increased by 12,000. The ground reality, however, seems to contradict. A right to information (RTI) query has revealed that in, the last five years, only 920 MBBS seats were added in government colleges against the approved 10,000.
The government had given the approval for adding 2615 MBBS seats to thirty six medical colleges in twelve states by releasing Rs 685 crore. But the RTI suggests, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh got only fifty seats each instead of the approved 150 and 350 seats respectively. In Karnataka, 550 seats were approved but only 350 created, whereas, in states like Jharkhand, MP, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, and Manipur, not a single seat has been added.
“The main aim of the new ministry will be to clean Ganga by 2022…But as reported by Health Issues India recently, the primary body spearheading Clean Ganga Mission has not met even once ever since its formation.”
To address the imminent water scarcity crisis warned of by experts, the party aims to form a new Ministry of Water to unify the water management functions and approach the issue more holistically. It will take forward the ambitious programme, conceptualized by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for linking rivers from different parts of the country and ensure a solution to the problems of scarcity of drinking water and irrigation.
But the Government of India already has a Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. In 1995 Department of Irrigation was re-constituted as the Ministry of Water Resources and in 2011 a comprehensive mission document for the ministry constituted five goals: comprehensive water database, promotion of citizen and state action for water conservation, focused attention to vulnerable areas, increasing water use efficiency by twenty percent and promotion of basin level and an integrated water resources management.
In 2014, when the Modi Government came to power, the Ministry was renamed as “Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation”.Its remit was expanded to ensuring conservation, development, management and abatement of pollution in river Ganga and its tributaries.
The main aim of the new ministry will be to clean Ganga by 2022 by ensuring that the planned sewage infrastructure to deal with 100 percent of the wastewater from the Ganga towns is completed and functioning effectively. But as reported by Health Issues India recently, the primary body spearheading Clean Ganga Mission has not met even once ever since its formation.By accepting pollution as a major health risk, the party aims to reduce the level of pollution in each of the mission cities by at least 35 percent over the next five years. It promises full immunization coverage for all the children and pregnant women by 2022 and eradication of tuberculosis by 2025.
Many ambitious schemes unveiled by the government in the last five years are awaiting proper implementation due to lack of funds. Ayushman Bharat, world’s largest health insurance scheme that aims to cover fifty crore Indians, has been allocated a mere Rs 6400 crore, while health experts have told Health Issues India that it requires no less than Rs 1 lakh crore to become successful.
The need of the hour is firm commitments to strengthening healthcare and expanding accessibility, affordability and quality. Advances made by the BJP on issues related to health in the past year are important to remember: expanded access to sanitation services under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is one major accomplishment, as is the pushback against the menace of tobacco. However, it is also important to remember projects which have not gone to plan or been properly implemented – and question whether the manifesto offers enough reassurance that, if given another term in power, the BJP can deliver on its targets.