Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal inaugurated another 100 Mohalla clinics in the city over the weekend, taking the total number of such facilities in the national capital to 300.
The ultimate target is 1,000 clinics, with the state government aspiring to construct 500 by the time of Legislative Assembly elections next year. “It has been our mission to provide high quality, free healthcare facilities to all residents of Delhi, within a one kilometre radius of their homes,” Kejriwal said. “We are now close to achieving this goal. On days like this, I feel the purpose of ordinary citizens entering politics has been fulfilled.”
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led state government under Kejriwal had aspired to build 1,000 Mohalla clinics within a single five-year term upon its election in 2015. However, political difficulties have hampered rollout of the initiative. As reported by Health Issues India earlier this year, “an impasse over decision-making powers and difficulties obtaining land have frustrated progress.”
“Land acquisition is taking most of the time, and there is no knowing how long it will take,” explained a state health department official. “The other agencies were not very keen on giving us the land for clinics. The process is that as soon as we are able to identify and finalise the land, the construction part is initiated.”
In addition, the AAP and the BJP have been engaged in a tussle over the merits of their respective schemes: Mohalla Clinics and the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat. The Delhi government has been criticised for declining to implement Ayushman Bharat, one of the few states in India to do so. Odisha, Telangana, and West Bengal are the other holdout states.
Nonetheless, Kejriwal is optimistic about the future merits of the scheme and has announced that an additional 100 Mohalla clinics will be built next month. “In 2015, we launched mohalla clinics with the aim that people no longer would require to visit hospitals, far from their place, to get treatment,” he said. “Earlier, people had to travel long distances in buses to reach government hospitals, or go to private clinics that charged hefty fees. Mohalla clinics are making healthcare more accessible to people.”