To ensure universal access to free generic essential medicines in public health institutions in time-bound manner

The government proposes to convert the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) into a National Health Mission to provide health care to the urban poor also, in the course of the 12th Plan.

Universal access to free generic essential medicines in public health institutions in a phased and time-bound manner will be ensured.

Announcing major initiatives to provide universal healthcare, President Pratibha Patil on Monday said the government would endeavour to increase both Plan and Non-Plan public expenditure in the Centre and the States taken together to 2.5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of the 12th Plan.

“People need to be healthy if they have to learn, earn and lead a productive and fulfilling life. Our National Rural Health Mission has started making a difference as reflected in the health indicators,'' Ms. Patil said in her speech to the joint session of the first day of the Budget session of Parliament, as she recounted the achievements of this ambitious programme.

The Infant Mortality Rate declined from 58 per thousand live births in 2005 to 47 in 2010 and Maternal Mortality Ratio from 254 per one lakh deliveries in 2004-2006 to 212 in 2007-2009. The Janani Suraksha Yojana registered impressive gains with 1.13 crore women benefiting during 2010-11. Polio has been almost eradicated from the country. The World Health Organisation has decided to take India off the list of countries with active endemic wild poliovirus transmission.

Pointing out that in spite of increased investment in the health sector over the last 7 years, public expenditure on healthcare continues to be low, the President said the government would strengthen district hospitals to provide advanced level secondary care under the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases & Stroke and The National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly.

Health insurance scheme

The immensely popular Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, under which health insurance cover is already being provided to around 2.64 crore families, will be expanded. It is expected that by the end of the 12th Plan around 7 crore families will be provided health insurance cover, she announced.

Building on the platform provided by the Right to Education, integration of skill training with education at all levels is being emphasised. A National Vocational Education Qualification Framework is being developed to set common principles and guidelines for a nationally recognised qualification system, Ms. Patil said.

Skill training

The government aims to provide skills training to 85 lakh people during 2012-13 and 800 lakh people during the 12th Plan. It will set up 1,500 new Industrial Training Institutes and 5,000 Skill Development Centres under Public Private Partnership at an estimated cost of Rs.13,000 crore.

The Higher Education and Research Bill has been introduced in Parliament. A National Commission for Higher Education & Research is being constituted to set a roadmap for the future. The government also intends to launch a National Mission for Teachers aimed at improving teacher education and faculty development.

To provide all students access to higher education irrespective of their paying capacity, the government intends to set up a Higher Education Credit Guarantee Authority for providing limited credit guarantees through risk-pooling for educational loans, she added.