Aarti Dhar

Funds for National Rural Health Mission have increased by a mere 11 per cent

Expenditure on health has gone down to 0.36 per cent during 2010-11

Allocation for Integrated Child Development Scheme not enough to universalise it

NEW DELH: Non-governmental organisations and civil society groups have said the budgetary allocations to the social sector, especially health and education, are inadequate.

The plan to conduct an annual health survey is a welcome step, as it will yield critical data to monitor child health, but the allocation for the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has increased by just 11 per cent, from Rs.14,002 crore to Rs.15,514 crore. Given the additional funds needed to strengthen the rural health infrastructure and fill the vacancies for doctors, auxiliary nurse midwives and paramedics, the increase seems paltry, Save the Children, a child rights group, has said.

The expenditure on health has gone down to 0.36 per cent in 2010-11 from 0.37 per cent in 2009-10. If the State spending on health remains constant, the combined Centre-State spending will not reach the promised 2-3 per cent by 2012. This runs counter to the United Progressive Alliance government’s commitment to increase expenditure on health. Unless the Union government’s allocation goes up substantially, this increase will remain elusive, it says.

The allocation for the Integrated Child Development Scheme has gone up to Rs.7,806.71 crore from Rs.6,0626.30 crore during 2009-10. Even this 29.54-per cent increase is far from the sum needed to universalise the scheme.

Oxfam, a non-governmental organisation, said the government has promised “inclusive development” in its 11th Five Year Plan, but each year, the budget never allocates enough resources for education, health and safety nets, which are critical to honouring this promise. This year’s budget is also a huge disappointment. “In health care too, we are still very far from the 3 per cent of the GDP that needs to be allocated to the health care system to provide quality basic health care for all and …to improve India’s very poorly performing health care system. The Central government’s allocation for health care remains a paltry 0.36 per cent of the GDP,” an Oxfam statement said.

Wada Na Todo, an NGO, has said the budget once again exhibited the rulers’ political apathy towards prioritising the critical needs of the people in education and health. “No doubt, there are nominal increases in the allocations for the sectors. But the nature and intensity of the deficits in education and health outcome in our country is such that the realisation of the government’s promises to universalise these services cannot be deferred indefinitely. The argument is more true in situations in which the government is foregoing more than Rs. 5 lakh crore of resources in the central tax system itself, but does not make necessary provisions for the basic health and education services, leading towards universalisation of these services.”

The increased allocation to the health sector is not at all substantial, given the poor condition of the public health service delivery systems. In fact, the government has reduced the allocation even in absolute terms in the case of medical education, training and research, allowing private interests to enter the field of medical education, probably the most profitable professional choice in recent times.