Viewpoint | Budget 2021

Budget 2020 | A healthy Budget that future-proofs India’s growth story

Dr. Preetha Reddy, Vice-Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Group.  

Union Budget 2020 can be described as one well-intended to boost the economy, promote inclusive progress and that bodes well for the new decade. In particular, the three overarching themes, to improve standard of living, boost economic development for all, and building a humane and compassionate society, will certainly make the world’s largest democracy a model nation.

It is said that there can be no progress without farmers and that is a definitive in an agrarian nation like India. In light of this reality, the Budget demonstrated the government’s passionate will to double farmers’ income, support water stressed districts, help them monetise barren lands by converting them into solar farms, Kisan trains for perishables and many such initiatives, which reaffirm commitment to nurture the soul of India.

Encouraging impetus

Likewise, the impetus on education and skill development was encouraging. The Budget allocated ₹99,300 crore for the education sector in 2021, including ₹3,000 crore for skill development. These allocations are valuable to build a task force ready to serve an ageing world, boost employment and at large, make India future-ready. In addition, the IND SAT exam for students of Asia and Africa to promote “study in India” programme would also boost India’s stature as a destination for higher education.

Budget 2020 also had several noteworthy measures for the health sector of India. The allocation of ₹69,000 crore in this budget is slightly up from last year and of this, around ₹6,400 crore would be for the AB-PMJAY (Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana) scheme. It includes an impetus to this flagship scheme as more than 112 aspirational districts have been identified, including Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, wherein empanelled hospitals would be set up to treat the economically weaker sections of India. A well-established fact is that addition of hospitals fuels job creation, so this would also provide job opportunities to youth in these identified districts. Moreover, a viability gap funding window is going to be set up to cover hospitals, for the priority districts that do not have hospitals empanelled under Ayushman Bharat. Similarly, availability of medicines is critical to a patient’s treatment and they do add up to a considerable part of the cost of care. Hence, extending Jan Aushadhi stores to every district is a prudent measure.

Qualified doctors

There is an acute shortage of qualified medical doctors, both general practitioners and specialists in our country. To come closer to the World Health Organisation mandate of numbers of doctors to population, India needs to at least double the number of doctors. So the Budget’s proposal to attach a medical college to a district hospital in public-private partnership mode will certainly help India move towards this objective.

Despite a lot of progress made so far, almost a half million lives are lost to tuberculosis every year in India and according to estimates, there are a million more cases that remain undiagnosed. The Budget’s plan to eliminate tuberculosis from India by 2025 was pathbreaking and the timeline is also five years ahead of the global SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) target.

Averting mortality

The Budget outlay also sought to expand Mission Indradhanush, the universal immunisation programme, with five more vaccines. In addition, there was ample focus on the determinants of health, which primarily include clean drinking water, sanitation and nutrition under the aegis of the Jal Jeevan Mission, Swachh Bharat and Poshan Abhiyan, schemes that will work to avert preventable mortalities and also improve our IMR (Infant Mortality Rate) and MMR (Maternal Mortality Ratio) indices.

The health sector is among the largest service sectors in India and with greater impetus on skill development, it could address the need-gap for resources in the country and across the world. Therefore, the Budget’s announcement of reduced taxes for those who have no exemptions will certainly be beneficial for the millions of youth employed in healthcare.

Dr. Preetha Reddy is Vice-Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Group

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 8:05:04 AM |

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