Maharashtra opens service centres in Belagavi to enrol beneficiaries for health insurance scheme

Kannada activists say this will further complicate the border dispute

Updated - January 12, 2024 11:44 am IST

Published - January 11, 2024 10:24 am IST - Belagavi

A Seva Pratinidhi of the common service centre of Maharashtra government displaying an application filled by a prospective beneficiary for the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule health scheme in the old city in Belagavi on January 10, 2024.

A Seva Pratinidhi of the common service centre of Maharashtra government displaying an application filled by a prospective beneficiary for the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule health scheme in the old city in Belagavi on January 10, 2024. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In a controversial move, the government of Maharashtra has opened five common service centres across the border district of Belagavi to enrol specifically Marathi-speaking population for its health insurance scheme.

The Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Health Scheme offers cashless treatment to beneficiaries and post treatment reimbursement to hospitals for Maharashtrians and now extends to Marathi-speaking population in the border region. Rules of the scheme allow cashless treatment and surgeries to beneficiaries in over 1,000 hospitals, including 140 hospitals in Karnataka.

A circular from the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s office issued on January 4, 2024, has made the scheme applicable to Marathi-speakers in border areas of Karnataka. The letter also says the Marathi-speaking residents of Karnataka can seek financial assistance for health care.

Seva Pratinidhis appointed

The Maharashtra government has appointed Seva Pratinidhis to enrol beneficiaries in Belagavi district. One of the Seva Pratinidhi in Angol area claimed that over 50 persons had registered themselves in Belagavi in six days. Of these, six patients have sought reimbursement, he said.

One among the two much-debated provisions in the scheme is that it is applicable to only Marathi-speakers and not others. Another point of contention is that the application form has to be whetted by Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), the local political party that is fighting for merger of Marathi-speaking areas in Karnataka with Maharashtra. MES leader Vikas Kalaghatagi described the scheme as a “large hearted gift from Maharashtra government to the Marathi-speakers in Karnataka.”

However, Kannada activists strongly criticise the scheme. “I have a simple question to Maharashtra government: Whenever a sick man from border village comes to hospitals in Belagavi or Uttara Kannada districts, does the doctor ask whether he is Marathi speaking or Kannada speaking? Does he get treatment irrespective of his linguistic identity or not?’‘ asked Ashok Chandaragi, convener of the Kannada organisations in Belagavi.

He said the move not only played politics with language, but also empowered MES to recommend applicants. “We suspect that it is not a welfare scheme. Maharashtra is using the scheme to collect data needed to fight its case in the Supreme Court against Karnataka,” Mr. Chandaragi said. He accused the Karnataka government of not taking the issue seriously.


Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had announced plans of such a scheme in March 2023. He said it would offer coverage to Marathi-speaking residents of 865 villages and towns in Belagavi, Bidar and Uttara Kannada districts. The scheme was notified in Maharashra in April.

The then Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had opposed it saying it was against the spirit of federalism and could damage linguistic harmony in the two states. He vowed to complain to Union Home Minister Amit Shah against Maharashtra’s move. On another occasion, Mr. Shah said he had instructed the leaders of neighbouring States not to raise issues related to the border dispute till the issue was resolved in the Supreme Court.

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