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Rajasthan Budget lacks focus on health sector, say activists

The Rajasthan Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), representing the State’s activists working in the health sector, has expressed surprise over the absence of any reference to legislation on right to health in the 2019-20 State Budget, presented by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot last week. Activists said the Budget was “full of rhetoric” and had very little to offer in real terms for the health sector.

The Congress, which had promised to bring the Right to Health Bill in its 2018 Assembly election manifesto, has not made any progress on this front after the formation of the government. The JSA had submitted a draft Bill to the State government earlier this year, after which there were a couple of rounds of consultations without any subsequent action.

The JSA, which functions as the State chapter of the People’s Health Movement, said the Budget had reduced allocations for health care and free medicines and diagnostics schemes, while there was no clarity about ‘Janata Clinics’, to be opened on the lines of Delhi’s ‘Mohalla Clinics’, for which no budgetary allocation had been made.

‘Hike negligible’

Chhaya Pachauli, senior programme coordinator of voluntary group Prayas, said here on July 16 that the increase of ₹875.19 crore in the allocation for medical, health and family welfare, from ₹12,163.41 crore in 2018-19 to ₹13,038.60 crore in 2019-20, was negligible and would not help in the increase in per capita expenditure on health or it share in the State’s gross domestic product.

“What is really problematic and alarming is that while the last year’s allocation constituted 6.16% of the total Budget allocations, its share has gone down to 5.97% this year,” Ms. Pachauli said. This slash indicated a clear undermining of health as a priority and a denial of the need for intensifying health budget to strengthen the public health care system, she said.

The reduction in the budget of the Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojana — the health insurance scheme initiated by the previous BJP regime in 2015 – from ₹1,491 crore last year to just ₹631 crore this year might be an indication of its merger with the Centre’s Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Bima Yojana. Health Minister Raghu Sharma had hinted of the merger recently, with the Centre and the State making contribution in 60:40 ratio.

Ms. Pachauli said the allocations for free medicines and diagnostics schemes should have been increased generously this year in view of the announcement for increase in the number of medicines and diagnostic tests provided free by the State government. In the dearth of adequate funds, the schemes were not likely to revive from the neglect that took a toll on them in the last five years during the previous government’s tenure.

The JSA said the State Budget, which lacked focus and commitment, had left public health sector starving for adequate resources. “There is little hope that the State health infrastructure and public health services would see any vital improvement in the near future,” it said.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 8:51:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/rajasthan-budget-lacks-focus-on-health-sector-say-activists/article28497634.ece

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