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Budget 21-22: Strengthening Our Healthcare Infrastructure

The budget announcements reflect the commitment of the government to provide universal and affordable healthcare to all

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The COVID-19 pandemic has made us realise that India needs to have a strong and affordable healthcare system. As expected, the healthcare sector occupied the first of the six pillars of the budget proposals for 2021-22. Taking a holistic approach to healthcare, the finance minister said focus should be on strengthening three areas in healthcare – preventive, curative and wellbeing. 

The first of the key announcements in the healthcare sector is a centrally sponsored scheme – the Prime Minister Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (Scheme), with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore for a period of six years – which aims to improve primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare sectors. The scheme will focus on developing healthcare systems, strengthening existing health­care institutions and establishing new institutions for detecting and curing new and emerging diseases. It is notable that the scheme is an addition to the existing National Health Mission. Further, an amount of Rs 35,000 crore is proposed to be set aside for the Covid-19 vaccination drive in 2021-22, with a promise of additional funds, if required. 

The following are the key interventions of the scheme – providing sup­port to over 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centres, setting up integrated public health labs in each district and 3,382 block public health units in 11 states, establishing critical care hospital blocks in over 600 districts and 12 central institutions, strengthening the National Centre for Disease Control along with its regional branches and twenty metropolitan health surveillance units, expanding the integrated Health Information Portal to all states and Union Territories to connect to all public health labs, operationalising 17 new public health units and strengthening 33 existing public health units at points of entry (that is, at 32 airports, 11 seaports and seven land crossings), setting up 15 health emergency operation centres and two mo­bile hospitals, establishing a national institution for One Health, a regional research platform for WHO South East Asia Region, nine bio-safety level III laboratories and four regional national institutes for virology. 

The pneumococcal vaccine, developed in India, now available in only five states, will be rolled out across the country and aims to avert 50,000 child deaths annually. To strengthen nutritional content, the government will merge the Supplementary

Nutrition Programme and the Poshan Abhiyan and launch Mission Poshan 2.0. The government intends to adopt an intensified strategy to improve nutritional outcomes in 112 districts. Additionally, with a view to provide universal water supply to urban local bodies and liquid waste management in 500 cities, the finance minister an­nounced the Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban). The Ur­ban Swatchh Bharat Mis­sion will be implemented with a total financial allo­cation of Rs 1,41,678 crore over a period of five years from 2021-2026. To tackle the problem of air pollu­tion, the government pro­poses to allocate Rs 2,217 crore for 42 urban centres with a population of a million plus. 

The total budget outlay for the healthcare sector of Rs 2.24 lakh crore, is an increase of 137 per cent over last year. I am sure that this will go a long way in ensuring affordable and timely treatment for all.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 4 Feb 2021 Union Budget 2021-22

Arvind Sharma

Partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

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