India Inc and especially the healthcare industry which has been battling the demon of COVID-19 and its aftermath should consider this year’s budget a blessing. Quite rightly, the budget has focussed on health and well-being, infrastructural reforms, development of human capital and minimum government and maximum governance. The very fact that the government has put health as the first pillar shows that finally it is being considered as the prerequisite to ensure the economic well-being of the country. Budget 21-22 seems realistic, constructive, and the finance minister showed her commitment to the healthcare sector, which needed a boost urgently.
The Aatmanirbhar Health Yojana in addition to the National Health Mission with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore over six years is a welcome move, towards strengthening primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in the country, addressing the preventive, curative and wellbeing of the population. This will also intend to develop capacities of healthcare systems, develop institutions for detection and cure of the new and emerging disease as the first step to boost rural health and keep country ready for emergency handling of pandemic situations. Further, increasing access to the pneumococcal vaccine to all states and budget outlay for health and welfare by the allocation this year of Rs 2,23,846 crore in the healthcare sector a rise by 137 per cent as compared to previous year will prove to be a major increase in the public health and pharmaceuticals sector. This will strengthen the National Centre for Disease Control and make India future-ready for any further health crises. With the incorporation of 17,788 rural and 11,024 urban health and wellness centres, the budget rightly addresses the need to reach the last mile population. The decision to set up integrated public health labs in all districts and 3382 block public health units in 11 states along with critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions is creditable but more might be required in a country where the patient-doctor ratio is abysmally poor. Expansion of the Integrated Health Information Portal to all States/UTs to connect all public health labs is a step ahead towards digitalisation and is a positive move. India has done exceptionally well considering the density of populace in talking the pandemic. Setting aside INR 35,000 crore and more if required for COVID-19 vaccination drive is laudable and shows that the government has prioritised the sector. India, unfortunately, has the highest mortality rate for children, the decision to launch Mission Poshan 2.0 is a praiseworthy move to prevent over 50,000 child deaths annually.
The Rs 2,217 crore outlay for 42 urban centres to tackle air pollution, one of the deadliest pandemic which is obliterating mankind for years and acts as slow poisoning is also commendable. The resolution to set up integrated public health labs in each district about 3,382 block public health units in 11 states is noteworthy. Establishing critical care blocks in hospitals is essential from our learning from the recent pandemic and a right move by the government. Overall the proposals made in the Budget 21-22, would make quality healthcare accessible and affordable, besides standardising healthcare infrastructure across the country. We await the on-ground implementation and operational details of the scheme now.