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OPINION: Ayushman Bharat under PM Narendra Modi is Transforming Healthcare

With over 90.5 crore doses administered so far, with over 67.5 crore people being given at least one dose, 69 per cent of India’s adult population has been administered at least one dose of COVID vaccine. (Reuters)

With over 90.5 crore doses administered so far, with over 67.5 crore people being given at least one dose, 69 per cent of India’s adult population has been administered at least one dose of COVID vaccine. (Reuters)

India is working on a health model that is holistic and inclusive—a model which stresses on preventive healthcare and in case of diseases, easy, affordable and accessible treatment.

Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission will create a seamless online platform that will enable interoperability within the digital health ecosystem. Digital infrastructure is taking everything from ‘Ration to Prashasan’ to the common Indian in a fast and transparent manner. So far, more than 2 crore Indians have availed the facility of free treatment under the Ayushman scheme, half of whom are women. This digital mission will now connect the digital health solutions of hospitals across the country with each other. Healthcare solutions brought in by the Narendra Modi government are a big investment in the present and future of the country.

Ayushman Bharat has the potential of bringing a revolutionary change in India’s health facilities. With 130 crore Aadhaar numbers, 118 crore mobile subscribers, about 80 crore internet users and over 43 crore Jan Dhan bank accounts, India stands out as the only country in the world with such a big digitally connected infrastructure. This digital infrastructure is bringing everything from ration to administration (Ration to Prashasan) to the common Indian, in a fast and transparent manner.

The way technology is being deployed in governance reforms today, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is extraordinary. The Aarogya Setu app, for instance, helped in a big way in preventing the spread of coronavirus infection. Similarly, Co-Win played a stellar role in making India achieve a record administration of over 90 crore vaccine doses to date. Continuing with the theme of the use of technology in health, there has also been an unprecedented expansion of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic period. So far, over 125 crore remote consultations have been completed through e-Sanjeevani. This facility is connecting thousands of Indians living in far-flung parts of the country every day, with doctors of big hospitals in cities, while sitting at home.

Diseases are one of the key reasons that push families into the vicious cycle of poverty, and women in the families are the worst sufferers as they always relegate their health issues to the background. The digital mission, therefore, will not only make the process of hospitalisation more simplified but will also increase ease of living and accessibility, particularly for the womenfolk. Under this scheme, citizens will now get a digital health ID and their health records will be digitally protected.

India, today, is working on a health model that is holistic and inclusive—a model which stresses on preventive healthcare and in case of diseases, easy, affordable and accessible treatment. A much larger number of doctors and medical manpower are being created in India now, compared to 7-8 years ago. A comprehensive network of AIIMS and other modern health institutions is being established in the country and work on establishing one medical college in every three Lok Sabha constituencies is underway. In villages, primary health centre networks and wellness centres are being strengthened. More than 80,000 such centres have already been operationalized, under the Modi government.

In 2003, there was just one AIIMS. But under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, a policy to add five new AIIMS was framed and in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi evolved a policy to develop AIIMS in every state. So, from 6 AIIMS, today there are 22 AIIMS, in different phases of development across the country. Over 30,000 MBBS seats and 24,000 postgraduate seats in medicine have been added since the present Modi government came to power in 2014, which is a tremendous milestone. The number of MBBS seats in the country have gone up by 50 per cent and postgraduate seats by 80 per cent, since 2014.

Training is being provided to Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHA workers and even in the remotest part of the country, a person can have access to tele-consultation from doctors in a medical college. The National Health Mission (NHM) envisages universal access to equitable, affordable and quality healthcare services that are accountable and responsive to people’s needs. The NHM encompasses two sub-missions, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM). The main programmatic components include strengthening of the health system in rural and urban areas, and reproductive-maternal-neonatal-child and adolescent health (RMNCH+A), and preventing communicable and non-communicable diseases. Under the NHM, technical and financial support is provided to states and Union Territories for strengthening their healthcare systems based on the proposals submitted by them in their Programme Implementation Plans (PIPs), subject to availability of resources.

Under PM-POSHAN, provision of hot cooked meals to 11.8 crore government school students from Classes 1 to 8 is a great step. From the next financial year, it will also cover 24 lakh children, below 6 years of age, studying in Balvatikas, which is the pre-primary section of government schools. Although this year’s budget for mid-day meal scheme remains unchanged, an additional Rs 266 crore is expected to be added, in line with the central government’s contribution, to cater to Balvatika students from 2022-23 onwards. The extension of mid-day meals to pre-primary students, who are to be incorporated into the formal education system, was a key recommendation of the National Education Policy (NEP),2020 and the number of students under Balvatikas, which offers one year of pre-school classes, is expected to rise from the existing 24 lakh, as the policy is implemented, going forward.

The PM-POSHAN scheme has been approved for the next five-year period until 2025-26, with a collective outlay of Rs 1.31 lakh crore, including Rs 54,061.73 crore as central share and the rest to be borne by the state governments. The Centre will also bear an additional cost of Rs 45,000 crore for foodgrains. This scheme will improve holistic nutritional status, encourage education and learning and increase enrolment in government schools. A 5 per cent flexi component would be built into the existing budget to allow states to incorporate additional nutrition-rich elements, such as fortified foods, fruits and milk, into the menu. Use of locally grown traditional foods will be encouraged, along with school nutrition gardens. Social audits have been made mandatory in all districts and college students and trainee teachers will be roped in to do field inspections, to ensure the quality of meals.

In other procedural changes meant to promote transparency and reduce leakages, states will be asked to ensure direct benefit transfer (DBT) to individual school accounts as cooking costs and honorarium amounts to cooks and helpers. The PM-POSHAN scheme from now on will focus more on a child’s nutritional levels, rather than just providing a meal. When the mid-day meal scheme was first started in 1995, it was meant to ensure that children in government schools, especially those unable to get food at home, had at least one healthy meal a day. Over the years, however, the mid-day meal scheme lost sight of some of the larger objectives, with corruption under successive Congress regimes being just one of the many problems. The scheme is, therefore, being revamped to expand its ambit, goals and reach, to bolster health of students who are covered under this scheme, by ensuring transparency, with no leakages. On the nutritional front, a nutrition expert will be appointed in each school whose responsibility is to ensure that health aspects such as BMI, weight and haemoglobin levels are addressed.

No discussion on healthcare under Narendra Modi government is complete without talking about Janaushadhi Kendras. PM Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the 7500th Janaushadhi Kendra at Shillong, in March 2021. Under the Janaushadhi scheme, dedicated outlets known as Janaushadhi Kendras are opened to provide generic medicines at affordable prices. As on August 2021, 8012 Janaushadhi Kendras are functional across the country, with a product basket comprising 1451 drugs and 240 surgical items. The scheme is implemented by a society registered under the Societies Registration Act. Ensuring access to quality medicines for all sections of the population, especially the poor and the deprived, creating awareness about generic medicines through education, publicity to counter the perception that quality is synonymous with high price only, and generating employment by engaging individual entrepreneurs, are the stated objectives of this scheme.

In the final analysis, it would be apt to conclude by saying that healthcare of citizens has been a top priority for the Modi government. The RBI, a few months ago, had announced an on-tap liquidity window for banks worth Rs 5000 crore, to extend credit to health services and vaccine manufacturers until March 2022. The government also separately announced including airlines and hospitals in a $41-billion emergency credit programme to cushion them from the impact of the pandemic. That programme guarantees loans worth Rs 2 crore to hospitals and clinics to set up on-site oxygen generation plants, with interest rates capped at 7.5 per cent.

With over 90.5 crore doses administered to date under the world’s largest vaccination drive and with over 67.5 crore people being given at least one dose, effectively speaking, 69 per cent of India’s adult population has been administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, which is great news. Also, with over 57.32 crore COVID tests done, with daily and weekly positivity rates at less than 2 per cent and with an active caseload of just 0.80 per cent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has showcased in ways more than one how undeterred political conviction can make even seemingly challenging tasks so seamlessly smooth. ZyCoV-D, the world’s first plasmid, DNA-based vaccine received the Emergency Use Authorisation from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on August 20, 2021 and can be administered to people aged 12 years and above. Indigenously developed in India, the needle-free ZyCoV-D vaccine, which should be available soon enough, will only strengthen India’s healthcare footprint, going forward.

Sanju Verma is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘Truth & Dare-The Modi Dynamic’. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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first published:October 04, 2021, 13:29 IST