Analysis: Why India Should Make Access to Healthcare a Fundamental Right
By Akshay Tarfe
On June 28, following India’s devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Union Finance Ministry announced a relief package worth Rs 6.2-lakh crore. The recovery package announced after the biggest health crisis in the history of independent India has hardly addressed systemic problems in the country’s health system that disproportionately affect the marginalised. Only 3% of the total economic recovery package amount (Rs 23,220 crore) has been allocated for health as per the latest announcements.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time when systemic issues in the country’s health system have been neglected amidst the pandemic. When the Covid-19 hit first, actual allocations for health in India’s first fiscal stimulus package were less than 1% (0.0075% or Rs 1,5000 crore to be specific) of the Rs 20 lakh recovery package that offered subsidies to the private sector.
Neglect of healthcare
India’s first pandemic budget also repeated this mistake in February when the Finance Ministry slashed the health budget by 9.8% amidst the pandemic if revised estimates are to be believed. This failure looks even more massive when we consider that the Union government has repeatedly failed to reach its own target of spending 2.5% of the Gross Domestic Product on health since 2017, a year when an ambitious National Health Policy was launched. The latest Economic Survey revealed that India ranked 179 out of 189 countries in prioritisation given to health in its government budgets.
Photo courtesy of UN Women Asia and the Pacific.
- Health Care