The Bold Voice of J&K

Fund starved

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The Parliamentary standing committee on health has strongly criticised the government for starving the health sector of much-needed funds. In its report on demand for grants for 2017-18, the committee noted that the allocation for the National Health Mission (NHM) fell far short of what was needed to execute the announcements in the Budget. Though there has been an increase in the state share in central taxes from 32% to 42% in the form of untied funds, “The reduction in the central plan allocation for NHM has not been fully compensated by the increase in state health budgets,” stated the committee. Some state health budgets for 2016-17 have registered declines compared to 2015-16 such as in Assam (-7%), Chandigarh (-3%), Daman & Diu (-15%), Karnataka (-2%), Manipur (-31%) and Pondicherry (-1%). And many states like Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland and Sikkim have registered only single digit increase in percentage terms, the committee noted. It said that against the projected demand of Rs 34,316 crore for 2017-18 under NHM, the allocation in the 2017-18 Budget is only Rs 26,691 crore leaving a shortfall of about Rs 7,625 crore. In comparison to the revised estimate for 2016-17 for NHM, Rs 22,198 crore, the increase in allocation for 2017-18 of Rs 4,493 was insufficient. The committee noted that there was inadequate allocation for health research too. It is “unrealistic to expect to achieve key goals in health research” or to make spectacular breakthroughs, it stated about the revised estimate of just Rs 3,266 crore against the Twelfth Plan Outlay of Rs 10,029 crore and budgetary allocation of over Rs 3,575 crore. The actual expenditure was Rs 3,181 crore up to February 2017. Though in his Budget speech, the finance minister proposed to transform 1.5 lakh sub-centres into health and wellness centres and “promote use of generic drugs”, there is no roadmap for ensuring financial resources for these initiatives and this is where the dichotomy of the Budget announcements gets reflected, noted the committee. It warned that such underfunding would affect initiatives like up-scaling of facilities to Indian Public Health Standards. The committee said that though India was the fastest growing major economy, it had squandered the opportunity to turn its economic success into a better healthcare system for its citizens.

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