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Budget 2020: From Ayushman Bharat, Jal Jeevan Mission to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, India heading to a healthier lifestyle!

Bulbul Dhawan
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Budget India 2020: During her speech for Union Budget 2020-21 on Saturday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the several ways in which the government has been and will be focusing on developing healthcare and wellbeing of the people. From Ayushman Bharat to Jal Jeevan Mission to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, she touched upon various avenues that would lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Talking to Financial Express Online, Dr Puneet Gupta, the CEO of biotech startup Clensta International said, "With Budget 2020, the area of higher expectancy for growth is foreseen. The healthcare sector in India is overwhelmed by a plethora of challenges which include lack of proper infrastructure and low government spending on the sector. This Budget as a whole is a balanced and well-rounded one, which aims to foster the growth of our economy again. With agriculture, health and education receiving a bulk of the budgetary allocation this year, this seems to be a good start for us."

Financial Express Online looks at some of the areas under healthcare that the government focused on in Budget 2020.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

Cleanliness has been a majorly disappointing area in India for a long time. And due to lack of cleanliness, the people are subjected to more diseases. Keeping this in mind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a flagship programme, in 2014. For the upcoming financial year, the Budget outlay for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan would be Rs 12,300 crore. Announcing the outlay, FM Sitharaman said that since the mission goal of Open Defecation Free (ODF) villages has been more or less achieved, the government is now aiming for the goal of ODF+ villages in order to maintain the standard of cleanliness and hygiene in the country. Keeping in line with her speech last year, Sitharaman also reiterated that the Swachh Bharat Mission would be extended to undertake and tackle the issues related to solid waste management. This outlay is 2.7% less than what was announced by the Government of India in the Budget 2019-20.

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Budget 2018-19 had seen the first decline in the allocation to Rs 17,843 crore from the revised expenditure of Rs 19,248 crore in 2017-18. The revised outlay for the mission in FY 2018-19 was Rs 16,978 crore. In the Budget for 2019-20, Sitharaman announced an outlay of Rs 12,644 crore, a decline of nearly 25%.

Aimed to reach completion by 2019, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan had been witnessing a decline in the Budget allocations since 2018. During its announcement in 2014, the scheme had aimed to form 9 crore toilets in India by October 2, 2019. According to Sitharaman during her Budget 2019 speech in July last year, by then itself, as many as 9.6 crore toilets had been built under the mission and 5.6 lakh villages had been declared ODF.

Ayushman Bharat Mission

The flagship health scheme of the first Modi government, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana or the Ayushman Bharat scheme, created history when it became the largest government-sponsored health insurance scheme in the world. Intended to provide health cover of Rs 5 lakh per family to the poorest 10.74 crore families in the country, the PM Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) has over 20,000 empanelled hospitals. In her speech, the FM said that the country now needs more empanelled hospitals in tier-2 and tier-3 cities sp that poorer people can also have access to healthcare.

She proposed that a viability gap funding window be set up so that hospitals can be established in the PPP mode. She said that in the first phase, those districts which have no empanelled hospitals as of now will be covered. This move would also benefit the youth by providing them with job opportunities, she added. Moreover, the funding for the development of the health infrastructure would come from the proceeds from taxes on medical devices.

Talking to Financial Express Online on the incentives under the Ayushman Bharat Mission, CEO of Omnicuris, a socio-medical enterprise that provides digital CME to medical practitioners, Savitha Kuttan said, "The government has increased the fund allocation for the health sector to Rs 69,000 crores and announced its plans to expand its flagship Ayushman Bharat Scheme to set up more hospitals in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. The plan to set up these hospitals via public-private partnerships under the support of the Viability Gap Funding Scheme of 2004 is a positive move. The VGF scheme has benefited regional airport developments and metro rail projects across the country, and there is no reason it will not work in the health sector if the stakeholders play their cards right. The private sector has long been looking for incentives to increase health investment in underserved areas, and this move is clearly an invitation from the government seeking their involvement. The decision to use the taxes levied on medical equipment to boost the health infrastructure in tier-2 and tier-3 cities is also a sustainable move as it will increase healthcare accessibility, and in turn, boost the sale of medical devices. If these measures are followed up with tax breaks for private players looking to invest in underserved areas and government's help in land procurement, it will make a world of difference to people without access to quality healthcare."

Jal Jeevan Mission

In order to supply piped water to all households, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced from the Jal Jeevan Mission. In Budget 2020, FM Sitharam approved a total outlay of Rs 3.60 lakh crore for this Mission. The scheme also places emphasis on augmenting local water sources, recharging existing water sources and promoting water harvesting and desalination, she added. She further said that cities with a population exceeding 10 lakh will be encouraged to meeting these objectives in the current year itself. During the financial year 2020-21, the scheme would be provided with a budgetary allocation of Rs 11,500 crore.

Apart from these three schemes, the FM also proposed to expand the Jan Aushadhi Kendra Scheme to all the districts offering 2,000 medicines and 300 surgicals by 2024.

In Budget 2020, it becomes evident that the government has put in efforts in staying true to their vision of providing accessible and affordable healthcare to all.