While demonetisation may now be the predominant feature of the Modi administration, – provoking widespread controversy and criticism – the Indian government under Modi has made some degree of progress in terms of health care. A number of policies and initiatives have been in place in the attempt to improve healthcare in India. Foremost amongst these:
- National Health Policy (NHP)
Most ambitious of all the Modi administration has promised universal health care for all Indian citizens, dubbed “Modicare” this policy follows similar plans outlined by US president Barack Obama. This plan has come across many hurdles, primarily the sheer scope, providing guaranteed healthcare to a population surpassing a billion is no easy measure.
The policy is still in the implementation phase, with hopes that the bill may be backed in the coming years by foreign investment. There has been a large degree of criticism, in some cases coming from well respected medical journals such as The Lancet, claiming the policy is largely all talk, and highlighting the large degree of death due to poverty, and by association a lack of access to medicine.
Claims such as those in the Lancet are not entirely unfounded. There is a massive discrepancy in the standard of healthcare between the wealthy and the poor, as well as between urban and rural environments. Efforts have however been made to combat this. At a state level government run pharmacies are being opened, intended to number in the thousands, to provide low cost medication. This, amongst other policies, intends to improve access to medicine. If properly implemented, it may ease the financial burden of medical treatments often shouldered by those who cannot afford treatment.
- Immunisation drives
Two main immunisation initiatives have been implemented, “mission Indradhanush” and “TB-mission 2020”. “Mission Indradhanush” was set out by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with the aim of providing vaccines to children to reduce outbreaks of diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B, by the end of 2020.
“TB-mission 2020” has attempted to work more thoroughly with local governing bodies to provide treatment against tuberculosis. Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Union health minister who originally announced the initiative, stated that setting a deadline decades into the future does not provide the accountability needed to undertake such a goal, and so intended to take more intensive measures to combat the disease by 2020.
- Swachh Bharat (Clean India)
The drive to clean up India (Swachh Bharat) has seen a massive investment of 62,000 crore (620 billion rupees). The initiative will take place in 4041 towns and aims to improve sanitation facilities by 2020. This has involved, and had a large degree of success in regards to building toilet facilities in rural India, claiming to have constructed more than 80 lakh toilets (8 million). Issues have been reported in some areas though, that toilet facilities are either not being cleaned properly, or not being used by locals at all. This situation will hopefully rectify itself in the coming years, as rural citizens grow more comfortable with the new policy.