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Centre again invites Delhi to join Ayushman Bharat

A primary health centre in Najafgarh. Image credit: Armoured Cyborg [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]
The Centre has once again exhorted the AAP government in Delhi to join its flagship healthcare scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) – better known as ‘Ayushman Bharat’. 

The tussle between the two governments over their respective healthcare schemes – the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat and Delhi’s Mohalla Clinics – has often given the appearance of a standoff, with wars of words between officials. Yet recent weeks have seen the impasse soften somewhat, with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stating after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the state government would examine the possibility of integrating the two initiatives. 

Against this backdrop, BJP officials have once again compared the two schemes. During Question Hour in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said that twelve private sector hospitals and five government-run hospitals were already empanelled under Ayushman Bharat, but lamented that citizens in the national capital are not able to access the scheme. “People from outside are getting treatment in Delhi,” the Minister said. “But people in Delhi are not able to avail the benefits.”

Delhi CM & PM Modi
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejiriwal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose recent meeting saw a shift in decorum on competing health models. Image credit: Prime Minister’s Office (GODL-India) [GODL-India (]. This file is a copyrighted work of the Government of India, licensed under the Government Open Data License – India (GODL). This file or its source was published by Press Information Bureau on behalf of Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India under the ID 62138 and CNR 64856. (direct link)
Recently, after a meeting with the Prime Minister, Kejriwal tweeted that the Mohalla Clinics initiative “is much bigger and wider in scope” than Ayushman Bharat. However, in marked contrast with previous remarks that the Delhi government’s healthcare scheme was ten times better than the Centre’s and the refusal of Delhi Health Minister Satyender Jain to implement the initiative, he had  suggested a newfound willingness to meet the Centre in the middle on health. 

The Delhi government has endured much criticism about its refusal to implement Ayushman Bharat, including an unsuccessful legal challenge in the Delhi High Court to compel enforcement of the scheme in the state (the challenge was rejected as the matter was judged to be political, not legal, in nature). Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, who called Mohalla Clinics an “utter flop” in response to Kejriwal’s comments, called on holdout states including Delhi to join Ayushman Bharat soon after taking office. This came as part of a broader government push to expand the scheme’s coverage to include 75 percent of Indians.

Whether the impasse between the two governments on healthcare will continue or be resolved remains to be seen. However, Legislative Assembly elections due to take place next year are likely to see healthcare become a central, contentious issue if the matter is not resolved with the AAP and the BJP putting their respective health models to the voters to decide whether it is Ayushman Bharat or Mohalla Clinics that offers the best route towards achieving health for all.

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