Polls have handed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal a vote of confidence on healthcare accessibility as Delhi prepares to go to the polls to elect the next Legislative Assembly. The majority of citizens in the national capital polled approved of the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) performance on the issue.
In a survey by the IANS-Neta App, eighty percent of respondents believe healthcare accessibility in Delhi has improved during the Kejriwal administration. In addition, 69 percent expressed satisfaction with the AAP government’s flagship primary healthcare scheme Mohalla Clinics. It is worth noting, however, that 68 percent of those polled had never visited such a clinic.
Mohalla Clinics has been a bone of contention between the BJP-led central government and the Delhi state government – largely in part down to the Delhi government’s refusal to implement the Centre’s health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat in the national capital. This is despite repeated exhortations by central officials for the Delhi government to do so.
Last year, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey lamented that “people from outside are getting treatment in Delhi [under the scheme]. But people in Delhi are not able to avail the benefits.” Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan, who has deemed Mohalla Clinics an “utter flop”, told Kejriwal in mid-2019 that “all your fancy schemes, including the much-touted Universal Coverage Health Scheme, announced more than a year ago, are still lying on the drawing boards awaiting implementation even after four and a half years.”
Public approval notwithstanding, Mohalla Clinics has been beset by issues since its launch. For example, land acquisition in order to erect primary health centres has been an issue for the state government and obstructed its ability to meet its targets for the number of clinics constructed during its term in office. As the survey indicated, footfall at the centres is low – incommensurately so with its apparent popularity.
With the ostensible rivalry between the AAP government in Delhi and the BJP government at the Centre over their respective health models, healthcare seems likely to be a hill upon which the Legislative Assembly elections will be fought. This is not new. As Vertika Kanaujia wrote for Health Issues India last year
“Both schemes [Ayushman Bharat and Mohalla Clinics] complement each other, with an aim to accomplish the universal healthcare target. Political complications and a tug-of-war over credit stand in the way of consolidating the two models. For now, both parties will take their models to the electorate and let them decide which one wins.
“If the AAP is voted back into power it will continue to halt Ayushman Bharat. The BJP’s victory, on the other hand, would be ominous for the future of Mohalla Clinics. Unless the impasse is resolved, it will be for the people of Delhi to keep their health in mind when they cast their precious vote.”