Sisodia, who holds the finance portfolio in the Government of Delhi, made the announcement as he presented the state budget for the 2020-21 period. The decision comes after a long-standing tussle between the central and state governments over whether or not to roll out Ayushman Bharat in Delhi – a disagreement that has often entered contentious territory.
The dispute has often centred over the relative merits of Ayushman Bharat and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government’s own Mohalla Clinics. The AAP government has declined multiple entreaties from the Union Government to implement Ayushman Bharat.
At one stage, Delhi health minister Satyender Jain queried “Delhi has a population of over two crore and this scheme [Ayushman Bharat] can benefit only ten lakh; what is the point of implementing it here? We are not going to implement the scheme, and will rather provide treatment to every patient visiting hospitals. We will not pick and choose.” Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, in turn, once dismissed the Mohalla Clinics initiative as an “utter flop.”
Despite the tension, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has expressed in the past willingness to meet the Centre in the middle on implementing Ayushman Bharat in Delhi. This has now come to fruition, in news that Vardhan welcomed on Twitter. “Now the poor of Delhi will also get the benefit [of the scheme],” he said.
The Rs 65,000 crore Delhi state budget includes an Rs 7,704 crore allocation for the health sector, including Rs 724 crore for hospitals and Rs 365 crore for new Mohalla clinics and polyclinics. It is the AAP government’s first budget since its landslide victory in the Legislative Assembly elections that year.
Sisodia also addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, which has triggered a lockdown in the state. “The world is dealing with COVID-19,” he said. “The government will provide whatever funds that will be required to deal with this disease.”