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‘Betrayal’, Says JSA as Insufficient Allocation to Health, Underutilisation Make Budget Fall Flat

JSA, in a statement, said, “Allocations for health and related programs reduced in real terms in the budget 2023-24 by 2% compared to the Budget Estimate of 2022-23.”

Representational use only.

Criticising the government for making sharp budgetary cuts in crucial health schemes for the second year in a row, the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) condemned the inadequacies in the Union Health Budget, and in budgets for allied sectors for health.

It pointed out that last year’s Budget witnessed a decline of about 7% in real terms and there is a further decline this year. The JSA, in a statement, said, “Allocations for health and related programs reduced in real terms in the budget 2023-24 by 2% compared to the Budget Estimate of 2022-23.”

The decline in allocation is especially significant against the backdrop of the difficulties experienced by people during the Covid-19 pandemic with inadequate health facilities and an under-resourced public health system. The JSA said that it has been demanding that concrete measures be taken to improve the dilapidated health system and that allocations for crucial schemes be increased. “However, all demands have fallen on deaf ears,” it said.

The Union Health Ministry’s total budget seems to have been increased by Rs 3,552 crores – which in itself is an insufficient amount. But when adjusted for inflation, it implies a decline of 2% in real terms, pointed out JSA. “As percent of GDP, Union government allocation to health has declined from 0.37% to 0.31% between 2021-22 Actual Expenditure and 2023-24 BE. This also means that the Union Government has reduced its priority towards the health sector - share of health in the total budget has declined from 2.26% to 2.06% compared to the previous year,” read the statement.

The JSA also condemned the cuts made in National Health Mission allocations. It said that the nominal decline of Rs 374 crores translates to a cut of Rs 1,438 crores in real terms. “Furthermore, a large part of the resources allocated on NHM are not being spent or transferred on a timely basis to the states- there is a considerable decline in actual expenditure and revised estimates compared to the previous year. This means that essential services provided under NHM in 2020-21 cannot be provided anymore with current limited resources,” it said.

Some of the other key issues the JSA drew attention to were the large and wasteful allocation for Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, the measly allocation to the National Mental Health Programme, the insufficient allocation for nutrition and women’s health, and the cut in the Indian Council of Medical Research’s budget.

The JSA statement read: “Further, there is no provision in the Budget to revive public sector pharma and vaccine manufacturing units! Also, medicines being essential life-saving commodities should have been put under lower GST rates to protect people from increasing medicine prices!”

Stating that the Budget falls flat for having overlooked lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic, the JSA called upon people to demand essential, much higher allocations for public health to ensure adequate healthcare.

Read the full statement below:


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