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Budget not addressing common man's health needs: experts

business Updated: Jul 06, 2009 21:02 IST
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Health activists and experts on Monday expressed disappointment about the 'not fully thought out' Budget allocation for health, saying that it would do little to put health care within the common man's reach.

"It is not an exciting health Budget at all! There is no understanding about infectious diseases that are spreading in the country at an alarming pace and not enough is being done to contain this," public health expert and physician S Sunder Raman told IANS.

Raman, who is also a national health programme advisor, said that the poor had been left out of the budget considerations that were "not thought out fully with understanding about the needs of the health sector".

"The poor person's link to the health budget has always been nominal and this has happened again. They (government) had the opportunity to stress on the common man in the health sector," he added.

According to Raman, the health allocation should have thrust on increasing access and availability of medicines and curbing the spread of communicable and infectious diseases - an issue hidden from the budget's concerns.

India's health budget has gone up by nearly Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 21,113.33 crore ($4.35 billion) in Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's budget presented on Monday.

The main focus was on the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) that aims to provide quality healthcare to villagers, with the allocation for this United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government flagship programme increased by Rs 2,057 crore.

Health experts also voiced doubts about the reach of the NRHM.

Mira Shiva, public health activist and founder member of Peoples Health Movement, told IANS: "The investment in programmes like NRHM should percolate to the ground reality and not consumed by adding costly imported medicines and vaccines in the national health programmes. The schemes also have to be precise and detailed - in keeping with deadlines."

She hoped that there could have been more allocation for child health and other diseases that are fast gripping the nation - alluding to heart ailments, diabetes and other diseases.

Heart Care Foundation of India's KK Aggarwal also expressed his disappointment with the budget allocation for health.

"The budget has disappointed the health sector - they have increased allocation on the NRHM but there is no new health insurance scheme," Aggarwal said.

However, doctors praised the move to cut excise duty on life saving drugs.

"I welcome the government's step to cut excise duty on life saving drugs and equipments. It was really needed," said Onkar S Kanwar, chairman of the Artemis Health Sciences. "It is a good move."