A group of secretaries constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recommended providing free health and life insurance to the 100 million extremely poor households in the country identified as “deprived” under the 2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census.
This means four of every 10 households in the country would be entitled to free medical and life insurance. For the remaining households, the group has recommended health and life insurance schemes with annual covers of Rs 50,000 and Rs 200,000, respectively, under the Jeevan Jyoti Yojana scheme launched by the PM last year. The annual premium under these two schemes would be Rs 330 and Rs 670, respectively. The group has set a three-year time frame to roll out the schemes.
The 12-member group on education and health – universal access and quality, with revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia as rapporteur, made a three-hour presentation to the PM on January 17 on how to bring about “transformative” changes in the two crucial social sectors.
The group also recommended mandatory fortification of four staple food items – wheat, rice, edible oil and milk – with essential micronutrients to rein in malnutrition. Micronutrient deficiency impacts the growth of children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. At present, 12 states provide one or two staple food items fortified with essential micronutrients.
“The group said it should be mandated by law to provide fortification of four staple food items and has set a two-year time frame to implement the scheme. Currently, 84 countries provide fortified staple food items,” an official said.
Other suggestions included assured availability of 300 essential drugs free of cost at all government hospitals, extending the Jan Aushadhi Scheme (essential generic medicines to be supplied at a low cost) at all district hospitals and setting up a national electronic health database of patients. The database would allow hospitals to access medical records of patients anywhere in the country.
To bring about “transformative changes” in the education sector, the group recommended a review of all existing schemes such as the Sarva Shiksha Yojana and set specific outcomes. “The team has recommended providing funding to each state based on the outcomes set for them. This will encourage states to address the specific area where they are lagging behind. All future funding should be on this pattern,” an official said.
The group also stressed on digital learning and recommended uploading course content online so that as many students as possible could access it free of cost. Many international universities, including MIT, put their entire curriculum online. “We have recommended that a similar system be implemented here in the next three years,” another official said.
To help students hone job skills, the group recommended making vocational education an integral part of the curriculum from high school onwards.
The PM on December 31 constituted eight groups comprising 94 secretaries and asked them to come up with ideas for transformative change in areas such as good governance, employment generation strategies, innovative budgeting, etc. The groups have collectively put in nearly 10,000 working hours for the exercise.