“Why is there a total deficit of public discussion on healthcare in India?” asked Nobel laureate Amartya Sen at a conference organised by Tata Memorial Centre to mark its 75th anniversary.
The three-day long conference, that started on Friday, is being held at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research to discuss access to universal healthcare.
Sen said that during the 2014 general elections, neither the political parties nor the citizens made healthcare an issue during the campaigns, highlighting the need for more discourse on the subject.
According to Sen, some of India’s neighbours have overtaken the country in terms of their social indicators. “While India has been overtaking other countries in terms of its earnings, it has been overtaken by its neighbours in terms of their social indicators,” he said.
He added that Bangladesh, which is poorer than India, has surpassed India in terms of many social determinants such as immunisation of children, infant mortality, education of girls and sanitation facilities. “Bangladesh’s per capita income is only half that of India but that has not prevented it from offering better living conditions to its citizens,” he said.
“A couple of decades ago, India had the second best social indicators among the six south Asian countries, including Pakistan, Sri lanka and Nepal and Bhutan. It is now among the second worst, ahead only of Pakistan,” Sen added.
The Nobel laureate also said that India’s expenditure on public healthcare must increase. “India allocates only a little over 1% of its GDP to healthcare whereas China allocates 3%,” he said.