The IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted an interactive panel discussion on the topic “Population, Health, and Union Budget 2023-24” on 3 February 2023, under the IMPRI 3rd Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Union Budget 2023-24, as part of IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk.
The discussion was chaired and moderated by Dr Devender Singh, who is a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI and holds a master’s in Global Studies Programme from the University of Freiburg, Germany. He began the discussion by outlining the focus of the deliberation and the missing democratic intelligence in the country. Further, he invited Prof Praveen Jha, Professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi to take the conversation forward. He talked about the main key takeaway from the budget this year- Capital Expenditure.
He analysed the allocations made to the core schemes of the government- observing that in real terms the allocation has reduced for the most important schemes.
Next, Prof Pradeep K. Panda, who is currently serving as a professor and the Dean of the School of Public Health, Asian Institute of Public Health (AIPH) University, Bhubaneswar took the stage. He focused on the healthcare aspect of the budget. Prof. Panda noted and appreciated the decision to start the 157 new colleges, a mission to eliminate Sickle Cell Anaemia by 2047, and collaboration between the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) & Public and Private medical facilities for using the ICMR laboratory for research and innovation killing manpower for manufacturing of medical technology. He also mentioned the 12% increase witnessed (in nominal terms) by the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
To take the discussion forward, Prof Sanghmitra Acharya, who is currently a Professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi was invited to give her opening remarks. She mentioned that the budgetary allocation to healthcare in absolute terms has increased, but this has not been met with a proportional increase as it has declined from 2.2% last year to 1.97% this year.
She even spoke about the digital divide that exists in India. Looking at the positives, Prof Acharya says that the focus on the elimination of Sickle Cell Anaemia, a disease that is prevalent in tribal areas in India, is a step towards inclusive development and providing healthcare to the last person. The budget this year also talks about tele-medication vis-à-vis mental health, which, Prof Acharya says might help in destigmatizing mental health.
Lastly, Mr Abhijit Mukhopadhyay, who is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation continued by talking about the pandemic and how problems and gaps in the healthcare sector came to the fore due to this. But sadly, soon afterwards, we went back to our business-as-usual approach. While discussing the gap in proper healthcare providers, Mr Mukhopadhyay noted numbers by organisations like the World Health Organization (WHO) the number of beds per thousand, in 2017 was 0.5, and around 8.6 doctors per 10,000 patients.
While citing these numbers, he pointed out the lack of live practising doctor registries in India. The shortfall of Primary Health Care Centres with only 44.2%, in Indian urban areas, is highlighted by data according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This shortfall is evident across states.
After a question and answer session, the program concluded with closing remarks by Dr Devendra Singh, who thanked and praised the team at IMPRI for hosting a successful panel discussion and for ensuring the smooth functioning of the event. The event was concluded with a final vote of thanks by Ms Nayana Agarwal on behalf of the IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD).