New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget 2022 for the financial year 2022-23 earlier this month on February 1. It was the third budget presentation since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in India. Though the COVID-19 is not over yet, no allocation has been made to the COVID -19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package in this year’s budget. In 2020-21, Rs. 10,528.63 crore was spent on this package. In the following year (2021-22), in the revised estimates (RE), Rs. 638.22 crore was allocated. But this time, there has been no mention.
The government in last year’s budget had provisioned for Rs. 35,000 crore as support for COVID vaccination. The amount has been upped to Rs. 39,000 crore in the revised estimates. However this year, the allocation for ‘Support for COVID-19 Vaccination’ from the Ministry of Finance is down to Rs. 5,000 crore.
Giving out the reason behind the same, Finance Secretary T V Somanathan said,
Last year the provision was for two doses of vaccination for 100 per cent of the adult population. The allocations are made based on the evolving health policy. Currently, the health policy is for a booster for certain segments – frontline, above 60 years and vaccination for 15-17 years. That amount Rs. 5,000 crore has been earmarked.
Is the Pandemic truly over? Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Executive Chairperson, Biocon Limited talking to NDTV said,
We are edging towards the end of this pandemic, the government has spent a lot on vaccination and we should be happy that 75 per cent of India’s eligible population is double vaccinated. We have not been able to achieve 100 per cent not because of vaccine limitation or other issues but because there is a bit of vaccine hesitancy in India. Overall, I think, we are in a good space.
She further said that we should not be hard on the government that much and added,
They are trying to open up the economy. The services sector is badly hit. A large part of that number relates to vaccines and they have removed the expense attributable to vaccines.
Highlighting should India have kept the vaccine expenditure going in this year’s budget as well, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Former Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, said,
Last year, the government provided Rs. 39,000 crores for vaccine and this year it was revised to Rs. 5,000 crore. So, the decline of Rs. 34,000 crore is huge and that leaves us with a question, is Rs. 5,000 crore enough for us to tackle the pandemic via vaccination. I think, we will never be able to go 100 per cent in terms of vaccination, as once we achieve that, we need to look at the booster dosage and, in that terms, I think, if last year it was Rs. 39,000 crore, then this year, we should have kept at least half of that.
Talking about is it too early to think that the pandemic is over and cut back on healthcare and vaccination budget, Sunita Reddy, MD, Apollo Hospital said,
There are two things here, one health is on the concurrent list, so it is both on centre and state government allocation. The pandemic is in the endemic stage now and most of the population is vaccinated so there is some level of protection. I think that’s the reason for a decline in the vaccination expenditure and healthcare budget. The government has been flexible.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.