New Delhi: On February 1, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the last full-fledged Union Budget of the Modi government before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The budget 2023, christened as “Amrit Kaal Budget” laid a foundation on creating a groundwork for a widened health infrastructure and eliminating diseases through smart public health management. In the budget speech, Ms. Sitharaman gave a massive emphasis on millets,
the coarse grain, which is already being recommended by doctors as the grain that has the capability of reducing diseases burden. Moreover, Ms Sitharaman also announced a mission to eliminate sickle cell anaemia by 2047.
Also Read: Budget 2023: Government Aims To Establish A Global Hub For Millets, ‘Shree Anna’
Team Banega Swasth India speaks with industry experts to know their viewpoint:
Ravi Bhatnagar, Co-Chairperson ASSOCHAM CSR Council and Director, External Affairs & Partnerships, South Asia, Reckitt said,
I sincerely applaud honourable Finance Minister for presenting a comprehensive budget which aims at the overall development of the nation keeping in mind the interests of a common man by including basic health, food and nutrition security requirement, elementary education, agriculture, water, financial inclusion, etc at the utmost priority. Government has focused on the elimination of Sickle Cell Anaemia by 2047 through cascading public awareness, universal screening of nearly 7 crore people belonging to the age group of 0-40 years in affected regions both rural-urban and tribal areas through public and private partnership. This budget will act as a robust backbone in strengthening the overall financial ecosystem and nation building process.
Also Read: Budget 2023: Net Zero, Renewable Energy, Waste To Wealth, Among 12 Key Announcements Made For ‘Green Growth’
Commenting on the healthcare budget, which saw a hike in its allocation by 3.43 per cent as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare got Rs 89,155 crore in this financial year, up by Rs 2,954.35 crore from its Financial Year 23 allocation of Rs 86,200.65 crore, Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Founder Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group said,
Caring for the wellbeing of citizens is integral to nation building, India stands tall for putting people first, and this Union Budget, the first in the Amrit Kaal, resonates with this ethos. India’s economic growth is amongst the highest in the world and a defining edge is the youthful demography. Therefore, the impetus on skilling is noteworthy. Also, it is heartening that 157 new nursing colleges will be established as it will contribute to improving the nurse-patient ratio, a step in the right direction towards Universal Health Coverage. It is also a right step towards India building a global workforce, to serve the world. Our nation’s digital infrastructure helped us ably manage the biggest crisis of the era – the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the establishment of centres of excellence for Artificial Intelligence will work to add much greater impetus to India’s digitization focus. Likewise, the 100 labs that will be setup for developing apps using 5G services across sectors including healthcare, will be beneficial in accelerating access to care, for all our citizens. A pro-health focus holds the key to thwarting a massive impending societal and economic crisis. At large, this budget reflects the fact that nurturing health holds the keys to good health, happiness and wealth.
On the other side, Dr. Rana Mehta, Partner and Leader Healthcare, PwC India said that the healthcare budget still needs to be ramped up in India if the country wants to achieve its version of universal healthcare. He added,
With increased allocation, the importance of healthcare in a post-pandemic world is reflected in the Union Budget 2023. However, it still needs to be ramped up. Collaboration between the public and private sector, with respect to the ICMR labs, will not only strengthen the country‘s ability to combat future epidemics, but will also control antimicrobial resistance, which is amongst the highest in the world. The quality of the healthcare delivery in the country is dependent on nursing care, and setting up 157 new nursing colleges will greatly facilitate this. Given that one out of five startups focus on healthcare, the concessions in the Budget, with regards to the growth of start-ups and focus on AI, will enhance accessibility and affordability of quality healthcare.
Commenting on the budget 2023 and its focus on leaving no one behind and reaching the last mile through targeted programmes, Poonam Muttreja, the Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, said,
The Government has fulfilled our long-standing request and expectation to focus on empowering youth and equipping them with education, skills and employment opportunities to ensure that India reaps the benefits of demographic dividend. The focus on reaching the last mile through targeted programme strategies and interventions will also go a long way in building an inclusive society. The finance minister also announced the setting up of 157 new nursing colleges and a mission to eliminate sickle cell anaemia by 2047, which is a welcome step. However, rural development and an overall focus on health were low on priority in the budget 2023.
Also Read: Union Budget 2023 Highlights: Key Announcements Made By FM Nirmala Sitharaman
Dr. K Srinath Reddy, the Chairperson of Population Foundation of India said,
The announcement on the new initiative to boost research and innovation in health is much needed. The collaboration between ICMR and public and private medical facilities for using ICMR labs for research is a welcome step. As India is a leading manufacturer and exporter of pharmaceutical products, the new initiative will encourage the pharmaceutical industry to further invest in research and innovation in pharmaceuticals. The government will have to ensure that quality of research also goes up to match the international standards and to support new innovations.
Gautam Chopra, Founder, BeatO, which is a Diabetes Tracking and Care App that helps people control diabetes through Blood Sugar Tracking also welcomed government’s budget for the financial year 2023-2024 but said more concrete steps are needed. He added,
Even though the Budget this year focuses on strengthening the healthcare infrastructure, it is prudent to point out that the growing demands on our healthcare system cannot be met only by increasing the physical infrastructure. The setting up of 157 new nursing colleges is a huge step towards meeting the ever growing demand for providing care through paramedical staff. However, for care to reach those who really need it, it is imperative that they can leverage simple and affordable digital technology, which will help them reach the masses and serve them more efficiently. Integrating this initiative with the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission will be key to delivering services to the last mile. In last year’s Budget, the government proposed providing up to Rs 2,000 crore as venture capital to create an ecosystem for health-tech start-ups to help them access capital and develop innovative products and services but we haven’t seen concrete steps followed in the deployment.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the 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, which 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.