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FM announces 137% increase in healthcare allocation

The Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman

As expected healthcare was one of the thrust areas in the Union Budget for 2021-22 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday. She announced a whopping 137 per cent increase in the outlay for healthcare with specific Rs 35,000 crore for Covid-19 vaccine rollout.  The Budget made an outlay of Rs 2,23,846 crore towards health and wellbeing for 2021-22 as against this year’s Rs 94,452 crore.

Besides, Sitharaman announced the PM Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat scheme with a resource allocation of Rs 64,180 crore to be stretched over six years. This scheme aimed at building strong healthcare facilities and infrastructure, will be in addition to the National Health Mission.

The scheme will “develop capacities of primary, secondary, and tertiary care health systems, strengthen existing national institutions, and create new institutions.” It will also cater to detection and cure of new and emerging diseases, Sitharaman said, adding that progressively, as institutions absorb, more funds could be directed further towards the healthcare sector.

As part of the scheme, the finance minister proposed to provide support for 17,788 rural and 11,024 urban health and wellness centres apart from setting up integrated public health labs in all districts. Critical care hospitals will also be set up in 602 districts.

Nirupama Soudararajan, senior fellow and head of research, Pahle India Foundation (PIF) told Indianarrative.com that the increased allocations towards health is not merely restricted to handling the Covid 19 crisis but aimed at creating the necessary infrastructure that will help in the addressing any emergency related to the healthcare sector.

According to industry body Assocham, taking healthcare up to the block and district level of the country along with the blueprint for research in preventive vaccination would go a long way in adding strength to human resource. “Priorities to nutrition, primary health care would be vital for the human capital,” the chamber said in a statement.