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India’s Public Health System on Trial?

A decentralised public health system that socialises the cost of healthcare is required.

The Prime Minister’s announcement of a ₹15,000 crore package for emergency healthcare expenditure followed by an economic package of ₹1.7 lakh crore gives the impression of a two-pronged fight to face the crisis posed by COVID-19. But by having two separate allocations for health and economy, is the government trying to create an imaginary binary? We hope not.

When you care for health you also care for the economy and vice versa. But the successive regimes in India did not accept this close interconnection despite the decades-long work of philosopher–economist and Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, who championed, and continues to champion, for human-development-led growth. The people in India, especially the 90% of workers and their families, contributed to the unprecedented growth of the economy through their hard but cheap labour that resulted in a ninefold increase in gross domestic product (GDP) in dollar terms between 1990 and 2019. But the share of public expenditure in national income, though it increased from an abysmal 0.9% to 1.28%, continues to be one of the lowest in the world. In fact, this is less than the average of the poorest countries in the world at 1.6%.

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Updated On : 20th May, 2020

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