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The union budget of 2021-2022 has been hailed as the much-needed budget of the country till date. Through her budgetary allocation, the finance minister clearly showed that a healthy India will be a wealthy India. To solidify this intention an amount of over Rs 2.23 lakh crore has been proposed for the health and well-being of Indian citizens. This is a staggering hike of 137% over the last year’s budgetary allocation of Rs 94,452 crore for the healthcare segment.

On February 1, the honorable finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that Rs 35,000 crore have been earmarked for the COVID-vaccine. At present India has two indigenously developed COVID vaccines which will not only protect its citizens but also be provided to 100 more countries.

Though we are well-equipped now to handle COVID, this global pandemic exposed the weak links in our healthcare system. Hence, to ensure that India is never caught on the back foot again, the government has decided to leave no stone unturned. For this purpose, the central government will launch PM’s Atmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojana to give a boost to its healthcare system.

An amount of Rs 64,180 crore will be spent under this scheme to strengthen India’s primary, secondary and tertiary care health systems. Spread out over a span of six years, this money will be utilised to solidify the existing national institutions and create new one’s for detection and cure of emerging diseases. This will be in addition to the National Health Mission.

Under this scheme integrated public health labs in all districts and 3,382 public health block units will be set up in 11 districts of the country. Besides, critical care centers will be set up in 602 districts and 12 central institutions. The National centre for disease control (NCDC) including its five regional branches and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units will be strengthened. While the Integrated health information portal will be expanded across all states and union territories to connect with all the public health labs. About 15 health emergency operation centers and two mobile hospitals will also be launched.

When the COVID virus took the world by storm, the medical fraternity was caught unawares about its origin and treatment. This stressed the need for continuous research to detect more such viruses and the future course of treatment. To equip itself to meet such future surprises, the budget proposed to set up a One Health institute as per the WHO’s guidelines. This institute will serve as a research platform for South east Asia region. It will also have nine Bio Safety level III laboratories and four regional National Institutes for Virology.

The budget also aimed to expand the reach of Pneumococcal vaccine, across India. This indigenously developed vaccine is currently available in five states. It is expected to curb the deaths of 50,000 child deaths annually.

As good health and nutrition go hand in hand, the government will also focus on nourishing the citizens of the country. It will launch a Mission Poshan 2.0 program to intensify its drive to improve the nutritional content, delivery, outreach and outcome in 112 Aspirational districts. This will be addition to the supplementary nutrition programme and Poshan Abhiyan.

Along with good food, clean water and sanitization are also important for the well being of an individual. As such the government will launch Jal Jeevan Mission to provide water supply through tap connections to 2.86 crore households in 4, 378 urban local bodies. This will also include liquid waste management in 500 Amrut cities. Pegged at Rs 2, 87000 crores the scheme will be implemented over a period of five years.

The initiatives undertaken by the Centre will improve social measures and drive growth, thereby supporting India in post pandemic world order.

The author of the article is President, The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM)

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