Opposition Rajya Sabha members, Sandosh Kumar P and Jawhar Sircar on Friday called for increasing India's spending on healthcare as a percentage of GDP to lessen the burden of medical expenses on citizens. In a discussion on a private member's bill, The Right to Health Bill, 2021, which was introduced by RJD MP Manoj Jha last month seeking free healthcare for all, Kumar P of CPI, citing a report by WHO said 55 million Indians were pushed into poverty due to medical expenses.
"This is alarming but it is a reality. Moreover, if one has to spend Rs 100 for medical expenditure, Rs 63 she or he has to spend from out of pocket," he said. Compared to many other Asian countries, India's medical expenditure is very high, the member said adding "the remedy is to make health a fundamental right and we have to spend more on healthcare...we need to spend 6-7 per cent of GDP on healthcare".
Sircar of Trinamool Congress also supported the bill and lamented the country's low spending on healthcare. "India has a lot of firsts among many countries, there is no denial about that but India also stands out like a sore thumb when certain expenditures are concerned. Expenditure on health, for instance is pegged at 1-1.5 per cent of GDP, which remains an international shame," he said.
BJP member Anil Agrawal, taking part in the discussion said importance must be given to providing adequate healthcare infrastructure first, without which right to health would be meaningless. He said the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already taken several steps to ensure affordable healthcare.
Similarly, Radha Mohan Das Agarwal (BJP) also asserted that what the private member's bill attempts to cover has already been taken care of under the Ayushman Bharat scheme of the government. Earlier, when the Upper House reassembled for the afternoon session as many as 17 private members bills were introduced.
These included The Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2022 moved by Derek O'Brien of TMC that seeks to protect women from online harassment and abuse. and Employment Guarantee Bill, 2022 by Sandosh Kumar P (CPI) to ensure minimum one hundred days of work to all citizens within the age of 18 to 40 years in accordance with their educational qualification or skill.
However, the The Uniform Civil Code in India Bill, 2020 piloted by Kirodi Lal Meena (BJP) that seeks to provide for the constitution of the National Inspection and Investigation Committee for preparation of Uniform Civil Code and its implementation throughout the country was not introduced as the member was absent.
(With PTI inputs)