The National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC), an apex autonomous development finance institution under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Monday launched a unique scheme Ayushman Sahakar to help cooperatives to set up healthcare infrastructure in any branch of medicine or medical care.
Under the scheme launched by the Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Panchayati Raj Parshottambhai Rupala, the NCDC would extend term loans to prospective cooperatives, including those formed by fresh graduates in any stream of medicine including Ayurveda, homoeopathy, Unani and other traditional practices known to have health benefits. The minister said that the ongoing pandemic has brought into focus the requirement for the creation of more healthcare facilities in the rural and inaccessible areas where primary and tertiary care is often the lifeline of people. “NCDC’s scheme will be a step towards strengthening farmers’ welfare activities by the Central Government,” the minister said in a virtual inauguration of the scheme.
There are currently 52 hospitals across the country run by cooperatives. They have a cumulative bed strength of more than 5,000. The NCDC fund is expected to give a boost to healthcare services by cooperatives which have been found to be more cost-effective for cooperative members with services comparable with the best of public and private sector hospitals.
To provide financial support, the NCDC will be raising Rs.10, 000 Crore over three years. “We would be providing funding for cooperatives to create healthcare infrastructure, for which a normal channel of financing is not available as yet,” Sundeep Nayak, managing director, NCDC told the media.
NCDC’s scheme aligns with the focus of the National Health Policy, 2017, covering the health systems in all their dimensions- investments in health, organization of healthcare services, access to technologies, development of human resources, encouragement of medical pluralism, affordable health care to farmers etc. It has a comprehensive approach-hospitals, healthcare, medical education, nursing education, paramedical education, health insurance and holistic health systems such as AYUSH.
Ayushman Sahakar scheme fund would also assist cooperative hospitals to take up medical / Ayush education.
In line with the National Digital Health Mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi 15 August 2020, NCDC’s Ayushman Sahakar hopes to bring better healthcare in rural areas. By virtue of their strong presence in rural areas, cooperatives utilizing the scheme would bring revolution in comprehensive health care services. Any Cooperative Society with a suitable provision in its bylaws to undertake healthcare-related activities would be able to access the NCDC fund.
Assuring that NCDC does not believe in sitting on loan requests, Nayak said the process is hastened if those seeking loans are able to provide a viable business plan online along with all the required details sought. “If the project business plan is found viable, we generally clear it within two weeks. We provide a moratorium on the loan for anywhere up to two years after which the loan repayment including interest has to be paid upon a quarterly or half-yearly basis,” Nayak stated.
NCDC provides both working capital and fixed-term loans. Financial viability and interest rates are decided on the basis of the cooperatives past records. The cooperatives can either borrow directly or in partnership with the state government. In the latter case the interest rate charged in 0.6 to 0.7 per cent less as it is deemed more secure. The NCDC loans are being offered currently at 9-9.6 per cent interest for fixed-term borrowing and around 6 per cent for working capital.
The scheme provides interest subvention of one per cent to women majority cooperatives. Set up under an Act of Parliament in 1963 for promotion and development of cooperatives, the NCDC has so far extended around Rs.1.60 lakh crore as loans to cooperatives.
The new scheme hopes to promote entrepreneurship among medical graduates who are willing to form a cooperative and serve in rural areas.
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