It is perhaps a no brainer that in the pandemic year, Budget 2021 has put health on priority. But how the government has pursued it and used the existing mechanism. It also underlined a grand narrative of a healthy India is an aspect that needs deliberation.
Health in the Budget is not just about allocations, which is important nevertheless. But what attracts more is the underlining of connections that Budget 2021 tries to pay attention to – from health to human capital.
Human capital thrives in a healthy atmosphere. Health is not just about medicine or hospitals. It is about hygiene, nutrition, clean air, space for growth, and many aspects bundled together.
The Immediate Step
As the challenge before the world, including India, to come out of Covid-19 pandemic fully remains, the focus of Budget 2021 on vaccination can be seen as an immediate, helpful step.
Provision of ₹35,000 crore for Covid-19 vaccine for the year with the provision of further expansion is not only promising for further progress of vaccination drive already in progress in India, it also plays a role in ensuring the health of neighbours and friendly countries as well.
You must have noticed some of the arguments on social media in general that apart from Corona, people have been dying for Pneumonia and other illness, and those have not received the due attention all these years. These pessimists must realize that Budget 2021 states that Pneumococcal Vaccine, a Made in India product, presently limited to only 5 states, will be rolled out across the country which will avert 50,000 child deaths annually.
Health Infra at Grassroots
With National Health Policy 2017 and schemes like Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, the government was already in the midst of process that expands healthcare facilities at grassroots. However, the pandemic emphasised the need of health infrastructure spread across the nation, even more.
This year’s Economic Survey also emphasised the need of spending more for primary health infrastructure. Taking a leaf from this, Budget 2021 has committed to deliver many things in this regard. PM Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana, among other things, provides for 17,788 rural and 11,024 urban Health and Wellness Centers, setting up integrated public health labs in all districts and 3,382 block public health units in 11 states; establishing critical care hospital blocks in 602 districts and 12 central institutions.
Nutrition, Hygiene, and Clean Air – Instruments to Build Strong Human Capitals
Consider the following scenario. India is able to have all the right talented people with right skills. If the cities are toxic with bad air polluting the environment, lack of clean drinking water and exposure to disease causing waste due to lack of cleanliness that causes several diseases, productivity will fall at one point.
Budget 2021 provides ₹2,217 crore for 42 cities with a million plus population to tackle air pollution. A voluntary vehicle scrapping policy will further aid the betterment of environment.
The Urban Swachh Bharat Mission will be implemented with a total financial allocation of ₹1.41 lakh crore over a period of 5 years from 2021-2026 is aiming at building Swastha Bharat.
The Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) will also be launched aims at universal water supply in all 4,372 Urban Local Bodies with 2.86 crore household tap connections, as well as liquid waste management in 500 AMRUT cities.
It is also worth noting that Poshan 2.0 shall also be launched, which will aggressively ensure nutrition sufficiency especially in aspirational districts.
Education & Skilling Also Expand Horizon
Like in the health sector, India is also pursuing grassroots approach in education which was evident earlier with the National Education Policy. Now, in Budget 2021, the proposal is for upgrading more than 15,000 schools qualitatively where all components of the National Education Policy will be implemented.
Setting up of a Higher Education Commission of India, an umbrella structure in 9 cities, a Central University in Leh also contribute to strengthening India’s higher education scenario.
750 Eklavya model residential schools in tribal areas, increase in grants, revamping of post-matric scholarship scheme to benefit 4 crore students are there to take care of SC/ST students.
It is bound to happen that every country will strive for growth in the post- pandemic era. For this, the need of labour is crucial. But there is a catch. The workers who seek opportunities in post-pandemic era need upskilling and reskilling to suit the needs of new world order.
Herein unveiled the foresight of Budget 2021. Realigning the existing scheme of National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS) with an outlay of ₹3,000 crore for providing post-education apprenticeship, training of graduates and diploma holders in Engineering will enable to enrich the human capital.
The skilling and training pacts that the Budget is supporting with regards to UAE and Japan are expected to help Indian workers to find jobs in those nations in big numbers.
Roadmap for the Best Use of Human Capital
When a healthy environment is provided, it naturally produces some of the best minds. Innovation and research are the arenas in which these minds can apply their skills. Budget 2021 tries to establish a conducive ecosystem to support these endeavours, including through such steps as:
- National Research Foundation with an outlay of ₹50,000 crore, over 5 years will strengthen overall research ecosystem of the country.
- ₹1,500 crore for a proposed scheme to promote digital modes of payment.
- To undertake National Language Translation Mission (NTLM) for making available wealth of governance-and-policy related knowledge on the internet in major Indian languages.