Help the babies, not babus

The recently released National Health Accounts (NHA) 2014-'15 shows that the government spending on public health of an average citizen was just Rs 1108, as against almost Rs 6300 spent on each central government employee. The difference is close to six times. The health of the citizens of a country is a sharp marker of the health of the democracy. The laurels achieved in business and economic growth mean nothing if citizens are stuck in a debt rut trying to rid themselves of escalating expenditures incurred on account of affliction from a disease. The modern world is plagued by modern diseases, which are complemented by increasing costs. In India, there is a stark difference between public health and private institutions that offer health services—a reason that compels many to either opt for the latter and empty their pockets or settle for the former and often return with no results. India has consistently ranked abysmally on scales marking public health facilities in the country. With a growing population and poverty, managing health is an undisputed challenge for the Indian economy.

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This provides further reason for all governments, at the Centre and across states, to focus their efforts on increasing their budget allocations for health expenditure and thereby improve the public health infrastructure and facilities of the nation. It is undoubtedly shameful that central government employees, who already pocket a fat paycheck, receive additionally six-times more financial support than the ordinary citizen, in the way of the government's allocation for their health expenditure. Governments cannot turn a blind eye to the poor who cannot afford to pay for their wellbeing and desperately require the assistance of the government. Every job has its perks, undoubtedly, but the first job of the government, as a democratic guardian, must be to protect its citizens.

The poor in our country are stuck in a vicious cycle of endless poverty, debt, disease, expenditure, further debt and endless poverty. We have been suffering from this affliction since Independence. We cannot afford to lay our backs over this anymore. India has the highest number of malnourished and stunted children in the world at 48.2 million—this is more than the population of most medium-sized countries. While babus roam in air-conditioned cars, people in our country cannot afford the basic nutrients for their newborn babies. Yet, babus receive the compensation, not the babies. The Narendra Modi government has spoken vigorously for social empowerment and health must not exclude its vision. There is an urgent need to revise budgetary allocation. Without a healthy population, we will become a diseased democracy.