Underlining the sorry state of healthcare facilities in rural India, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia Tuesday said the country would spend two percent of its GDP on health in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12).
"Currently we (central and state governments) are spending one percent of our GDP on health sector and by the end of the 11th five year plan, say 2011-12, we will spend two percent of it," Ahluwalia said.
Speaking at the 35th convocation of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here, he said: "There is a serious need for the expansion of healthcare facilities in rural areas and here the role of public (government) expenditure is essential. The government has decided to roll out double the fund for the purpose."
Ahluwalia said India has achieved "undoubted improvement" in the health sector but it still needed a lot of attention.
"In 1956, the life expectancy in India was only 37 years and now it's 66 years. We have eradicated diseases like smallpox but a majority of our people in rural India continue to suffer due to lack of medical facilities," he said.
"At least 60 percent of our pregnant women and 80 percent of kids in the 6-18 month category are anaemic. Our infant mortality rate is 58 per 1,000 births. This number is 36 in Indonesia and 32 in China.
"Our maternal mortality ratio is 301 (per 100,000 pregnant women) as against 130 in Vietnam and 56 in China. Still over 50 percent of our pregnant women deliver babies without attendance of health experts," the deputy chairman said.
He said that primary healthcare centres were in bad shape, district hospitals lacked infrastructure as well as health personnel.
The government is analysing a couple of schemes like possibility of public-private partnership to boost the health sector and "the prime minister has already mentioned a proposed health insurance scheme for people below the poverty line", Ahluwalia said.
He said that all stakeholders of the country should join hands to make it a world power.
"Our GDP growth is good and in the next 25 years we are going to be the third economic power of the world, after the US and China. In achieving this feat, our health sector needs to be strengthened," Ahluwalia added.
After much delay, 749 doctors and nurses of AIIMS were awarded degrees Tuesday. They had been waiting to get the degrees for over two years as Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss had not signed them.
The problem was solved after some students moved the Delhi High Court, which directed Ramadoss to sign the degree certificates last month.