The finance ministry has indicated a cut of 17 percent in the revised estimates for the health care sector.
The MoF has reduced the budget of various ministries to the tune of one lakh crore. Apparently, the MoF took the decision in view of the fiscal deficit. Sources in the ministry pointed out several social sector ministries were also facing a cut in their budget.
The health ministry officials are disappointed, however, this is not the first time that a slash in the budget has been indicated. For instance, in 2013-14, there was a cut by Rs.6000 crore from the Rs 29,164 crore plan outlay.
The cut in the Health Ministry budget could impact efforts to control the spread of diseases. "If it happens we will not have the luxury to spend much on the healthcare sector. There are many ambitious schemes in the offing and a cut in the budget would affect all those schemes," added sources.
The retrenchment could also derail an ambitious universal healthcare programme that the PM wants to launch in April. The plan aims to provide all citizens with free drugs and diagnostic treatments, as well as insurance benefits.
The budget for 2012-13 had proposed to increase the outlay of the government's flagship National Rural Health Mission. According to estimates, India's spending in health is estimated to be the lowest in the world around 1.2 percent.
India spends about one percent of its gross domestic product on public health, compared to three percent in China and 8.3 percent in the United States.
With the communicable and non-communicable diseases on the rise and in need for control and prevention, the health sector should be one among the top priority for the Ministry of finance to be equipped accordingly.