History India South Asia · History of Medicine · Medicine & Doctors · Politics · Public health

Why India’s founders championed a well-funded government-led healthcare system

This appeared in The Wire on 28 January 2020. Here is the article. I wrote this mainly in response to the Indian government’s gradual and timid abandonment of the universal health care goal for its people, with the latest setback being the plans to hand over our country’s civil hospitals to private agencies.

Immediately after independence, India was subjected to the overwhelming stresses of Partition, communal and caste conflict, wars, food scarcity, a growing population and an emigrating skilled physician workforce. Despite these and other challenges, our founders managed to make substantial, if not stellar, strides in healthcare, including making and nurturing perhaps the world’s most generous health insurance scheme, the Central Government Health Scheme.

The present government in India has proven, through many recent policy stands, that if it believes in an idea, it will go to any lengths and overcome any number of obstacles to implement it. Whether we take the example of this government or of our earlier governments (as mentioned above), it is clear that when politicians are deeply committed to an idea, they will always find ways to fructify them.

Considering this commitment context, the current government’s complaint that it is unable to take good care of the health of the people seems to be another way of saying ‘we are not committed enough to this objective’.

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