How have recent policy changes, such as the implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the Ayushman Bharat scheme, affected access to basic necessities and healthcare for vulnerable groups? Critically examine.
राष्ट्रीय खाद्य सुरक्षा अधिनियम (एनएफएसए) और आयुष्मान भारत योजना के कार्यान्वयन जैसे हाल के नीतिगत परिवर्तनों ने कमजोर समूहों के लिए बुनियादी आवश्यकताओं और स्वास्थ्य देखभाल तक पहुंच को कैसे प्रभावित किया है? समालोचनात्मक जाँच कीजिए।
Start with basic intro on both the schemes or start with recent changes and then as per demand of question provide both of the arguments.
The recent decision of free foodgrains to all 81 crore beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) till December 2023 and to include more health packages in Ayushman Bharat considered beneficial for poor Indian.
Advantage of recent changes:
- The beneficiaries will now get 35kg of foodgrains free for the next one year and others will get 5kg for free in a month till December 2023.
- Merger of PMGKAY: The center has also decided to discontinue the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) and it has now been merged with the NFSA.
- Unemployment remains at record levels and there is widespread hunger among vulnerable communities. The government extending PMGKAY and also universalise the public distribution system itself, so that anyone in need would receive food support regardless of whether they possessed a ration card or not.
- Ayushman bharat helps reduce catastrophic expenditure for hospitalizations, which pushes 6 crore people into poverty each year. Helps mitigate the financial risk arising out of catastrophic health episodes.
- At a time when the world was battling with the effects of Covid on its decline and insecurity due to various reasons, India has been successfully maintaining food security and health security with these schemes for its vulnerable sections while taking necessary steps to keep availability and affordability for the common man.
- Policymakers and experts concede that the extension of schemes will make a difference to food security and public health post pandemic situation.
- It has been observed that “the social safety net provided by the expansion of India’s food subsidy program and unified health scheme absorbed a major part of the pandemic shock.
Critical assessment of changes and overall schemes:
- Political-election freebies: In the months prior to the latest extension made in late September 2022, there was much debate on the relevance of freebies. Critics point out that the scheme’s extension is with an eye on the elections in 2023.
- Expensive: It’s very expensive for the government to sustain and increases the need for an abundant supply health service and cheap grains. In 2022, India has had to restrict exports of wheat and rice after erratic weather hurt harvest, adding to pressure on food prices, and rattling global agricultural markets.
- Increase Fiscal Deficit: It could pose a risk to the government’s target to further narrow the fiscal deficit to 6.4% of gross domestic product.
- Inadequate Health Capacities: The ill-equipped public sector health capacities calls for necessary partnerships and coalitions with private sector providers. In such circumstances, the provision of services can be ensured only if the providers are held accountable for their services.
- The Expenditure Department at the Centre did not favour it, citing a funds crunch. It also held the view that such a scheme was no longer needed “in non-pandemic times”.
Even in regular times, access to nutritious food and health security is essential. Pandemic or not, access to affordable and safe food and health should not be an uncertainty for any section of the society.