Health, Education and PSU reforms: All you need to know
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her last and final announcement under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan Package made several announcements related to the Health sector. To curb and to contain the spread of the novel virus, the Finance Minister announced a health package of Rs. 15,000 crore. This health package will include insurance worth Rs. 50 lakh per person for all the medical professionals working on the frontlines to combat COVID-19.
It must be noted that a package worth Rs. 15,000 announced earlier includes Rs. 4,113 crore which is released to states by the centre, Rs. 3,750 crore which is released for the essential items, Rs. 550 crore which is released for testing labs and kits and lastly, an insurance cover of Rs 50 lakhs for all the healthcare professionals under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
In the wake of COVID-19, the government rolled out e-Sanjeevani teleconsultation service where doctor-to-doctor and patient-to-doctor teleconsultations can be done. In addition to this, Bluetooth based Aarogya Setu App has also been launched by the GOI for self-assessment and contact tracing. Through iGOT platform, the government is providing virtual learning modules to the frontline workers to handle the deadly pandemic efficiently.
The Government of India has also made several amendments in the Epidemics Diseases Act, 1897. This amends protections for healthcare workers combatting epidemic diseases and also expands the powers of the central government to contain the spread of such diseases.
The Government also started the manufacture of PPE kits from 0 to 300 manufacturers, producing nearly 2 lakh kits per day. India has also exported 51 lakh PPE kits, 87 lakhs N95 masks and 11.08 crore HCQ tablets to several countries.
The Health Reforms and Initiatives by the government are as follows:
1- Increased investments in Public Health: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the public expenditure on health will be increased and the government will make several investments on the grass-root level health institutions (For example, Mohalla Clinics in Delhi). The government will also establish more and more Health and Wellness Centers in rural and urban areas.
2- Preparing the country for future pandemics: Finance Minister Sitharaman in her last announcement stated that the government will set up infectious diseases hospital blocks in all the districts. It will also strengthen public health labs by setting them in all the districts across the country.
The government will also promote research for public health. For this, ICMR will establish a National Institutional Platform. The government will also implement National Digital Health Blueprint for all the citizens so that a data of all the past diseases can be stored in one place.
It must be noted that India spends only 1.2% of GDP on the health sector in 2019-20. In 2018, India lagged behind the BRICs peers as well as developed nations in terms of expenditure in the Public Health sector.
Another announcement made by the Finance Minister under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan Package was related to the education sector. FM Sitharaman stated that the government would soon launch an education program named PM eVIDYA for multi-mode access to digital/ online education.
The announcements under the Education Sector are as follows:
1- DIKHSHA for school education across India- Under One Nation, One Digital platform, e-content and QR coded textbooks will be provided to all the students. Following One Class, One Channel, 12 TV channels will go on air for classes 1 to 12. The government will extensively use Radio, Community Radio and Podcasts. Finance Minister further stated that for visually challenged and hearing-impaired children, special e-content will be provided. Also, the top 100 universities will be permitted to start the online courses by May 30, 2020.
2- Manodarpan- Under this, a psychological support system will be launched to provide support to all the teachers, students and their families for their emotional wellbeing as well as mental health.
3- A new curriculum- The government will launch a new curriculum based on the 21st century for the schools, early childhood and teachers.
4- National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission- Under this mission, the government will ensure that every child attains learning levels and outcomes in Grade 5 by the year 2025. The mission will be launched by December 2020.
So far, the Government of India has taken several steps to promote online education amidst COVID-19. The government has launched SWAYAM PRABHA DTH channels to educate those children who do not have access to the internet. The government has already launched 3 channels under this mission and 12 other channels will be added soon.
Live interactive sessions will also be telecasted with experts on the channels through Skype. The government has also tied up with DTH operators like Tata Sky and Airtel to air these channels so that they can reach to a wider number of students.
The Government of India has also coordinated with the states to share an air time of 4 hours on a daily basis to telecast their digital education content on the SWAYAM PRABHA channels. Also, 200 new books have been added to e-Paathshaala.
It must be noted that India spends only 2.7-3% GDP of India.
After PM Modi's self-reliant vision, FM Sitharaman announced a new Public Sector Enterprise policy.
The new policies related to PSUs are as follows:
1- The government will issue a list of India's strategic sectors-- Defence, atomic sectors, etc. where the participation of the PSEs is required.
2- In all the strategic sectors, at least the enterprise will remain in the public sector and the private sector will also be allowed.
3- In sectors other than strategic sectors (such as steel), PSEs will be privatized.
4- FM stated that to minimise wasteful administrative costs, the number of enterprises in the strategic sectors will ordinarily be only one to four; others will be privatised/merged/brought under holding companies.
These were the several announcements made by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on health, education and Public Sector Undertakings (PSU).