Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman today presented the Union Budget 2021-22 in the Lok Sabha. Since, the COVID-19 pandemic affected adversely on the economic activities, resulting into contraction of Indian economy in the financial year 2020-21, the industry was looking for a budget of reforms from the Finance Minister. Sitharaman announced an allocation of Rs 35,000 crore in the union budget for COVID-19 vaccination and creation of 15 Health Emergency Centres in the country. This was being considered a much needed step towards public healthcare system during a pandemic period.
Healthcare gets lion’s share
“The key highlights of the budget include additional allocation to health and wellbeing in a COVID ravaged year with Rs 35,000 crore allocation to COVID-19 vaccination with four Indian vaccines shortly,” S Sriram, Chief Strategy Officer, iValue InfoSolutions said.
The Union Budget 2021-22 undoubtedly provides the much-needed fillip to India’s healthcare sector and is a testimony to India’s commitment to not just fight back the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to build a stronger and resilient health system. “The total outlay for health and wellbeing now stands at Rs 223,246 crore. This is an increase of 137 percent as compared to the allocation of close to Rs 94,000 crore in 2020-21,” Saumyajit Roy, Founder, Emoha Elder Care said.
“In addition, we also welcome setting up of 15 Health Emergency Centres that clearly shows government’s intent to be future-ready to address any healthcare crises” Roy added.
As far as the key announcements pertaining to India’s elderly are concerned, the budget 2021 has proposed to exempt senior citizens who are 75 years or above and have only pension and interest income in a financial year, from filing income tax returns. The bank paying income to them will deduct the necessary tax from their bank accounts.
Taking the attention towards elder care in the country, Roy said, “There are 110 million elders in this country, who are above the age of 60 and this highly vulnerable section of India’s population are among the largest consumers of country’s healthcare products and services. They suffer from a wide range of physical and mental health issues. While the budget caters to the physical health of the elderly to some extent, it ignores the mental health aspect of the elderly completely. It would have been a complete package for the elderly if the Finance Minister considered widening the scope of the budget and included expenditure focused on robust mental health programmes too.”
Calling it a budget of economic recovery, Vidya Shah, Chairperson & CEO, EdelGive Foundation said, “If I could define this fiscal budget in one word it would be ‘Recovery’. The impact of the economic challenged caused by COVID-19 could only be overturned through significant announcements towards social growth, particularly sectors such as education, livelihoods and healthcare.
“In perhaps the most relevant announcement given the COVID-19 context, is the support to the unorganised labour force through the proposed portal enabling them with available health, housing, skill, insurance credit and food schemes. The extensive allocations under healthcare provisions, including vaccination for COVID-19 has been encouraging. Impetus on women’s health, both mental and physical, need much more attention than they are currently getting, Shah added..
The increased allocation for healthcare received commendation from all sides, Prashanth GJ, CEO, TechnoBind said, “Increased spend on healthcare and infrastructure are welcome moves – as this will have a cascading effect on the economy in the medium term.”
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