Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an outlay of Rs 35,000 crore for India’s coronavirus vaccination programme, while presenting the Union Budget 2021-’22 in the Parliament on Monday. The Narendra Modi government will make more allocations to this fund, as and when required, she added.
Sitharaman also announced the Aatmanirbhar Health Yojana with a budget of Rs 64,180 crore over six years. The thrust of this scheme will be the development of India’s fragile healthcare infrastructure, which has been further overburdened due to the coronavirus crisis. The resources will also be used for setting up institutes for the detection and cure of new and emerging disease, the finance minister said.
Other main interventions under Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana include, setting up health and wellness centres, establishing integrated public health labs in all districts of the country and developing critical care hospital blocks at grassroot levels.
In her Budget speech, Sitharaman said the steady fall in the number of coronavirus cases in the country has been heralded as a sign of economic recovery. “India now has one of the lowest Covid-19 death rates of 112 per million population and one of the lowest active cases of about 130 per million,” the finance minister added. “This has laid the foundation for the economic revival we see today.”
With more than 1.07 crore coronavirus cases, India still is the second-worst affected country in the world, but over the past two months, it has seen a steady decline in new cases. As many as 1,04,34,983 people have recovered from the infection as of Monday, while the number of active cases stood at 1,68,235. The country’s recovery rate is 96.99%.
Sitharaman said that armed with two coronavirus vaccines, the government had begun to “safeguard both our citizens as well as 100 or more countries”. Besides this, two or more vaccines against the coronavirus are also expected to be developed soon, she added.
India authorised two vaccines this month for emergency use at home, Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, a government-backed, indigenous one from Bharat Biotech, whose efficacy is not entirely known. Under the country’s vaccination programme, which began on January 16, a total of 37,58,843 beneficiaries have been inoculated so far.
The finance minister said that the proposals made in this year’s Budget rest on six pillars. These are health and well-being, physical and financial capital and infrastructure, inclusive development for “ an “aspirational India”, reinvigorating human capital, innovation and Research and Development, and the policy of “minimum government, maximum governance”.
Investment in healthcare infrastructure has increased substantially, Sitharaman added. “Three areas – preventive health, curative health and well-being – will be strengthened,” the finance minister said.