News Brief

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee threatens to opt out of ‘Modicare’

The Trinamool leader told the Supreme Court that the Centre cannot force states to pay for its healthcare scheme.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said the Centre could not force states to pay for the healthcare scheme it announced in the Union Budget for 2018-’19. She said the government should have discussed the scheme with the states.

“There is nothing new in this scheme,” Banerjee said, according to The Week. “We cannot accept the central government’s diktat. You have decided that 40% of the funding would have to be borne by states. Did you discuss with us before deciding on it? You cannot force us to pay. If we had money, we would have done that on our own.”

The chief minister was speaking at a public meeting in Nadia. She said her government already had the Swasthya Sathi scheme, which she said has 50 lakh beneficiaries.

A day after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the scheme in the Budget on February 1, Niti Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant said the scheme could cost the government around Rs 5,500 to Rs 6,000 crore, and that states would bear 40% of the cost.

Jaitley had claimed that the National Health Protection Scheme, which promises Rs 5 lakh a year for each of the targeted 10 crore families for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation, was “the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme”.

Banerjee said the Centre had stopped most of its funding for the Integrated Child Development Services and other development programmes for farmers, poor and the middle class, The Indian Express reported. “But we have not stopped a single project and have kept all of them alive by contributing adequate funds from our own resources, despite financial constraints,” she said.

She also called the Budget allocation for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao project for girls. “The Centre has floated Beti Bachao with a paltry allocation of Rs 100 crore for the entire country,” she said, according to The Times of India. “Bengal has provided for Rs 5,000 crore for its own Kanyashree project.”

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