As scientists race to find a vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 virus that has claimed about one lakh lives across the globe, the Indian government is claiming ancient Ayurveda and Homoeopathic remedies could hold an answer. But a parliamentary committee has exposed the lackadaisical attitude of the Government in promoting the nonformal medicine systems in the country and raised questions about the seriousness of the Central Government as the Ayush Ministry has faced a reduction in allocation of funds in recent years.
Parliamentary Standing committee, headed by Samajwadi Party leader of Rajya Sabha Ram Gopal Yadav, on Health and Family welfare has submitted report on the budgetary allocation of the Ministry of the year 2020-21. The committee finds that the projected demand of funds of the Ministry of AYUSH was to the tune of Rs. 5035.27 crores for 2020-21. However, the Ministry has been allocated only Rs. 2122.08 crores only, thus leaving a shortfall of Rs. 2913.19 crores. Similar situation prevailed last year also as is evident from the allocation of funds by the Finance ministry. In the year 2019-20 Budget ministry projected a demand of Rs 4469 crores and the allotted amount was Rs 1939 crores.
The Secretary of the Ministry while deposing before the Committee highlighted the fact that the projected requirement of the Ministry was realistic as the Ministry needed the allocation to tide over funds constraints. But as the funds allotted were less and the major areas that will be affected due to the slashed allocation for 2020-21 as informed by the Ministry are flagship programmes of National Ayush Mission, Health and wellness center and other major programmes.
The Ministry submitted to the committee that it has made continuous and persistent efforts for adequate budgetary support. The efforts started during the pre-budget discussions with the Ministry of Finance held on November 8 last year followed by a meeting of Secretary (AYUSH) with Secretary (Expenditure) on January 2 and January 30 this year. The Secretary (AYUSH) again took up the matter with the Secretary (Economic Affairs) and even by personally meeting him again. Minister of State of Ayush Sripada Nayak also held a meeting with the Finance Minister on January 9 this year to apprise him of the situation and requested for enhancement of the allocation under RE 2019-20 as well as BE 2020-21. Due to these efforts the Ministry of Finance increased the RE allocation from Rs.1756.83 crore to Rs.1857.00 crore. However, no additional funds have been provided in BE 2020-21.
In a scathing comment, the Committee has put on record its disappointment and said “the committee is constrained to note that several schemes of the ministry would be effected due to shortfall offunds.”
The committee went on to say that it apprehends that the objective of important schemes like National Ayush Mission Health and wellness centers would not be fulfilled due to financial constraints. Moreover, several research projects, construction work of National Institute and Research Councils would also get affected.
The Committee took note of the submission of the Ministry to make up the shortfall of funds by seeking a loan of Rs.1000 crore from Higher Education Funding Agency to support, in particular, the 8 construction projects of National Institutes. The Committee said it was surprising to note that financial constraints have forced the Ministry to raise loans which show that the Government is not very serious about promoting AYUSH and letting it emerge as an alternative and economical system of medicine.
(Writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi)