Punjab has decided to join the Ayushman Bharat scheme which is also known as the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana. Earlier, the Punjab government had given the excuse that very low percentage of state’s population would be covered under the central governments scheme. Therefore, the state government is working on its own scheme which would cover a larger number of people. However, Punjab government has now decided to mend ways with the centre for the benefit of the people of Punjab. As of now, only four states- Kerala, Telangana, Odisha, and Delhi have kept themselves out of the ambitious healthcare scheme. All of these have a healthcare scheme of their own except Delhi. Kerala and Telangana gave the reason that their own healthcare insurance schemes are better since they benefit a larger section of population. However, the real motives behind rejection of the scheme were mainly political as financially the states would have benefited by joining the scheme.
The worst was the arrogance of Punjab and Delhi. Punjab ultimately decided to join the scheme while Delhi is yet to come on board. Punjab will pump extra money in the scheme to expand the number of beneficiaries. “The cabinet decided to set up a committee under the chief secretary to work out financial modalities to implement the scheme at an estimated cost of Rs 300 crore, by cutting the budget of other departments, where necessary,” said an official spokesperson. There are a total of 61 lakh families in Punjab out of which 14.96 lakh families of the state were to be covered under Ayushman Bharat scheme as per the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data. However, the Punjab government has decided to extend the scheme to 42 lakh families. This includes beneficiaries of Bhagat Puran Singh Sehat Bima Yojana (BPSSBY) which was launched in 2015 to provide health insurance cover of Rs 50,000 per family per year to about 30 lakh blue card holders and 7.90 lakh other families.
Punjab cabinet also gave the nod to change the name of Ayushman Bharat scheme because the ruling Congress party thought that the name given by the central government was a political tool of the BJP ruled centre. Punjab and Delhi government had two problems with the scheme, firstly with the number of people getting covered, which according to them was low and that the name of the scheme was a political tool by the BJP and PM Modi. Punjab government has found the solution to both problems by giving priority to welfare of the general public. The party promised universal healthcare insurance to the people of the state and to fulfil this they had to join hands with the central government to get monetary assistance. “By extending this scheme to 42 lakh families of a total of 61 lakh households in the state, the government has fulfilled the Congress’ pre-poll promise of providing universal health cover. These families will get 5 lakh annual health cover,” a government spokesperson said. The annual premium is expected to be around 1,082 rupees per person, which will be shared by the centre and state in 60:40 ratio, cost for additional families will be borne by the state government.
Delhi government which had similar grievances, has not joined the scheme till date. Every year we get to hear about hundreds of death from Dengue alone in Delhi, but the ego of Arvind Kejriwal does not allow him to accept the scheme which would help the common people. A demand made by the Delhi government is to rename the scheme as ‘Mukhya Mantri Aam Aadmi Swasthya Bima Yojana-Ayushman Bharat’. The Delhi government wants to create unnecessary drama over a scheme brought in by the central government for its own political gains. The Delhi government could also have changed the name of the scheme as was done by the Punjab government, but it has chosen not to do so and has maintained a distance from the scheme. Arvind Kejriwal has not joined the scheme because he is afraid that the BJP might get political mileage out of it. He is ready to sacrifice interest of the people of the state for petty politics. By compromising with welfare of the people Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal has taken politics to a new low.
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