New Delhi, Feb 26: In a run up to the Budget, everyday 5,000 children from all over the country are sending a reminder post-card to Finance Minister P Chidambaram to keep the promise of the UPA government to invest three per cent of the GDP in health and six per cent in education.
The campaign- 'A War on Disease and Illiteracy'-- called '9 is Mine' is aimed at ensuring that the government fulfills its promise in these two areas outlined in the National Common Minimum Programme(NCMP). It was launched on November 14--celeberated as the children's day-- by 'Wada Na Todo Abhiyan' (Don't break your promise), a platform established by as many as 3,000 NGOs and network organisations. Perceiving the Budget as an opportunity, the crusade has intensified its efforts, including children, in this regard.
More than three lakh signatures have been sent by children petitioning Mr Chidambaram to fulfill the commitments made time and again, Ms Aditi Kapur of OXFAM said. The 'Abhiyan' also wants better utilisation of funds allocated for various health care programmes.
The organisers said spending on the health care programmes was as low as 0.9 per cent of GDP.
"The coming Union Budget is the last opportunity for the UPA government to show that it does what is says," Mr Ravi Duggal, a spokesman of 'Wada Na Todo Abhiyan' said.
The grand coalition of the campaign runs across 23 States aimed at monitoring UPA's health and education spending on the ground. Mr Duggal said the year 2007 marked the mid-way to the Millennium Development Goals (2000-15) and the fourth year of a government brought to power on its promise to meet and exceed the MDGs through the full implementation of the NCMP. "Yet despite the celeberations of nine per cent growth, in the 'Other India' millions of poorer Indians remain excluded from the most basic rights and subject to the tyranny of mass hunger, illiteracy and ill health". he said.
"The Central Statistical Organisation(CSO) has estimated that out-of-pocket or self-financing expenses account for a whopping 83 per cent of the total expenditure. With the economy growing at 9 per cent per annum, this state of things is both regressive and iniquitious for people living below the poverty line-- people who are at the threshold of subsitence," Ms Sandhya Venkateswaran of the Abhiyan said.
The experts and campaigners said the utilisation rate of the funds was short by almost 33 per cent.
Mr Duggal, a sociologist by profession, said more women die of childbirth in India than anywhere else in the world. Of the 5.36 lakh such deaths in 2005 globally, more than 20 per cent were in India. Over half the mothers and infants still do not get access to safe institutional delivery.
He said increased allocation alone to the health care sector can enable recruitment and training of 200,000 more ANMs as also set up 21,983 new health centres at the primary level to achieve the health service coverage envisaged in the ambitious National Rural Health Mission.
The organisers said the health scenario was full of contrasts. Majority of Indians are burdened with diseases which are easiy curable, yet the threats of incurable diseases gets more attention.
A huge section of society is succumbing to deaths which could be easily avoided to a great degree by the provision of safe drinking water, proper santitation and some elementary medicines.
Mr Duggal said the policy makers are interested in bringing sophisticated technologies; funds are pouring into areas like promotion of heath tourism; subsidising import of sophisticated equipments and development of private health care.
He said rural health services, which form the backbone of public health system, have almost collapsed; they lack basic infrastructure, staff and essential medicines.
Mr Duggal said instead of strengthening them, subsidies are being given to private players to establish super speciality hospitals .
"The health system in India remains the most privately-oriented in the world, digging peoples' pockets deep and causing indebtedness. All this clearly shows that the interests of certain influential section of society are being taken care off, whereas the vast majority remain neglected," Mr Duggal added.