Why not have only public healthcare, education?

If the vocal middle class has a stake in it, the quality of services at government schools and hospitals will improve

ridhima

Ridhima Kumar | January 3, 2019 | Delhi


#Jan Aushadhi centre   #NITI Aayog   #healthcare   #private   #public school   #government hospital   #RTE  
Illustration: Ashish Asthana
Illustration: Ashish Asthana

It happens in the US, UK and many other developed countries, then why not in India? The word ‘sarkari’ is scary enough for the Indian middle class, leave alone the elite. Even as the admission season approaches there are kilometre-long queues outside the country’s best private schools. Government-run or public schools on the other hand stare at blank walls – their dismal infrastructure and limited teachers make them attractive to the poor only. Similarly, overcrowded government hospitals are not even the last option for the majority.

This doesn’t mean that the private sector doesn’t exist in developed countries. It is very much there like in India, but being extremely expensive, it is the sole reserve of the ultra elite. Moreover, with their world-class infrastructure facilities and quality service, public schools and hospitals are the first choice of the masses.  

Then what makes the public sector in healthcare and education so hopeless in India? One of the reasons is meagre government spending to strengthen the infrastructure. A NITI Aayog report says, the spending on education by both the centre and states is close to 3 percent of GDP, which is less than the world average (according to World Bank) of 4.7 percent. Similarly, we spend just 1.16 percent of the GDP on health, whereas our neighbour, Sri Lanka, spends four times more.
 

Think

Affordable and quality service to all citizens
. . .
Curb the growing monopoly of the private sector
. . .
If the vocal middle class has a stake in it, the quality of services at government schools and hospitals will improve

There have been efforts by the Indian government to make public education and health sectors all inclusive, but they get lost in shoddy implementation. For example, the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which envisions compulsory and free education to children, makes it mandatory for private unaided schools to reserve 25 percent of their seats for the students from the economically weaker backgrounds. A necessary step indeed, but there have been many instances where the private schools have refused to admit students under the RTE due to non-payment of fees of such students by the government. Also, such students face huge adjustment problems in private schools: their classmates come from homes that are well-off and enjoy many advantages they can’t dream of. Moreover, the Act in a way is making an effort to make private schools accessible to the poor, whereas the aim should be to improve the infrastructure of state-run school in the first place.
 
In the same way, Ayushman Bharat, a health insurance scheme aiming to provide Rs 5 lakh per family annually, is making all the necessary efforts to bring world-class healthcare to the poor. But its implementation is mired in controversies.
 
In such a situation, what can we do? One idealist scenario: let’s have only public schools and hospitals throughout the country. Then everyone – the rich and the poor – will go there, and the government will be forced to improve its quality and infrastructure. The private sector can co-exist for limited kinds – specialised or emergency – of services. Remember the laudable move by the district magistrate of Chamoli, Swati S Bhadoriya, who enrolled her son in a nearby anganwadi centre? The Delhi government’s initiative of increasing its budget on education and improving the infrastructure, cleanliness and quality of education of government schools offers a ray of hope.
 
Moreover, capping stent prices at Rs 35,000 and opening up of more and more Jan Aushadhi centres (generic medicine stores) is a good start.
 
Where there is a will, there will be ways. 
 
Reality check
India suffers from the problem of high population numbers, which is also the root cause of the ever increasing gap between the ratio of doctors and patients and teachers and students. As explained earlier, there are Acts and there are efforts but corruption and shoddy public delivery services kill noble intentions.
 
ridhima@governancenow.com
(This article was published in January 15, 2019 edition)

Comments

 

Other News

On a personal note: DIVINE

An underground rapper who grew up on Mumbai streets, Divine spins his music around his environment and poverty. His breakout single, ‘Meri Gully Mein’, along with fellow rapper Naezy caught Bollywood’s attention. The Hindi film ‘Gully Boy’ is inspired by their lives and gr

The role model for an IAS officer

Anil Swarup, an IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre who retired in 2018, is a model bureaucrat who retained his optimism right till the end of service and exemplified dedication and commitment. His excitement at the opportunities that a job in the IAS provided is evident on every page of his new book publis

Reform of the civil services: At home and away

The question of reform of the civil services has been debated extensively at all levels at least over the last five to six decades after independence. Indeed, it was soon perceived that the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) may not be well equipped to deal with the problems of an emerging developing coun

The greatest challenge for any government

Shouting vengeance at all and sundry while wriggling out of holes of our own making seems to be our very special national characteristic. Some recent instances are illustrative of this attribute. A number of business tycoons with thousands of crores of unresolved debts have fled abroad with the government

The mysterious case of CBI’s legality

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) came into existence, based on a Resolution of the home ministry, dated April 1, 1963 – a sheer coincidence that it also happens to be April Fool’s day. Over the past few months, we have seen the CBI live up to its founding day with great zeal, being i

The Evolution of Modi

Gujarat was passing through a turbulent phase in the 1980s. The decade began middle class agitations against new reservation policies, and the caste friction turned communal under the watch of chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki, alienating majority of urban population on both counts. The ground was ripe for

Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter