Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her Budget speech that the government expected to spend ₹2,23,846 crore in the coming year on “health and well being... a 137% increase (from last year).” This includes a ₹60,030 crore outlay on drinking water and sanitation, a ₹2,700 crore outlay on nutrition — both of these are handled by separate ministries — nearly ₹49,000 crore as Finance Commission grants and ₹35,000 crore toward vaccination.
The Health Ministry expects to spend ₹71,269 crore in 2021-22 , an increase of roughly 9% from budget estimates of last year. But this will be less than what the Ministry actually spent last year. The ‘revised estimates’ in the budget documents show that the ministry spent ₹78,886 crore in the last financial year, about 20% up from the budgeted ₹65,012 crore.
Last year the Department of Health Research (DHR), which funds organisations such as the Indian Council of Medical Research, had budgeted ₹2,100 crore for the FY-2020-21. However, they are expected to spend upto ₹4,062 crore by March and for the coming financial year have budgeted ₹2,663 crore. The allocations in health also include spends by the Ministry of Ayush — about ₹2,970 crore — which is more than what's apportioned for the DHR.
Responding to the allocations, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said, “Investment on Health Infrastructure in Budget 2021 has increased... the focus on strengthening three areas — preventive health, curative health and well-being... will be of immense help to the country at this critical juncture.”
Ms. Sitharaman also announced a new centrally sponsored scheme, PM AtmaNirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana, that would be launched with an outlay of about ₹64,180 crore over 6 years to improve primary, secondary, and tertiary care health systems, strengthen existing national institutions, create new institutions, to cater to detection and cure of new and emerging diseases.
This scheme aims to support 17,788 rural and 11,024 urban Health and Wellness Centers, establish integrated public health labs in all districts, strengthen the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), its five regional branches and 20 metropolitan health surveillance units, establish nine Bio-Safety Level III laboratories and four regional National Institutes of Virology.
“The Finance Minister’s emphasis on healthcare spending and immunisation especially on COVID-19 and pneumococcal vaccines will help India rapidly recover from the pandemic,” said Mr Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India.
“The enhanced allocation along with the plan to look at healthcare as a whole by including nutrition, sanitation, clean drinking water and pollution control augur well for the country is a very welcome step,” said Prem Sharma, CEO, DaytoDay Health.
“Primary health care is getting more support... the strengthening of disease surveillance systems across the country is also needed for pandemic prevention and epidemic response,” said Dr Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India.
Mrs Suchitra Ella, Joint Managing Director, Bharat Biotech, commented, “The new health infra schemes with significantly higher outlay of ₹35,000 crore for Bharat’s mega COVID-19 vaccination drive is a huge fiscal medicine to contain the pandemic, reduce disease burden for the population, and the economy.”