-By Manzoor-ul-Hassan

Ayushman Bharat has gained momentum in India and attractedthe world’s attention following the announcement by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi saying that 10.74 crore families will be covered under the free healthcare scheme in the country. He also claimed that the scheme will provide universal health coverage too poor families without any financial burden on them.

Ayushman Bharat (AB) has been declared as the biggest health insurance scheme in the world by the Prime Minister while the Union Health Minister, J P Nadda says his ministry will create a history of sorts with the implementation of  ‘first-of-its-kind health benefit scheme’ across the country.

Besides, new beneficiaries, the scheme has incorporated families already covered under Rashtra Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), which was launched by UPA government in 2008. The UPA had announced three stimulus packages in the same year including Rs 71,000-crore farm loan waiver without much resentment from the state government.

Ayushman Bharat program aims to cover 76 per cent beneficiaries belonging to rural areas while 22 per cent are from an urban background. It says the central government will provide 60 per cent of the financial assistance while the state governments have been asked to contribute the remaining 40 per cent to every beneficiary.

The benefits, as claimed by the government and PM, make the scheme very popular among many poor families. However, many probable beneficiaries have been left-out because the program only covers BPL families registered in Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011.  

Although more than 50 crore Indians have been covered under the insurance scheme as per the official claims but people from other economically weaker sections who regularly face debt following different diseases and families with the monthly income of Rs 10,000 have been dropped.

As per the guidelines, families owning a fridge or a landline phone or even a water pump also stand in the elimination list

The rules have also eliminated a cross-section of the society especially the labour class who earn a meagre monthly salary.

According to Trading Economics Global Macro Models and Analysts’ Expectations, the average daily wage (labour rates) in India is nearly Rs 350. The average daily wage rate is likely to trend around Rs. 375-400 per day and monthly it comes above Rs. 10,000. That means the central government (or PM), otherwise and incidentally accepted that above 50 crore Indians do not have an income of even Rs 10,000/- per month.

Since the scheme has covered 50 crore people in India, this means nearly 50 crore people in India have no access to refrigerators, motorcycles or even a water pump etc.

Income tax payers or landline phone users are obviously out of this but a family that owns a refrigerator, motorised vehicle (2 wheeler, three or four-wheeler), a fishing boat etc shall also stay away from the free healthcare benefits under the scheme and thus stands clear-off.

The farmers having Kisan Credit Cards with a credit limit of Rs 50,000 is also in the elimination list. They will not get reimbursements from Ayushman Bharat. This means, a long list of small-scale farmers is also kept out and even if a family with 2.5 acres of land or irrigation equipment is also not in the list of beneficiaries and so on.

Citing some of the above reasons and other pretexts, West Bengal pulled out of the scheme, accusing the Narendra Modi-led NDA government of ‘playing dirty politics’ under the garb of the health coverage programme. Like-wise, few other states also withdrew from the scheme. The government must include all probable beneficiaries in the scheme to make it inclusive otherwise it will prove a failure.