Presenting the Union Budget in the Lok Sabha, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday, 1 February, announced the launch of a mental health programme as the COVID-19 pandemic has "accentuated mental health problems".
The National Tele Mental Health Program will be launched for mental health counselling with NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences) as the nodal centre.
Seeking to lay a blueprint for the next 25 years, the finance minister stated that the government is confident of withstanding challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Talking about the Omicron wave, the finance minister said that the speed of India's vaccination campaign has helped greatly, and that she is confident that with 'Sabka Prayaas', this wave shall to be overcome.
Strengthening of the health infrastructure and the acceleration of the vaccination programme has generated 60 lakh new jobs, she added.
She also announced that an open platform for National Digital Health Ecosystem will be rolled out, under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission.
"An open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem will be rolled out. It will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities", Sitharaman added.
The Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, in a series of tweets, also described the healthcare aspect of the 2022 Budget.
'Public Health Not Prioritised, Little Mention of Healthcare'
Reacting to the Budget announcements, the Population Foundation of India observed that the Union Budget failed to prioritise public health.
Public health expenditure has been cut down from Rs 74,820 crore in the 2021-22 financial year, to Rs 41,011 crore for 2022-23.
Dr Naresh Trehan, the Chairman and Managing Director of Medanta hospital and Chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Council on Healthcare stated that the Budget has 'very little mention of the health care sector'.
"If you look at the Budget, there is a very little mention of health care, it occupies very little attention. Skilling is getting intensified, which is good because we need a lot of skilled manpower to assist with the healthcare delivery system," Trehan stated, news agency ANI reported.
Asserting that the mention of mental health is definitely beneficial, the Dr went on to say, "Finance minister mentioned that we have a robust health system since we survived the pandemic. It has become strong and all that is true, but the question is that is it future-ready?"
He stressed that the health Budget needs to aim for a robust infrastructure.
"We need high care tertiary hospitals to deal with pandemics like these. At some level, the smaller hospitals can handle the caseload. But you saw what happened in the second wave," the official said.
Sitharaman in the previous budget had allocated Rs. 2,34,846 crore to health care for FY22.
A 137 percent increase in healthcare expenditure had been announced in the previous budget, in which 1.8 per cent of India's GDP had been allocated.
In the Budget speech of FY21-22, the PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana was announced, in which Rs 64,180 crore would be spent on three areas - preventive, curative and well-being - over the next six years.
The Economic Survey that was tabled by the finance Minister on Monday, 31 January, forecasted that Indian economy will grow between 8 per cent and 8.5 per cent for the fiscal year starting in April (2022-23).
The BSE Sensex rose more than 800 points in morning trade and the NSE Nifty climbed to 17,500 on the morning of the Budget speech.
(With inputs from ANI.)