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Now, a right to health to be Congress trump card

Manifesto likely to promise health coverage, insurance for all by raising health spend to 3% of GDP from 1.2%

Kavita Chowdhury  |  New Delhi 

With its back to the wall, the is pitching for what it hopes could be a game-changer in the polls: Universal health coverage or, simply put, the right to health. The party hopes this will have the kind of impact that the and the Right to Education have had for the in the past. It hopes the promise of free medicine, free medical tests at government hospitals, health insurance for the entire population, etc, will pay electoral dividends.

The manifesto, likely to pitch this landmark step, is expected to say that at present the public expenditure on health stands at 1.2 per cent of GDP and scaling it up to 3 per cent will be the party’s target should it return to power.

vice-president Rahul Gandhi has talked about pushing forward the party’s rights-based agenda through the right to health. The party had unleashed the electoral sop of free medicines in Rajasthan. That, however, did not benefit the Congress in the Assembly due to delayed and poor implementation. Now, the party is convinced that a promise to underwrite 100 per cent expenses related to health care would click with the masses. Under the health care section, the manifesto is likely to propose a National Health Mission covering rural as well as urban areas.

  • Educational loans without any security for SC students
  • Skill development vouchers of Rs 20,000


  • Free medicines and medical tests at govt hospitals, health care centres
  • National Health Insurance Programme for all, cashless prepaid insurance
  • National Health Mission covering both urban and rural areas
  • Five mobile health care vans for each of the 640 districts in the country
  • Creation of six million jobs in the sector by 2020

Along with this, a National Health Insurance Programme is likely to be proposed to cover the entire population, which would put in place a cashless prepaid insurance mechanism for all. At present, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana launched by the labour ministry covers only below-poverty-line families. To ensure that medical facilities reach remote areas, the party will promise five mobile health care vans for each district. The party will promise to create six million jobs in the health sector by 2020.

As emphasis on the social sector is an integral part of the Congress’s inclusive development agenda, the party has been discussing the possibility of ensuring shelter for all citizens. But, the financial implications of such a proposal have limited the party to settle for promising that the Congress will “work towards providing housing for all”.

The Indira Awas Yojana in rural areas and the Rajiv Awas Yojana in urban areas have been proposed to be expanded. The Congress Vice President in his recent interaction with salt workers in Gujarat had put forward his notion of development: "Not just roads but a floor under feet and a roof over your heads", said Rahul Gandhi.

The party's social sops also extends to "Empowering weaker sections", which entails SCs, STs , OBCs. Providing SC students educational loans without any security, skill development vouchers of Rs 20,000 for students from weaker sections and universal access to Rajiv Gandhi Research fellowships.

As the has succeded in getting passed the Manual Scavenging prohibition bill, the party will propose stringent implementation of it. That apart the Congress will also stringently push for implementation of the four per cent reservation in government procurement for small enterprises owned by SC/STs.

With a bevy of promises that will add to its existing kitty of rights to Food, Education, Employment, the Congress hopes to reverse the pessimistic electoral outcomes that are being predicted by pollsters.

First Published: Thu, March 13 2014. 00:59 IST