The Union Budget 2018-19 makes tall claims, with no clear road map for the health sector, one that is sensitive to the needs of the poor and the vulnerable population of India.
The allocations for Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) (including for AYUSH) have increased from Budget Estimate of Rs. 50,281 crore in 2017-18 Rs. 56,226 crore in 2018-19.
However, from 2017-18 (Revised Estimate) the increase is much lower, a mere Rs. 1374 crore, or just about 2.5 percent. This is a decline in real terms if we account for inflation, and Union Budget allocations for the health sector have stagnated at 0.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The 2017 target of National Health Policy (NHP) is 2.5 percent of GDP as health expenditure by the Government (both Centre and States) by 2025. However, with central allocations stagnating at the current 0.3 percent of GDP, it would not be possible to achieve this target.
My search for Mr Bhoi, whose sketch I present above, had started on the 1st of January 2017. It culminated sometime around the middle of May 2017 in Puri while on my sojourn to the state of Odisha for conduct of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s entrance exam. Between these two points in time I shall try to weave a tiny story, albeit a true one, of the hundreds of millions of our country’s women and men who live by the sweat of their brow but are expected to remain content with the brow beatings they get in return. Mr Bhoi to me emerges as emblematic of this goings on.
In the last week of December 2016 our ‘twosome awesome’ daughters – Moozna and Amaira, my wife and I had been on a vacation to Meghalaya. On our return back home we decided to have a teat-a-tea with the rhinos at the Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga in itself was a tame affair and is not relevant to the narrative I attempt to weave here. Rather your attention is solicited for something that transpired on our way back to Guwahati from Kaziranga.
Development is back in focus after the endless noise about cow protection, nationalism, Hindu-Muslim, janeus, Shiv Bhakti, Gorakhpur governance, casteism, love jihad, enemy nation and the rest. Why this talk about development now? Perhaps the dissent and protests on the ground by various sections in Gujarat in the last few years have compelled even the diehards to acknowledge (Mr. Amit Shah recently said ‘It is not my point that the issues raised in those agitations are not an issue’), that something is deeply problematic about the “Gujarat Model of Development”. The ASHA workers have taken to the streets demanding a living wage, regularized working hours and social security; dalits are no longer silent about the violence, indignity and intimidation heaped upon them; displaced families from Sardar Sarovar Dams have occupied streets seeking rehabilitation; farmers are demanding reprieve from a crisis to which they have had no hand in creating; tribals and evicted farmers are protesting against showpiece infrastructure projects which have meant their displacement and destruction of human habitations; and the youth from cultivating castes are seeking guarantee for jobs. The list is continuing.
(T)he economic dialectic is never active in the pure state; in History, these instances, the superstructures etc – are never seen to step respectfully aside when their work is done or, when the Time comes, as his pure phenomena, to scatter before His Majesty the Economy as he strides along the royal road of the Dialectic. From the first moment to the last, the lonely hour of the ‘last instance’ never comes. – Louis Althusser, For Marx, London: Verso 1979, p. 113
The event known to the world as the ‘October’ revolution in Russia – or simply as the ‘Russian revolution’ – took place on 7-8 November, a hundred years ago. But then why call it the October revolution? Thereby hangs a tale – the tale of modernity, myth-making and of a new imagination of Time.
As a matter of fact, the Revolution occurred on 25-26 October, according to the Julian calendar (so called because it had been promulgated by Julius Caesar), which Russia, along with a large part of the Western world, followed at that time. It was only in January 1918 that the Soviet government decreed the shift to the Gregorian calendar. The reason was that Russia should join ‘all cultured nations in counting time’, as a decree cited by historian Mark Steinberg put it. Accordingly, the first anniversary of the revolution was celebrated on 7 November 1918 throughout the Soviet Union.
What is interesting here is not so much the shift but the reason assigned for it – joining other ‘cultured nations’ of the world, which in the language of the early twentieth century meant only one thing – the modern West, which had long been setting the norm for everything desirable. Ways of ‘counting time’ too had to be aligned with Europe, lest one be considered insufficiently modern. Spatially, the Czarist Russian empire straddled both Europe and Asia, which had already, in the new reckoning of Time, been cast as ‘advanced’ and ‘backward’ respectively. The desire to become modern and join the ‘cultured nations’ was to run through the history of the revolution and its consolidation into the new Stalinist state. This desire was to be manifested in its deep distrust of the peasantry and rural life on the one hand, and in the frenetic drive to ‘catch up’ with Western Europe. As Stalin would say, he wanted to accomplish in a couple of decades what Europe had in a few centuries, compressing time, as it were, into one dizzying experience for entire society. The continuing ‘past’ had to be annihilated.
We the undersigned wish to place on record our opposition to the Aadhaar scheme which is being aggressively pushed by the government in complete violation of norms, procedures and Supreme Court orders.
Many of us have resisted enrolment. Many of us are already enrolled. But today, we stand together to say NO To Aadhaar.
We oppose Aadhaar because it violates our Constitutional rights and freedoms as citizens.
We oppose Aadhaar because it undermines the foundations of our democracy, disempowering us as citizens while giving government the means to control every aspect of our lives.
The mess created by Aadhaar is not a matter of poor implementation or “teething troubles” as claimed by the government. Aadhaar cannot be fixed with some tweaking and tinkering. It is fundamentally flawed and must be scrapped.
Last week, Prime Minister Modi gave an hour long speech denouncing ‘pessimists’ who refused to see the bright side of demonetisation and other transformations that his government’s able management had visited upon the economy.
Now, a set of surveys by the Reserve Bank of India have concluded that 65% of the 5100 metropolitan households polled feel the economic situation has either worsened or stayed the same. It’s a small sample, but the results are revealing. To quote :
Households’ current perceptions on the general economic situation remained in the pessimistic zone for four successive quarters, with the outlook worsening — RBI
For those you wondering – “four successive quarters” is a full year.
I would urge most readers to read the report in full, but here are some key takeaways:
“Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt”
–Dalit Scholar Rohith Vemula, who was institutionally murdered.
Often academic interests die a quiet death due to crassly political reasons but they die yet again, due to non-recognition and to their relentless reduction to the apolitical. Much as there must be emphasis on seeking solutions to the troubles that humanity is facing, it cannot be ignored that reducing the ‘root’ cause of everything to the realm of ‘apolitical’ can be academically simplistic and politically dangerous. And why must there be an obsession with relegating everything to the ‘apolitical’ domain? Why do journalists who continually work within political systems still consider depression to be something external to the sphere of politics? Why must there be academicians who discount historicity and complexity by equating violence with counter violence? And why, similarly, must there be politicians who condemn violence on ‘both sides’? Because, even a simple reading of the political should reveal its association with power, challenge its centralization, and more importantly the show up the invisibilization that generates hegemony.