UPA’s ‘ healthy’ plan to win urban voters

By Neetu Chandra in New Delhi
THE UPA government is trying to reach the hearts of voters through their stomachs.
A week after it cleared the food security ordinance promising subsidised food to 67 per cent of the population, the government is now planning to roll out an ambitious health programme that would take care of the financial burden of the people suffering from lifestyle ailments such as diabetes, heart problem and obesity.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has planned to spend over ` 10,000 crore on preventing lifestyle diseases in India. If approved by the finance ministry, this will be the largest health spending in the country after the polio campaign. Under this programme, people suffering from diabetes, heart disease and obesity would be entitled to free screening and free medicines in all government- run hospitals.
The health ministry had rolled out National Programme for Prevention and Control of Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke ( NPDCS) in 2010. It was aimed at covering 100 districts in India, which was found lacking in tertiary healthcare facilities. The initiative, however, could not gain momentum and only 30 per cent of the total targeted population could be screened under the programme till April this year. Despite its sluggish pace, the ministry has decided to expand the ambit of NPDCS. It had made a proposal to the finance ministry last month, by which another 225 districts, including Delhi, would be added to the programme, with an additional expenditure of ` 10,000 crore in the initial stage.
The health ministry plans to unveil this programme by this year- end. It is expected to address the concerns of a large chunk of the urban voters.
According to the 2011 Census, one out of every three Indians are staying in towns and cities. The urban voters had rallied behind the Congress in the 2009 general elections. The UPA won 115 out of the 201 urban Lok Sabha constituencies.
With elections round the corner, the Congress managers are trying hard to win back the urban voters.
“ Diseases like Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD), stress, obesity, kidney diseases, chronic asthma, cancer and others will also be added into the programme,” Dr D. C. Jain, Deputy Director General ( Non- Communicable Diseases), health ministry said.


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