Feature Elections 2014

Manifestos for health: what the Indian political parties have promised

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2703 (Published 09 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2703
  1. Patralekha Chatterjee, journalist
  1. 1New Delhi, India
  1. patralekha.chatterjee{at}gmail.com

As India’s 1.2 billion people switch to election mode, how do the parties’ competing visions for health issues and the healthcare system stack up? Patralekha Chatterjee read the manifestos and spoke to the spin machines

Health is a critical question in a country that still has some of the worst indicators despite impressive economic growth over the past two decades. Yet in the raucous din of the public discourse about electoral arithmetic—which party gets how many seats in which constituency and the likelihood of post-poll alliances—there has been little discussion around health and healthcare.

This year’s general elections end on 12 May, and the focus has been on corruption scandals, the slowing economy, price rises, and governance. However, health is beginning to climb up the political agenda. Two national political parties have framed healthcare as a “rights” issue in their manifestos, though specifics on how this would work and be funded have not been detailed, and a third is promising radical reform.

Indian Congress Party

The Indian Congress Party, which leads the ruling coalition United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in Delhi, has promised a new charter of “rights” including the right to health, if it is voted back to power.1

This is part of the rights based agenda that UPA has been following. In 2009, the UPA enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act. The legislation, introduced with the promise of providing free and compulsory education to all primary school children, has pushed up enrolment. The proportion of out of school girls in the 11 to 14 age group has also gone down since last year. But learning outcomes, in terms of quality, have not improved.2 UPA has also brought in other rights based legislation.

Congress Party sources say the UPA recognises the …

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