Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Elections

Health under the spotlight in India’s 2024 election

BMJ 2024; 385 doi: (Published 18 April 2024) Cite this as: BMJ 2024;385:q844
  1. Kamala Thiagarajan, freelance journalist
  1. Tamil Nadu, India
  1. kamala.thiagarajan{at}

India’s marathon 2024 election process sees several health matters coming to the fore, including universal healthcare, the health workforce, and infrastructure. Kamala Thiagarajan reports

When Parth Sharma, a community medicine doctor at the Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, travelled to Tandi, a Himalayan village in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, he noticed the strong internet connectivity. The roads were well built, even in far flung corners of the state, and most vendors accepted payment with mobile apps. But when it came to medical care, the situation was incomparable.

An elderly man told him that the nearest primary healthcare centre was 20 km from where he lived—and once there, all that was available was antacid. If someone was very sick, they’d have to be taken to a hospital 60 km away, he told Sharma. The nearest multispecialty hospital was 100 km away. “His response put development in a sobering light for me,” says Sharma. “What’s the use of great roads and internet connectivity when a pregnant woman still has to travel hours to give birth safely or children in remote areas are still dying from diarrhoea?”

Nearly 970 million Indian voters will go to the polls over the next few weeks to decide the fate of a new government in the world’s largest democracy. The Indian elections are set to start on 19 April, with voting taking place over seven phases across the country.

Healthcare weighs heavily on voters’ minds, says Chandrakant Lahariya, founder-director of the non-profit organisation Foundation of People-Centric Health Systems, especially after the turbulent years of the covid-19 pandemic. Yet so far, healthcare has not been a major focus of campaigning—although it has been mentioned in some prominent political speeches.

“Health is a state matter, so smaller political parties in India [that represent specific …

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