Ayushman Bharat Beneficiaries: Do They Exist

Ayushman Bharat has been launched with big fanfare. It is being touted as the game-changer for the Narendra Modi government. Ayushman Bharat aims to provide health insurance to 10 Cr families. It is deemed as the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme covering around 50 Cr beneficiaries. It will target rural families and identified occupational category of urban workers’ families – 8.03 Cr families in rural and 2.33 Cr in urban areas, to be precise.

I tried to figure out who these beneficiaries are for Ayushman Bharat. After going through the government defined parameters for eligibility, I had below doubts regarding the Ayushman Bharat beneficiaries:

Occupational Category for Urban Beneficiaries

For the urban beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat, the government has identified rag-pickers, beggars, sweeper, washer-man, electrician, mali, tailor, chowkidar etc. Everybody in India knows that our government has no credible data on employment being generated in the country. At best, we have EPF and ESIC data, other than that no data exists.

Now, if there is no employment data available, on what basis is the government going to identify people engaged in these occupational categories for Ayushman Bharat? Again, there is no given that the person who is working as chowkidar today does not start working as Swiggy delivery-man tomorrow. All these occupations are highly dynamic. The data just does not exist anywhere, leave aside the updation.

It needs to be remembered that a person cannot register himself for Ayushman Bharat. I am unable to understand how the government has identified beneficiaries of urban India at 2.33 Cr families. Because, if the government actually knows this number, then it surely would know the jobs creation data for the country.

Deprivation Category for Rural Beneficiaries

The point number three for eligibility of rural beneficiaries states the requirement as “Female-headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59”. I seriously doubt if there are 8.03 Cr families in rural India that fulfil this requirement.

The point number two for the eligibility is even more stringent. It states “Households with no adult member between age 16 to 59”. How many households are practically possible with everybody in the family either below 16 years or more than 59 years?

It is plainly evident that almost entire of the rural beneficiaries are made by point number five “SC/ST households”. I do not expect the government to have any data available for the other criteria.

Why the difference between the identification of rural and urban beneficiaries?

If the government has identified deprivation as a criterion for identification of rural beneficiaries for Ayushman Bharat, why not the same criterion for urban beneficiaries?

Is the government implying that SC/ST households in urban India are not deprived?

Is the government implying that occupational categories applicable to urban India beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat are not a part of deprivation in rural India?

Requirement of Mobile Number

The government of India has informed that an Additional Data Collection Drive (ADCD) was conducted on 30th April 2018 at Gram Sabha’s across India to capture active mobile number and ration card number of a family of the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) database. If the individual got his/her Mobile number or Ration card number captured during this drive, only then they will be the beneficiaries.

Under this scenario, how will those without mobile or not captured by the data collection drive – tribal groups, homeless people, rag pickers, etc.- will benefit from this scheme?

Beneficiaries should not have bike/landline/fridge

Recently, the government figured out that ministers, MLAs, government officials were getting identified as the beneficiaries of the Ayushman Bharat.

If would have been interesting to know which deprivation categories of rural India or occupational categories of urban India were these people fulfilling. Nonetheless, the government in hindsight raised the bar significantly high. It has now excluded people having bike/landline/fridge from the Ayushman Bharat beneficiaries list.

The SECC census could not identify people with bike/landline/fridge and included them. How the government is going to exclude them now?

Conclusion

I can go further picking holes in the beneficiaries’ criteria, but that is not the point.

The point remains that the government is clueless about identifying the real beneficiaries for what could actually be a good scheme. Again, the country will be let down.

The Ayushman Bharat execution is equally flawed, if not more.

A parallel narrative on how the real Ayushman Bharat should be.

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