“Digital Health will be a Key Priority in India’s G20 Presidency”
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya says India remains alert about new variants of coronavirus and is on a mission to eradicate TB by 2025. A star campaigner for BJP in Gujarat, he says the party would win a record number of seats in the assembly elections. Edited excerpts from an interview with Prerna Katiyar: How many seats will BJP win in Gujarat? BJP will break its own record. I am not going into numbers but we will come up with a record win. But Congress limited BJP to 99 seats in 2017. The situation in 2022 is very different from 2017. Last time, the Patidar andolan had an impact. There was discontent among farmers as well. There was an anti-BJP perception in certain pockets. Also, that was an election fought in the absence of Narendra Modiji as CM in a long time. Still, we got a comfortable majority of 99. Today the old issues have been resolved. The farmers are happy as they are getting adequate price for their produce and water for irrigation; so are entrepreneurs and businesspersons. This time there is AAP. There is no triangular fight; no third party stands a chance. This is Gujarat. Tall leaders such as Shankersinh Vaghela left BJP and formed RJP (Rashtriya Janata Party). What happened next? He lost and got only four seats. Look at what happened to Keshubhai Patel? He formed his own party and got just two seats. People of Gujarat do not like parties that are here to distribute revdi (goodies). But no CM since Modi has been able to complete a full term in Gujarat. Is there a leadership crisis in the state? There is no such crisis. From Gujarat, we had Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Now we have Narendrabhai Modi and Amitbhai Shah. Chief ministers might have been changed but there is no lack of leadership. Last time BJP performed poorly in Saurashtra where Congress won 30 of 54 seats. This time we will get more than 35 seats. What impact will the Morbi bridge tragedy have on BJP in the polls? This is not a political issue. It was a tragic incident. Over 130 people lost their lives. We should focus on understanding why this happened, providing relief and ensuring that such an incident does not get repeated. Still, parties are trying to politicise the issue. Over a dozen Congress MLAs who joined BJP have got tickets. Won’t your angry workersturned-rebels hurt the party? BJP karyakartas never work with personal benefits in mind. Those who do not fit in, leave the party. The rebels are not in a position to hurt us. Last time Patidars turned towards the Congress. Will they vote for BJP now? Patidars have traditionally been BJP voters. In 2017, despite the andolan, a large number of them voted for us. In Surat, four seats have over 80% Patidars and we won. I come from Bhavnagar where Patidars are in a majority and we won six out of seven seats. Similarly, we won Ahmedabad comfortably. We won many Patidar-dominated seats. The number might have come down a bit but it is going to increase this time. Our old support base is coming back to us. Coming to your ministry, do you feel Covid is still a threat in India? India has completed over 219 crore Covid-19 vaccination and we will soon hit the 220 crore mark. We are focused on ensuring that more and more eligible beneficiaries get their precaution dose at the earliest. Although the number of active Covid-19 cases in India is 405, we are very vigilant and are keeping a close watch on activities across the world. Our research with respect to new variants and other emerging threats is going on vigorously. There is no laxity and lack of seriousness. Our scientists and doctors are working day and night to keep India safe from any Covid-19-related threat. India is one of 30 countries with the highest burden of tuberculosis (TB) cases. What is the government doing to eradicate this? The world has planned to eradicate TB by 2030, but in India under PM Narendra Modi, we have planned to eradicate TB by 2025. To achieve this, President Droupadi Murmu recently launched the Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan and Ni-Kshay 2.0 Portal. Under this, over 10.2 lakh TB patients have consented to receive community support. Almost all TB patients have found a helping hand from Ni-Kshay Mitras. Our ‘Adopt A TB Patient’ initiative has received global applause from WHO. The government is fighting TB in mission mode. We have strengthened the diagnostic facilities, increased TB testing and improved the treatment success rate. Also, under the Aashwasan campaign, over 1 crore persons were screened in 174 tribal districts and door-to-door screening for TB was undertaken, covering 68,019 villages. Can you elaborate on ‘Heal in India’ and ‘Heal by India’ initiatives? People from different countries are coming to India for treatment as we have a world-class healthcare ecosystem at affordable prices. To boost medical tourism, we have launched the ‘Heal in India’ programme. Similarly, the government has started the ‘Heal by India’ programme to provide an opportunity for our medical workforce to travel all over the world and contribute towards a healthy global society. We are working relentlessly towards making India a global medical value hub by strengthening our traditional medicine industry and boosting ‘Heal in India’ and ‘Heal by India’ initiatives. There is a huge shortfall of specialists in community health centres in rural areas. How does the government plan to fill this gap? The government is investing significantly in increasing the workforce in the health sector. The funds spent on the National Health Mission is greater than the overall health budget of 2013-14. The number of ASHA workers has increased from 8.95 lakh in 2013-14 to 10.78 lakh in 2021-22; the number of PHCs working 24×7 has increased from 8,421 in 2013-14 to 11,144 in 2021-22. The ministry has set a target of distributing 10 lakh Ayushman Bharat cards per day by December. Will you meet the target? We are confident of achieving our target very soon. As of now, we are creating around 7 lakh Ayushman cards daily. What steps are being taken to update the Digital Health initiative? Digital health is the future. Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) has revolutionised the digital healthcare landscape of India. Under ABDM, over 26.84 crore IDs have been created. There are 1,70,907 verified health facilities and 97,857 verified healthcare professionals. We are strengthening digital health interventions. Over 7 crore teleconsultations have been performed through eSanjeevani. India emerged as an example for its successful Covid-19 management and vaccination — a big credit for this goes to our innovators who came up with digital solutions. CoWIN, Aarogya Setu and other digital endeavours significantly strengthened India’s collective fight against Covid-19. Digital health will be one of our key priorities during India’s G20 presidency. What is the government’s roadmap for healthcare by 2024? We are leaving no stone unturned to make healthcare affordable and accessible to all. We are expanding and strengthening our health infrastructure at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Modiji has launched the Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission to strengthen critical healthcare networks from village to national level in the next four-five years. ABDM is creating the necessary ecosystem for delivering efficient and inclusive universal health coverage for people even in the remotest corner of the country. Similarly, the largest health assurance scheme in the world is being implemented under the Ayushman Bharat PM-JAY, providing a health cover of `5 lakh per family per year. From medical education to mental health, from traditional medicines to digital health, each and every aspect of healthcare is being taken care of. A healthy and prosperous India is our ultimate goal.