One major initiative could be a national scheme to extend medical insurance worth Rs 5 lakh each to more than 20 crore people.
New Delhi: The Modi government is set to significantly enhance the outlay for the social sector in its last full general budget due to be presented next week.
Health, education and agriculture are areas that are expected to get special attention. One major initiative is expected to be a national scheme to extend medical insurance worth Rs 5 lakh each to over 20 crore people, sources told ThePrint.
The NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often been accused of neglecting the social sector and the government hopes to change that perception with this initiative, the sources said.
A revamped national health insurance scheme — likely to be named ‘Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Samajik Surakasha Yojana’ — is also being considered. Under this, three possible variants could be rolled out — Rs 5 lakh insurance for more than 20 crore people, Rs 3 lakh insurance for 10 crore Indians or Rs 2 lakh for 5 crore citizens.
The umbrella scheme is likely to club another 2-3 schemes to pitch it as a complete health package.
The existing National Health Protection Scheme announced in the 2016 budget provides for Rs 1 lakh insurance cover to economically disadvantaged families.
Recently, Prime Minister Modi is learnt to have chaired a meeting of ministers and senior officials from the social sector ministries to work out a budget with a strong ‘social’ message.
ThePrint has learnt that the government is also considering a major re-look at financing infrastructure in higher education institutes. The government is expected to call for a new approach that allows greater funding of institutes on a project-to-project basis and also with commitments to raise resources on their own rather than the dole out/grant mechanism.
The Modi government, since it came to power in 2014, has been emphasising on the need for autonomous, government funded institutes to switch to more self-sustaining modes. A series of recommendations has already been sent across ministries to streamline autonomous institutes, consolidate funding and even merge institutes where possible.
School education is also likely to get a promising outlay to implement its current flagship missions such as Mid-Day Meal, Right to Education Act and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan but an emphasis on learning outcomes could also be built in, the sources said.
Last year’s budget did not particularly see purse strings being loosened for the education sector. A 10 per cent increase in allocation for education to Rs 79,685 crore was announced in last year’s budget. There was a strong emphasis on reform and quality upgrade across schools and higher education sectors — a theme that is likely to be reflected again this year.
With reports of farm distress coming in from various parts of India, including the poll-bound states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, some major announcements are expected on the agriculture area as well.
Since the availability of funds is already quite high in the rural development ministry for its programmes, more focus on policy initiatives may be directed in that area, the sources said.