Congress attacks central government over cuts in healthcare budget and falling rupee

NEW DELHI(PTI): Congress on Friday attacked government over reported move to cut of 20% in healthcare budget and the falling value of rupee, saying it marks “another U-turn’ on promises made by Prime Minister Narendra modi. “A major and regrettable decision has been taken by the government of India almost in stealth and surreptitiously to reduce health budget by 20%. BJP’s manifesto had earlier talked of over-arching health insurance. Modi ji had talked about a national health mission worth Rs 1.6 trillion,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.

“I fail to understand whether there is complete contradiction between the Office of the Prime Minister and that of the Finance Minister or they think that the country is gullible and can’t see through it,” he said. Singhvi noted that India’s spending on health is already low, only one percent of its total budget unlike China and US which spend 3 and 3.8%, respectively.

“Now this budget has further been slashed by Rs 6000 crore,” the Congress spokesperson said, adding the decision is not in the interest of the country and people at large. Targeting Modi, Singhvi said “it was claimed that a budget of Rs 1.6 trillion will be earmarked for healthcare. While allocating Rs 1.6 trillion is a far cry, they have slashed the budget further.”

Questioning “whether the BJP said lies only in its manifesto”, he said, “Is it another U-turn of the Modi government on which we had to release a booklet? Has the time come for us to release another booklet on U-turns?” Asked whether the party has any proof about slash in the health budget or only quoting a news report, Singhvi said the party was doing it after verifying the report and waiting for days for the government to respond. “Silence is proof of acceptance. It is in public domain but there is no answer from the Prime Minister or the Finance Minister. The slash in the health budget is absolutely reprehensible for the country,” he said.

Referring to the falling rupee, Singhvi said, “What happened to talks of strong nationalism, the jingoism, the 56-inches chest. In last six months, the value of rupees has fallen now to Rs 63.5 per dollar. We had brought it at the level of Rs 58.5 per dollar. Can I ask the Prime Minister now whose age in the Union Council of Ministers is the rupee now chasing,” the Congress spokesperson said.

In an election rally in Pune last year, Modi had launched a blistering attack on then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the downturn in economy had remarked, “When the country became independent, the rupee was almost equivalent to the dollar. Now, the rupee is falling and it looks as if it will reach the finance minister’s age (in terms of value in relation to US dollar)”.

The Congress spokesperson was also strongly critical of the BJP over the remarks of a Rajasthan MLA Prahalad Gunjal, who had threatened a doctor. “This is nothing but absolute unmitigated arrogance of power of those, who have been in power only for last six months this time and for less than 10 years since Independence. It deserves to be condemned strongly,” he said.

BJP had suspended the MLA.