Public Health–A forgotten Concept

 Coronavirus 2

The COVID 19 has proved us how much public health system is important. They are emerging as the life-saver in most of the states. Shamelessly, the private health institutions have started projecting themselves, as ‘reserved army’ in this corona war may be to save their face. But they were the institutions who had closed their doors for patients of non-communicable disease like cancer, heart attack etc

Since 1947 and especially from planning commission led development model of Professor Prasnata Chandra Mahalanobis the public health services was the guiding principle of the Nation until 1980s. Since then, privatisation of health service was introduced. Gradually, the health has turned simply a commodity to earn more money with the tacit support of power politics. On the other hand, the common people are guided to believe that the privatization of health services is the panacea.

It can be reminded that in 1960s the Austrian economist and Nobel Prize winner Friedrich A. Hayek prescribed to handover the public health services to the market in his “The Constitution of Liberty”. He was father of modern capitalism. Gradually, the Hayek’s model led the world of health and Mahalanobis model limped. And what an irony, during this Coronavirus stage this limping structure of public health model has become the great saviour from Kashmir to Kochi.

What happened to India after introduction of this Hayek’s, the father of modern capitalism, prescription?

  1. 1. So far the finance is concerned, total health expenditure has always been around 1% of GDP.
  2. 2. This budget allocation is only to carry out the dilapidated health services and eradication of some continuously haunting diseases.
  3. 3. No new public health institute, except a few branches of AIIMS, is being promoted rather the health insurance is promoted at behest of insurance companies.
  4. 4. Since 1980s, the government has not opened in Bhubaneswar of Odisha any government hospital though the population has been increasing.
  5. Bhubaneswar city has now only one Government hospital, 22 big private hospitals / medical colleges and hundreds of Nursing Home for its 11 lakh population.
  6. 5. To face the extraordinary private health expenses, it is about 2% of population every year is joining the BPL category. They are selling their houses, lands, ornaments to meet the expenses of their kith and kin.
  7. 6. The public health contains three sides –a) Service provider, b) Service accepter and c) the State. The state is gradually withdrawn itself from its role as direct provider of health services.
  8. 7. The State has been assigned by the Health Corporates for bringing favourable policy, keeping police on high alert and pushing the judiciary to adopt time-consuming methods.
  9. 8. Every year thousands of doctors are leaving the country to serve the developed nations like the US, the UK, Australia, Canada etc. For example, during 1999-2000 54% of SIIMS passed doctors Left.(WHO bulletin). All most all of them were educated on public money and passed out from public hospitals.
  10. 9. There is no regulation in the country to keep them or pay back.
  11. 10. In US, every 5th doctor is a non-American and 61% of them are Indians.(Journal of Rural Health 2004.)
  12. 11. In 2009, Dr. Srinath Reddy committee pointed out that the health insurance cannot be a replacement of public health services in his 400 pages report which is now old newspapers only.
  13. 12. Finally, the public health system did not find any place in the Finance Minister’s distribution of 20 lakh crore rupees during time of Corona Pandemic. Irony is Corona brought a big health problem and the package was declared largely to help big private companies.

The situation is worsening now. The COVID19 has again proved that the public health system has no alternative throughout the world and it is essential for the country like India. In a developed society shelter, food, pollution free environment and education are basic rights of the people. And equally, health to all is also extremely essential and the basic right of the people.

The Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakha Sangathan, Odisha, requests all democratic forces to raise their voice once again against the marketization of health with a new vigour.

Prepared by : Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakha Sangathan (GASS), Odisha

Write to: The President, GASS, Odisha. Email:




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