Less than a week after Lancet, a leading medical journal, criticized PM Narendra Modi for not paying attention to the health sector in the country, the government has retaliated by rubbishing the remarks made by the journal's editor-in-chief, reported The Times of India.
The health ministry, in a letter to Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of Lancet said, "New policies and ideas are necessary but it is equally important to consolidate work being done to ensure that services actually reach the people they are meant for".
According to the TOI report, Rakesh Kumar, joint secretary in the letter further wrote, "...launching an alphabet soup of programme every quarter and not being able to implement them in true letter and spirit is a disservice to the people we serve."
Earlier this week, Horton, in an interview to The Times of India lambasted PM Modi for completely "dropping off" health from the political agenda. "I don't see any new policies, any new ideas, any significant public commitment and most importantly no financial commitment to the health sector," he told the newspaper.
However, the health ministry in a point-by-point rebuttal, termed the language used in the interview "derogatory" and "not borne by evidence" and said that the journal must "not become a tool in the hands of people with their own agenda for generating political controversies".
The letter said, "India has moved from strength to strength and some of recent initiatives will ensure improved outcomes for the most vulnerable."
Apart from stating down the governments achievements in the health sector, the letter also mentioned the new schemes that will be rolled out soon as part of its health agenda.
The TOI report further states, "The ministry said the government has invested to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore in 10 institutes of medical sciences and 58 district hospitals which will be converted into speciality medical colleges. This is apart from upgrading 70 existing medical colleges to become super-speciality centres."
Horton in the interview to TOI had said that "Since Modi has come in, health has completely vanished. India is on the edge. If PM Modi does not tackle health, India's economy combined with rising population is not sustainable. For India, health is an issue of national security. The government cannot protect the sovereignty of its nation, cannot ensure sustainability unless it has a healthy population. At present Modi has done nothing much to tackle the challenge".
Lancet will publish a paper on December 11 paper put to focus the work of Modi government's towards universal health coverage.
"In the paper, we will talk about health financing and service delivery. The problem in India is that health has just completely dropped off the political agenda. Before Modi came in, health was an issue that wasn't as high in the agenda as it should have been but it was definitely on the agenda. Since Modi has come in, health has completely vanished and this is a desperate predicament for the Indian population not having health as a central political objective of the government," Horton had said in the interview.