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What The BJP Promised On Health Care And What It Delivered

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.


India is witnessing a collapse of the healthcare system. People are having to resort to social media to arrange life-saving resources for loved ones. Those volunteering to curate and share resources are receiving threats from the police, and in UP’s case, threats of seizure of property for highlighting oxygen shortage from the CM himself. What makes all of this hurt more is that this total collapse could have been avoided by preparing the healthcare system if the system (read Indian government) had actually improved the healthcare sector.

The BJP has made many statements regarding improving the healthcare sector, not just in the pandemic but during both its terms in power. However, most of those promises have remained unrealised and ignorant of the reality.  

What They Said Before The Pandemic

I hope and pray that the poor don’t have to visit hospitals, but, if they do, the Ayushman cover will be at their service. The poor of my country must get all facilities that the rich enjoy,” – Narendra Modi On Ayushmann Bharat, September 23rd, 2018

Health does not simply mean freedom from diseases. A healthy life is everyone persons’ right. The onus for this is on our government to make every possible effort to ensure this.- Narendra Modi at a UN Meet, September 23rd, 2019

We are committed to leveraging all resources to ensure that the out-of-pocket expenditure on health is reduced and all citizens can avail necessary medical services.” – BJP manifesto

The Reality

As for the first and second claim, the dire state of India’s faulty vaccination policy is a big contestation to this claim. The way the market has been opened to private enterprises highlights the harsh reality of the class divide in India. The high prices of Rs. 600 and Rs. 1200, by Serum and Bharat Biotech respectively, will only deter Indians from taking the vaccine.

Furthermore, the reality is that India has a total of 5 hospital beds for 10,000 people according to the Human Development Report in 2020. Our country’s rank in hospital bed availability is 155th out of 167

India’s dependence on the private sector has only led to these limited beds going at a premium price or not being available at all. While some states like Delhi placed a price rate cap on private hospitals, the centre has not done the same throughout the country. 

India spends a meagre 1% of its GDP on GDP on public health, ranking 170 out of 188 countries on this count. Rural India has it worse with even basic healthcare being a privilege a few can afford.

A Lancet study estimated that 4,300 Indians die every single day due to the poor quality of healthcare in non-pandemic times. India has the largest number of TB deaths in the world with more than 1200 people dying every day. Affordability and social exclusion due to various factors of caste, gender and geography worsen the discrimination in access to healthcare system.

According to Oomen Kurian, head of the health initiative at Observer Research Foundation in a 2019 article by The Wire on BJP’s manifesto promises, health has been severely neglected and the BJP has simply got the benefits of previous government’s health projects.

He said, “While health was largely neglected in the current government’s initial years, it has since been able to consolidate gains from the previous government’s work and make a creditable plan.” He also referred to BJP’s first term work on healthcare as the UPA-3 Act and the one from 2019 onward as the UPA-IV act.

Hence, the above-mentioned claims fall flat and paint a rosy picture of a system tainted with bad reforms and neglect.

A BJP rally was held in Telangana on 27th April 2021. Image Credit: BJP Telangana Twitter.The photo has now been deleted. The very fact that the parties didn’t think twice before conducting these rallies during the pandemic shows how India’s governance views the healthcare system.

What They Said During The Pandemic

While Prime Minister @NarendraModi’s leadership in handling Covid-19 has outshined several developed nations, he has resolved to prepare India for any such pandemic in the future, by strengthening and revamping India’s health sector.Amit Shah, May 17, 2020

During the pandemic, India has made a quantum leap in the health sector and the health infrastructure and services will reach every village under the ‘Prime Minister Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Bharat Yojana. “Our sensitive Prime Minister @narendramodi has announced ₹35,000 crore fund for vaccination against coronavirus. This shows Modi’s resolve to make India coronavirus free. I thank Modiji for this”- Amit Shah On The Budget, 1st February 2021 

“The world has watched us closely and India has shown its strength during the pandemic. The country’s healthcare sector’s reputation and trust are at a new level all over the world. From medical equipment to medicines, from ventilators to vaccines, from scientific research to surveillance infrastructure, from doctors to epidemiologists, we have to focus on everything and all this is aimed at being better prepared for any health disaster in the future.” – Modi at a seminar, 23rd February 2021

We don’t feel there is a lack of healthcare infrastructure even though COVID is spreading so fast. Oxygen will reach everywhere within 2 daysAmit Shah, 20th April 2021

The Reality

The global media has come down heavily on the Modi government for their massive neglect of the pandemic and this is telling of the governance surrounding the pandemic.

Photo: The Telegraph

Under the BJP, India’s vaccination program has been slow, vaccines soon might be unaffordable after Modi’s decision to liberalize it, and the lack of hospitals and beds can be seen in the desperate pleas on social media and the ever-burning crematoriums. What’s worse are the actions of putting up walls around crematoriums and online censorship of relief work happening on social media. It makes one wonder if the government wants to hide its failure.

As for every village getting healthcare, reports from UP state that people are dying before even getting a chance to get tested for the disease. With the numbers of COVID deaths increasing every day, so many of them unreported, we are reaching a point where stories are becoming a statistic. Numerous quotes and comments by multiple Ministers denying lack of oxygen, calling out hospitals and asking action to be taken against the ones who are telling the reality of lack of oxygen are considered attempts at shutting down the truth in such glaring times.

The current state where people are moving from pillar to post to avail themselves of the most basic necessities of beds and oxygen is a stinging glimpse of India’s broken healthcare system. The results of 7-year policy neglect towards healthcare are sadly visible today. 

Some Tweets from the last two days:

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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