Budget 2021 Expectations: How Modi government’s Union Budget can build a fit India

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New Delhi | January 27, 2021 1:36 PM

Budget 2021 Expectations for Health, Education: The Covid pandemic year has shifted the priorities back to health and nutrition, as building immunity is the best defence against any viral attack.

Budget 2021 Health Education ExpectationsBudget 2021 Expectations: The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded food insecurity and malnutrition by disrupting people’s access to food

Budget 2021 Expectations for Health, Education: Covid pandemic has brought back the focus on health, nutrition and fitness. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has time to time stressed on the aforementioned aspects. Now it’s time for Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman make some announcements in Budget 2021 for the aspects of health, nutrition and fitness for building a stronger India.

“The Covid pandemic year has shifted the priorities back to health and nutrition, as building immunity is the best defence against any viral attack. A holistic nutrition program can ensure a healthy nation where we have at home a large number of people with ‘hidden hunger’. An increased spend on food-fortification will synergise the efforts of industry and the government to counter nutrition deficiencies in India; besides programmes like Mid-Day Meal, Integrated Child Development Services and Public Distribution System. Government of India, in its recent commentaries, has iterated the importance of food-fortification through rice which happens to be one of the key staple-foods of the country; and the Union Budget 2021 is expected to reflect that,” Rajesh Sahetiya, Senior Business Director, Human Nutrition and Health, South Asia at DSM said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded food insecurity and malnutrition by disrupting people’s access to food. Children have been among the worst affected with school closures depriving them of education and mid-day meals for a large part of the year. There is an urgent need to empower schools as an ecosystem for holistic child development through strategic investments. Considering the prevailing situation, we hope to see a higher allocation for the education sector and specifically for schools-based nutrition welfare programmes. Such investments will serve as an effective strategy to bring children back to school, eliminating school dropouts, especially in older children, ensure uninterrupted education and providing nutrition security. An increased budgetary allocation for nutrition programmes like the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) will strengthen them by enabling us to provide an enhanced menu, nutrition-dense snacks in addition to mid-day meals and fast-tracking the breakfast programme proposed in the National Education Policy 2020. In doing so, it will boost our efforts to address the nutrition gap that has widened during the pandemic.” Shridhar Venkat, CEO, Akshaya Patra Foundation, said.

“This is the right time and coming out of a year caught in a pandemic, Budget 2021 is the right time for the government to address the needs and concerns of India’s highly vulnerable population – the elderly through the upcoming Union budget. As per the latest reports, the share of elders, as a percentage of the total population in the country, is expected to increase from around 7.5 per cent in 2001 to almost 12.5 per cent by 2026, and surpass 19.5 per cent by 2050. In our view, we think it is significant to view the Central government budget estimates of 67,484 crore towards the health sector for the financial year of 2020-2021, in the context of the total spends of less than 0.05 per cent of the total health budget on mental health-related initiatives. Hence, the primary expectation from the government is to give special focus to the elderly and address the pressing issues pertaining to their physical and mental wellbeing by creating a robust health infrastructure and making more investments in mental health programmes to support them in general,” Saumyajit Roy, Founder, Emoha Elder Care, said.

“More recently, the Longitudinal Aging Study in India (LASI) study by the Ministry of Health and Family welfare highlighted the helplessness of the elderly. The report clearly states that 75 per cent of the elderly people suffer from one or the other chronic disease and 40 per cent of the elderly people have one or the other disability and 20 per cent have issues related to mental health. With nuclear families becoming much more prevalent, rise in life expectancy, and young people being compelled to stay away from families to work across geographies, most elders are compelled to live a life filled with loneliness and utmost anxiety,” Roy said.

“2020 was a year when the country’s fitness sector was hit hard due to lockdowns and the Covid-19 fear which mostly kept people away from offline gyms, fitness clubs, etc. Hence, at the outset of the new financial year, i.e. FY 2021-’22, the fitness industry is seeking tax reliefs, incentives and policy-level support from the Government, in order to enable momentum for recovery. Now more than ever, fitness needs to be made affordable and accessible to all sections of society. The Government should work towards promoting fitness-oriented, healthy lifestyles on a larger scale, and allocating more funds on preventive healthcare in the upcoming Budget 2021 can be a good idea,” Pallav Bihani, Founder and CEO, Boldfit said.

“The current GST rate of 18 per cent levied on fitness-related products and services in India is too high, and it has made fitness goods quite expensive for customers. Bringing down the GST for fitness products/services to the 5 per cent bracket would benefit the industry and the country at large. Further, the Government should also consider reducing GST for health-enhancing and immunity-building supplements (including vitamins, tablets and capsules), as well as lowering GST for privately-run gyms and fitness centres. At the same time, we would like to urge the Government to increase the import duties for health and fitness supplements that are manufactured in foreign countries; having higher import duties for such products would promote the consumption of India-made products, and thus contribute towards furthering the ‘Make-in-India’ campaign and ‘Aatmanirbhar Abhiyan,” Pallav Bihani said.

“Apart from increasing the overall share of public spending in healthcare, the health budget this year must focus on its integrated nature and adequate budgetary allocations must be made for: 1) primary healthcare, especially in rural and remote areas, ensuring trained manpower and diagnostic services, in addition to affordable and accessible secondary and tertiary care 2) preventive healthcare to control rapid spread of non-communicable diseases and lack of adequate nutrition for the young and vulnerable population, and 3) associated areas such as pollution control measures for air, water, and soil, and strengthening of supply chain, especially for perishable food items. At the same time, a separate allocation must be made for health communication for behavioural change that will nudge people to adopt healthy and sustainable consumption and behaviour in the medium-to-long run,” Kamal Narayan Omer, CEO, Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council said.

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