Students participate in Swachh Bharat Mission. . Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Feb 1 : Although the Centre had to breach its fiscal deficit target in the current financial year to spur growth, the Budget document showed that the NDA government, in the first year of its second term, significantly lowered its expenditure on some of its flagship shemes including the Swachh Bharat Mission, Ayushman Bharat Mission and National Ganga Plan.

The revised estimates (RE) of allocation in the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) - Ayushman Bharat, commonly known as Ayushman Bharat mission, has been capped at Rs 3,314 crore, lower than half the estimate pegged at Rs 6,556 crore in the budget 2019-20. Hailed by the government as the largest healthcare mission in the world, Ayushman Bharat was launched as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The lower allocations in the revised estimates of several schemes follows the Finance Ministry's instructions to Central ministries recently not to push last minute expenditures.

The poor revenue projections and rising deficit has pushed the government into looking at savings from all available avenues. Government allocation to ministries falls victim to this austerity on numerous occasions.

A major component under Ayushman Bharat is that the scheme aims at providing health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation to over 10.74 crores poor and vulnerable families, around 50 crore beneficiaries. The website of the scheme says: "This initiative has been designed on the lines as to meet SDG and its underlining commitment, which is 'leave no one behind'." Revised allocation to the National Ganga Plan, a pet of the Narendra Modi-led government which aims to clean the river Ganga, during the ongoing fiscal, was slashed to half to Rs 353 crore, in comparison to Rs 750 crore, the budget estimates (BE) for FY20.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, which came to power in 2014, among other promises also assured to clean the river by 2019, but has since been extending the deadline with very little headway in that front, which has led to severe criticm of the government.

The much-hyped Swachh Bharat Mission also eventually received lower allocation of Rs 9,638 crore, compared to the FY20 budget estimate of Rs 12,644 crore.

Launched on October 2, 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission focusses on achieving universal sanitation coverage and to put focus on sanitation and bring bring about an improvement in the general quality of life by promoting cleanliness, hygiene and eliminating open defecation.

The initial target was to achieve the target of 'Swachh Bharat' (clean India) by 2019, as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th Birth Anniversary.

Another scheme introduced by the Modi-led government, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN), which aims to provide an income support of Rs 6,000 per year to farming families, also witnessed its actual spending decline in the ongoing fiscal.

Against the allocation of Rs 75,000 crore announced in the FY20 budget, the government allocated Rs 54,370 crore during the fiscal as per the revised estimates released on Saturday.

However, despite the eventual lower spending this fiscal year in all the mentioned schemes, the government, in this budget, has announced a higher or equal allocation as in the previous budget, which again seems to be an ambitious target.

The fund allocated in PMJAY-Ayushman Bharat in the FY21 budget is Rs 27,500 crore, higher than Rs 25,853 crore allocated in the previous budget. For the National Ganga Plan, the government has this time allocated Rs 800 crore, higher than Rs 750 crore allocated in the FY20 budget.

Rs 75,000 crore has been allocated for PM-KISAN, the same level as the outlay in the budget for the financial year 2019-20. For the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the government has allocated Rs 12,294 crore, against the previous budget estimate of Rs 12,644 crore. Although a bit lower than the previous budget estimate, the allocation for the cleanliness plan is still very high than the revised estimate for the ongoing fiscal.

(Rituraj Baruah can be contacted at rituraj.b@ians.in)

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