New Delhi: Claiming that the free medicines scheme announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his last Independence Day speech has made little progress, public health professionals have urged him to take immediate steps to ensure its implementation.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan - an NGO of public health professionals, has said, "developments over the past year suggest that the programme will be silently shelved".
They said, "your announcement during last year`s Independence Day speech that free medicines would be distributed through government hospitals and health centres raised expectations in many quarters.
"A year since your announcement, we, representing the public health community are concerned that realisation of this declaration has made no progress."
Asking the Prime Minister to take immediate steps, they said, "We urge you to redeem this promise of making available free medicines in all public facilities and take immediate steps to implement such a scheme across the country."
They said the scheme has a potential not only of ensuring people`s right over access to essential medicines, but also in strengthening the public healthcare system as well as in tackling poverty.
The NGO said the scheme, if implemented, would have significantly changed the healthcare scene in India.
"Availability of medicines will contribute to the image of public healthcare institutions and will renew interest among public in these institutions," it said.
The organisation pointed out the budgetary allotment for the current year on the medicines scheme was a mere Rs 100 crore, though a realistic estimate would show an actual requirement of at least Rs 6,000 crores.
It said various surveys have reported that households in India spend significant amounts on medicines and expenditure on medicines account for 70 per cent of out of pocket expenses incurred by families on medical care.