In theory, India has a universal public healthcare system, however, in practice, due to the lack of proper infrastructure and facilities and an inadequate workforce, along with widespread corruption and inefficiency, only a small portion of India’s population is able to benefit from this system. The rest are either forced to rely on the private sector, or on incompetent quacks. In recent times, thanks to our shift towards neoliberal economic policy, government expenditure on healthcare as a fraction of its total budget has gone down dramatically and national health policy has become more focused on providing support and encouragement to the private health sector. India spends 0.9% of its GDP on healthcare, the figure is higher even for countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. We believe that access to free and quality healthcare is a human right. There is an urgent need to formulate stronger policies and legislation which will lead to the universalisation of access to basic healthcare and social insurance.
Asha Parivar’s healthcare program is an effort to facilitate people’s access to the public health system. The program started without any organized effort with the falling ill of Lakshmi Narayan, health volunteer, Asha Ashram, Lalpur. Lakshmi had been detected with meningitis and was in a very serious condition. Another volunteer Manish helped him out with his recovery. After this incident, Asha’s health efforts started. People from villages coming to the city woud be helped with their health treatments. Two organizations have played a major role in supporting Asha’s efforts; Hari Om Seva Kendra and Ummeed Charitable Trust, both of which come under the aegis of King George Medical College. With the help of these two organizations, patients are treated at KGMC, Lohia Hospital and Balrampur Hospital.
Kiran Jaiswar is the main functioning volunteer under this program.
So far, there is no consistent source of funding for this healthcare program; Asha Trust helps people out according to their needs for tests and medicines or raises funds at a local level.