Mamata Banerjee pulls out of Ayushman Bharat

Kolkata: The West Bengal government has walked out of the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat scheme with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee saying she won’t let tax payers’ money to be spent on the programme.

Addressing a rally in Nadia district on Thursday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the state government would no longer contribute funds for the scheme, which according to her was a political gimmick.

The Ayushman Bharat scheme was merged with Bengal’s Swasthya Sathi health scheme under which the state government provided 40 per cent of the total cost.

“Why should we contribute to the scheme if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s face is on the letterhead with a picture of lotus, instead of the symbol of the Indian government,” Banerjee said.

She said the state funds needed for the scheme came from the tax payers’ money and she wouldn’t allow it to be spent for a central scheme.

With this move, Bengal became the sixth state to opt out of the scheme claiming it had better healthcare for the people. The others are Telangana, Odisha, Delhi, Kerala and Punjab, all having non-BJP governments.

She added her government was taking care of people’s health in the state.

The Swasthya Saathi scheme, which has been running in Bengal since 2017, provides paperless, cashless and smartcard-based facilities to its citizens. Basic health cover for secondary and tertiary care up to Rs 1.5 lakh a year through insurance is provided under the scheme.

The Ayushman Bharat national health scheme, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 28 from Ranchi, plans to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families which approximately comes to 50 crore beneficiaries.

Under the scheme, each family will get health coverage of up to 5 lakh rupees for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. The scheme replaced the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme.

Mamata said the Centre’s interference in the state’s affairs was an emerging trend. “They finished the CBI, the RBI, the banks and were promoting the loot culture,” she added.

She had recently announced that the state government would bear the entire 100 per cent of the crop insurance to farmers to prevent the Centre from taking credit for the state’s crop insurance scheme by bearing 20 per cent of the cost.