Last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the government’s National Strategic Plan for Tuberculosis (TB) Elimination 2017-25 (NSP). Although parts of the programme are already under operation, the Indian government is expected to launch the NSP formally, at a mega-summit slated to be held from March 13-16, reported The Indian Express.
The NSP was drawn up based on TB eradication strategy formulated by the World Health Organization and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.
At this mega-summit, in which the Centre is inviting all chief ministers, the government will hope to generate the necessary impetus on the ground to further India’s push towards eradicating this debilitating disease by 2025 which is five years before the global elimination target of 2030.
“There are about 29 lakh new TB cases every year and about 4.20 lakh people, mostly poor, are estimated to die annually on account of TB, leaving lakhs of children orphaned. Economic loss on account of TB in India is estimated to be about Rs 20,000 crore per annum. We cannot allow such human tragedies for a disease which is treatable and for which drugs and diagnostics are available in the public healthcare system,” Prime Minister Modi had written in his letter to all chief ministers last year outlining the government’s plan. These are encouraging words.
Every day, the disease kills more than 1400 people in India. These figures do not even take into account hundreds and thousands of cases every year that are not diagnosed or misdiagnosed. In certain cases, these TB-related deaths are not even notified by the authorities at district hospitals.
The inadequate level of care at public healthcare facilities and inefficient, yet expensive, treatment at private clinics add to the problem. It is somewhat incredible that 50 years into its TB control programme, India has not made much of a breakthrough.
Despite the prime minister’s perceived sense of urgency, the Centre cut down its allocation to the NSP by a whopping Rs 4000 crore last year. From the Rs 16,000 crore envisaged under the NSP, the Centre allocated Rs 12,000 crore.
In fact, the joint monitoring committee set up to oversee the implementation of the government’s TB programme, had noticed “a growing gap between the allocation of funds and the minimum investment required to reach the goals of the plan.”