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The Government Should Put Money Where The Public’s Mind Is

As India becomes the most populous country and the fifth largest economy, the country's Central Government released its 2024 budget. This budget is promising for some, like the railways, but not so much for others. Of the total outlay of about 48 trillion rupees (580 billion US dollars), only 1.9% went to health. In fact, the top ten ministries with the most allocated funds do not include health or even other areas of social development related to health including education, housing, or women and child development.   

This goes against the Indian public’s political priority and the ruling political party’s promises. A 2022-23 survey by Statista of over 24000 18-54 year-old Indian consumers found that ahead of India’s election, 36% of respondents noted that they care about health and social security. The category ranked fifth, above crime, inflation, government debt, and terrorism. Clearly, the government’s money is not where the Indian public’s mind is. Our previous work has noted that of the 37 milestones related to agriculture, education, infrastructure, health, governance, and inclusive development set by the ruling party in their past political manifesto, only 9  were achieved. Progress is urgently needed on majority milestones. 








Spending on health and broader social development has been neglected in India. Government spending on health has consistently been less than 2.5% of the GDP for the last several decades. India also belongs to a small group of countries whose military expenditures far exceed their health expenditures (by about 2.9 times!). A caveat here could be that health is typically the responsibility of the states and perhaps that’s why the national budget does not focus on it. However, the state expenditures on health are even further poor. In 2019-20, 25 of the 31 states spent less than 2% of their state GDP on health with eight states spending less than even 1%. 

Given the large population size, massive disease burden, and multiple health challenges, it is high time that the Indian government raises its health expenditure to the recommended level of 5% of GDP to achieve universal health coverage for 1.4 billion people. 

Edited by Parth Sharma

Photo by VD Photography on Unsplash


Siddhesh Zadey

Siddhesh Zadey is the Co-founding Director of non-profit  think-and-do tank - Association for Socially Applicable Research (ASAR) based in India and the Chair of the SOTA Care in South Asia Working Group of the G4 Alliance.