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Cabinet Approves Plan to Set-Up 20 AIIMS

The construction of new AIIMS will be fully funded by the Central government. It will also bear the operations and maintenance expenses of these facilities.

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AIIMS Rishikesh, wikimedia commons
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The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved a plan to set up 20 All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) across the country, six of which have already been established, and to upgrade 73 medical colleges.

The decisions are part of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY), which has been extended by two years till 2020, with a financial outlay of Rs 14,832 crore, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters while briefing on the cabinet decisions.

“Under this (PMSSY), we are going to set up 20 AIIMS in the country, six have already been established, and would upgrade 73 medical colleges. This is a historic decision,” said the Union Law and Information Technology Minister.

The construction of new AIIMS will be fully funded by the Central government. It will also bear the operations and maintenance expenses of these facilities.
Narendra Modi, wikimedia commons

The decision to extend the PMSSY was aimed to meet the shortfall in healthcare professionals and facilities across the country.

“Setting up of new AIIMS would not only transform health education and training but also address the shortfall of healthcare professionals in the region… Setting up of new AIIMS in various states will lead to employment generation for nearly 3,000 people in various faculty and non-faculty posts in each of the AIIMS,” said an official statement.

The construction of new AIIMS will be fully funded by the Central government. It will also bear the operations and maintenance expenses of these facilities.

The upgradation programme broadly envisages improving health infrastructure through construction of super specialty blocks, trauma centres and others, according to the statement.

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The procurement of medical equipment for existing as well as new facilities will be done on sharing basis by both Central and state governments.

“PMSSY was started during the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to provide quality healthcare in remote areas as it’s not right to put all the pressure on AIIMS in Delhi. There were talks of setting up six AIIMS. But what happened in the next 10 years is for all to see,” said Prasad. (IANS)

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Fall Of The Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India ‘s Turmoil

The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars.

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India
Rajesh Kumar, left, shares a ride to work with another employee, Dilip Swain, right, as higher petrol prices in India begin to be felt in people's pocketbooks.VOA

The fall of the currency of India to record lows and rising global oil prices have raised worries that the world’s fastest growing economy faces headwinds that could hurt the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in next year’s general elections.

From people filling fuel at gas stations to thousands of students heading out to study overseas, the impact of the slumping rupee is sparking discontent.

Having plunged by about 12 percent against the dollar this year, the rupee is one of Asia’s worst faring currencies, and as in other countries, the slide has accelerated since the crash of the Turkish lira.

“The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in last few months, dollar has strengthened against almost every currency,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently as he tried to send out reassuring signals that India’s economy is on track.

India
The rupee has plunged by about 12 percent this year raising fears of spiraling inflation. VOA

The rupee’s sharp depreciation comes at a time when the economy had recovered from a slowdown and surged to a two-year high in the quarter that ended in June. Forecasts put growth for this year at 7.5 percent.

Economy will slow

But economists warn this momentum will be difficult to sustain as the tumbling rupee, along with rising crude oil prices, takes a toll on growth. India, the world’s third largest oil importer, gets almost 80 percent of its fuel needs overseas.

“The government needs to mellow down on growth aspirations,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, economist with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The growth needs to come down to a little less than 7 percent.”

Even as the government faces the prospect of a slowing economy, it is under pressure to lower taxes on gas and diesel to bring down the sharp rise in prices. Fuel is one of the most heavily taxed items in India, with rates as high as nearly 50 percent. Prices vary from state to state, but they have gone up by about 14 percent this year.

Hoping to cash in on the growing disaffection over the surge in fuel prices and the sliding rupee, opposition parties led nationwide protests that shutdown offices and schools in several cities this week.

India
Discontent with spiraling fuel prices poses a challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections next year. VOA

The government dismissed the protests, saying that although people faced momentary difficulties, they understood they were because of factors beyond its control.

Political analysts are not so sure, pointing out that fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue in India and usually result in a spike in inflation.

“Anger is rising, there is resentment,” said Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation, warning the ruling party will face a backlash “Obviously that is going to have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no doubt about that.”

Warnings from economists

Among those who are upset with the high fuel prices is Rajesh Kumar, who commutes 30 kilometers to the advertising agency where he works. Hit by the higher prices that eat into his income, he has started sharing the ride with another employee.

India
Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“I have given up the idea of buying another car,” he said despondently. “I will not be able to afford the cost of running it.”

Economists however have warned the government against giving in to populist pressures ahead of a series of state polls later this year and general elections around April next year. They say lowering taxes on fuel or taking measures to prop up the currency will strain the country’s finances and hurt the economy in the long run.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“One needs to be more careful and vigilant,” Bhanumurthy said. “It is easy for India to stay with low growth than experiencing the high deficit.”

But there is also some good news for the Indian economy. The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars. (VOA)