Internet gag thwarts Ayushman Bharat healthcare scheme

Internet shut in north Kashmir's Baramulla after Kreeri gunfight

The Ayushman Bharat healthcare scheme has hit a roadblock in Kashmir due to continuous internet blockade that has deprived the underprivileged patients of free treatment.

There is continuous internet shutdown in Kashmir post August 5 this year, when Article 370 was abrogated and erstwhile J&K State was bifurcated into two Union Territories.

The needy used to get their ‘Golden Card’ from Khidmat Centres or directly from hospitals where officials would issue the card to a beneficiary in emergency. Both the facilities – Khidmat Centres and hospitals – have been affected by the internet blockade.

Officials say they are not even able to upload details of already registered beneficiaries’ Golden Cards which are needed to avail free healthcare.

“It is all technology-driven. We are not able to furnish details of the beneficiary patient to the hospital where the person intends to receive free treatment. How can they provide free treatment when we are not able to transfer money to them,” said an official.

The official said that before the internet shutdown, they used to issue over 250 Golden Cards in a day.

Ayushman Bharat scheme, also known as Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, which provides insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh for a family per year, was started in J&K in December 2018. Under the scheme, those people are entitled for free healthcare who as per Socio Economic Caste Census 2011 have been found underprivileged. The scheme is technologically driven with treatment cost of the beneficiary patient directly getting transferred into the account of concerned empanelled government or private hospital from government treasury.

As per the 2011 census, there are 20 lakh families in J&K or a population of 1.25 crore individuals. Out of these; 6,13,648 families or 36 lakh individuals, forming 29 percent of the total population, have been found entitled for the free healthcare under the scheme, as per the census. In rural areas, criteria was taken as deprivation, while in urban areas occupation was taken as criteria for people to fall under the underprivileged class in the census.

Out of 36 lakh individuals or identified beneficiaries, 11.36 lakh individuals have been issued Golden Card necessary for claiming free healthcare under the scheme, as per figures provided by National Health Mission (NHM), the agency involved in implementation of the scheme.

The scheme is In-Patient Department (IPD) admission-based, where a patient can avail free treatment for his ailments. All costlier treatments including dialysis, chemotherapy, cardiac surgeries and gastroenterological surgeries fall under the scheme.

Around 40,000 individuals have used their Golden Card for availing free healthcare under the scheme until now, officials said.

“We generated 60 percent Golden Cards based on the census until August 5. We were topping the chart in registration in the country. We were involved in it on mission mode. J&K was awarded by PM in October for this performance,” said an NHM official.

Speaking to Greater Kashmir, Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education Department, Atal Dulloo accepted that issuance of Golden Cards has decreased after August 5. He however said documents of beneficiaries are being accepted through offline mode and sanction has been made in many cases.

He added: “In online mode, the sanction for the case comes in 15 days, but in offline mode it is difficult to give a guarantee sanction within 15 days. But we have cleared all pending offline cases. Around 49000 people have been able to avail treatment under Ayushman Bharat within a year, out of which 19000 have availed free treatment post August. Fewer cards have been made post August.”

An official said the people can approach respective Anganwadi Centres to get their household identity number (HID) after producing their ration cards.

“They can then reach our National Health Mission office at Old Secretariat here,” he said.