Centre to increase public expenditure on health: Sitharaman

New Delhi [India], May 17 (ANI): Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday announced that public expenditure on health will be increased and a dedicated hospital block for treatment of infectious diseases will be set up in each district across the nation.

"All districts will have an Infectious Disease Hospital Blocks, Public health labs will be set up in every block (not just in district), to bridge inadequacy of lab network in rural areas. The Prime Minister has said that we need to be ready and self-reliant, in the face of challenges posed by any pandemic such as COVID-19. Hence, there is a big emphasis on setting up hospitals and labs, with both public and private funding," Sitharaman said while announcing the last tranche of the economic package announced by the government.

"The public expenditure on health will be increased. Investment at grass root levels will be ramped up for health and wellness centres, both in rural and urban areas," she added.

The announcements came after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package for the country to become 'self-reliant' and deal with COVID-19 crisis.

Further speaking about changes being made in the Education sector in the wake of COVID-19, the Finance Minister said that the PM eVidya programme for multi-mode access to digital/online education will be launched immediately.

"This will consist of DIKSHA, a one-nation, one-digital platform facility for school education (one nation, one digital platform). One earmarked TV channel for each class (one class, one channel) will also be a part of this. There will be extensive use of radio, community radio stations and podcasts," she said.

The Finance Minister also announced a special e-content for visually and hearing-impaired children which will be made available in the coming days, she also lauded the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development for coming up with this plan.

"Top 100 universities will be permitted to automatically start online courses by May 30, 2020," she said.

She further spoke about 'Manodarpan', an initiative for psychological support of students, teachers and families for mental health and emotional well being to be launched in the next few days.

Earlier today, the Union Finance Minister had announced that the Centre has allocated an additional amount of Rs 40 thousand crores under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). (ANI)