New Delhi, Jan 29 (PTI) 'Timely and calibrated decisions' taken by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic saved the lives of lakhs of citizens, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Friday while highlighting the rapid decline in the number of new coronavirus cases and the significant increase in the number of recoveries.
In his customary address to a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament that marks the start of the Budget session, Kovind said by making lakhs of COVID-19 vaccine doses available to several countries, India has fulfilled its obligation towards humanity in these times of difficulty.
During this period, the country has demonstrated its scientific capabilities, technical expertise and the strength of its start-up ecosystem by developing a network of over 2,200 laboratories in a short time span, manufacturing thousands of ventilators, PPE kits and test kits and thereby, attaining self-reliance.
Two vaccines -- Covishield manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and the indigenously-developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech -- have been approved for restricted emergency use in India.
'It is a matter of immense pride that India is conducting the world's largest vaccination programme. Both the vaccines rolled out under this programme are produced indigenously. By making lakhs of corona vaccine doses available to several countries, India has fulfilled its obligation towards humanity in these times of difficulty.
'The accolades being showered on India globally for this work, along with the essence of our age-old cultural tradition of 'Sarve Santu Niramayaha' and the endeavour to work for human welfare, are imparting strength to our efforts,' Kovind said.
During the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected every country in the world, India has emerged on the global stage with a renewed vigour, he underlined.
'It gives me satisfaction that due to the timely and calibrated decisions taken by my government, we were able to save the lives of lakhs of our countrymen. Today, there is a rapid decline in the number of new cases of the coronavirus and at the same time, there is a significant increase in the number of recoveries,' the president said.
He said the gains from the work done by the government in the healthcare sector in the last six years were visible during the pandemic.
During these years, there was an emphasis not only on modernising the healthcare systems, but also on prevention of diseases. Programmes such as the Rashtriya Poshan Abhiyan, the Fit India Movement and the Khelo India Abhiyan have helped create awareness on health in the country, Kovind said.
'We have also witnessed the beneficial impact of the efforts made by my government to promote ayurveda and yoga,' he said.
Highlighting the benefits of the Centre's healthcare schemes -- Ayushman Bharat and Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana -- Kovind said 1.5 crore poor people of the country have received free treatment of up to Rs five lakh and as a result, they have been able to save a total amount of over Rs 30,000 crore.
'As a result of the efforts of my government, the poor are now able to avail the benefits of healthcare facilities with ease and their expenditure on treatment of diseases is progressively reducing.
'Today, the benefits of the Ayushman Bharat Yojana can be availed at more than 24,000 hospitals across the country. Similarly, under the Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Yojana, the poor are getting medicines at extremely affordable rates from 7,000 jan aushadhi kendras across the country. Lakhs of patients are purchasing medicines from these kendras daily and due to their reasonable prices, are able to save Rs 3,600 crore annually,' he said.
Elaborating on the developments in the medical education sector, Kovind said the number of medical colleges in the country has gone up from 387 in 2014 to 562 and there has been an increase of over 50,000 seats at the under-graduate and postgraduate levels in medical education in the last six years. Under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, the government has sanctioned 22 new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), he pointed out.
It has also laid the foundation for historic reforms in the field of medical education by establishing the National Medical Commission (NMC), along with four autonomous boards, the president said.
The decades-old Medical Council of India (MCI) has been replaced with the NMC as a part of these reforms, he stated.
In order to ensure that infants from poor families do not get affected by serious illnesses, the government has not only increased the scope of the vaccination programme by including more diseases, but has also taken the vaccination campaign to remote tribal areas, which had hitherto not been covered, Kovind underscored.
More than 3.5 crore children were vaccinated under the Mission Indradhanush, he said.
The government has also initiated digitisation of medical services through the Rashtriya Digital Health Mission, the president said, adding that the citizens will be able to avail of facilities such as digital appointments, digital reports as well as digital health records through this mission in the coming days. PTI PLB RC