Give us the Afghan problem, and we’ll find a solution. That’s the energy we have.” Tongue firmly in cheek, the exhilaration real, this was director general of labour welfare and head of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), Anil Swarup, at his first meeting with Mint at his colonial-era office in Delhi last month. In Jharkhand one day, Kerala the next, Swarup, an Uttar-Pradesh-cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who sings in Hindi and English and plays the guitar, continued the conversation with Samar Halarnkar aboard a train to Chandigarh:
Straight talk: Anil Swarup. Gurpreet Singh / HT
This scheme began as a prime ministerial directive to create a health insurance scheme for migrant workers, but it evolved in your head to become what it is today, isn’t it?
Not exactly. It was team work, the team is blessed with some marvellous individuals. I contributed in the evolution of the idea. The first day, I sat up all night, penned down 300 questions and put them to a task force. Then, we jumped into it. I still don’t know enough about health insurance!
How did you get private involvement?
It interests both insurance companies and hospitals. They are gradually realizing the profits that lie at the bottom of this pyramid. It’s very simple: This person, otherwise poor, carries Rs30,000 on that card. And every paisa is tracked.
A big problem appears to be that the people being enrolled are only from existing BPL lists, many of which date back to 2002. This means some are not poor at all, that many poor people are being left out.
To begin with, the scheme was restricted only to BPL. However, the government has already taken decisions to extend the benefits to certain non-BPL categories as well. Thus, the scheme has already been extended to building and other construction workers and a decision has already been announced in the Budget to extend the scheme to such MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) beneficiaries as have worked for 15 days or more during the previous year. The railway minister has also announced extension of benefits to railway coolies.
Experts say RSBY’s biggest problem for the future is, in fact, you. It’s centred around one man. What happens when you are transferred?
Individuals should gradually become redundant, and my endeavour is to build an institution. I am hopeful that I will become redundant before I am shifted.