Home >Politics >Policy >After ease of doing business, ‘ease of living’ the new rallying cry

New Delhi: From electricity to water, housing, healthcare and travelling by plane, the government wants to make access to services easier for Indians and bring everything to their doorsteps.

After working on ease of doing business, the government is now committed to bringing what finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday described as “ease of living" for the poor and middle class.

The Budget launched the flagship National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover 100 million poor and vulnerable families, benefiting around 500 million people. As part of the scheme, Rs5 lakh will be provided per family per year for medical reimbursement.

The scheme is particularly significant considering the fact that India’s per capita spending on health is $267 per capita per year, compared to China’s $730, according to the World Health Organization. This has led to the private sector becoming the preferred source of healthcare, which in turn means citizens having to spend more out of their pockets.

The budget focuses on the basic amenities needed for decent living, something analysts welcome.

“With so much inequality around, even the recognition of the fact that common people have a difficult living in this country is a welcome step. It is high time that the governments move from merely thinking in terms of growth rates to actual human development," says Surinder S. Jodhka, professor of sociology and chair of the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The government also announced extending the benefits of the existing Ujjwala Yojana. The initial target of the scheme was to provide free cooking gas connections to 50 million poor women, but as Jaitley said, “In view of the pace of implementation of Ujjwala scheme and its popularity among the women," the target has been increased to 80 million poor women.

Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the budget announced a proposal to build 20 million more toilets. So far, as per the government, the construction of the more than 60 million toilets has had a positive effect “on the dignity of ladies, education of girls and the overall health of family".

The government also said it will ensure that every poor Indian has a house of their own by 2022.

To make it easier and cheaper for a common person to take flights, the government has allocated Rs1,014.09 crore for the regional air connectivity scheme or Udan (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik).

Udan which loosely translates as “let the common man fly", proposes that at least half the seats on every regional flight should have a fare cap of Rs2,500 per seat per hour of flying. Udan partly subsidizes the flights through a cess on flights to metro cities.

“Sarkar ki iss pahal se hawai chappal pehenne wale nagrik bhi hawai jahaj mein yatra kar rahe hain (With this initiative, people wearing slippers are also travelling in aircraft)," Jaitley said.

As many as 56 unserved airports and 31 unserved helipads will be connected under this scheme. Announcing the redevelopment of 600 major railway stations by Indian Railway Station Development Co. Ltd, the budget also said all stations with a footfall of more than 25,000 will have escalators.

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