Politicians and officials have started passing the buck over Rs 100 crore meant for children’s healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir remaining unspent since 2013. Due to this, the children could not get the benefits of the Centrally-sponsored scheme to eradicate disabilities in children in the age group of 0-18 years.
According to officials of the Directorate of National Health Mission (NHM), the money remained unspent for several reasons. “There is a shortage of staff and the government could not utilise the funds on time from 2013 till date,” an NHM official told The Sunday Guardian. Junior Health Minister Asiya Naqash blamed the previous regime for not implementing the scheme. She said, “It was started in 2013 and remained grounded because the government of that time was not interested in implementing it.”
Under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK), a child healthcare scheme, the state got regular Central funds, but the state government failed to utilise most of it and has till date not spent about Rs 100 crore released for the implementation of the scheme by the Union government.
The state government has failed to utilise the money through its Health Department to construct early intervention centres in all the districts and to have screening, diagnostic and intervention equipment in such centres. There has been a sharp rise in the deaths of children, especially newborn babies, in the state. The J&K government faced a barrage of criticism following media reports that over 350 newborn babies died due to negligence at the G.B. Pant hospital, the only children’s hospital in Srinagar, forcing then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to announce a new children’s hospital for Srinagar.
Despite liberal funding by the Centre, the state Health Department has failed to implement the healthcare scheme for children, involving screening them from the age of 0 to 18 years for defects at birth, deficiencies, diseases and development delays, including disability. If the department had implemented the scheme, thousands of children with disabilities and deficiencies could have been cured. State Health Minister Chaudhary Lal Singh refused to comment on the failure of the state government to implement the Central scheme.