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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 15, April 8, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Apr 8, 2023

Saturday 8 April 2023


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, April 8, 2023

Congress party led governments in the states of Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh have recently brought in commendable public welfare legislation that need recognition. In late March this year, the Rajasthan assembly passed the ‘Right to Health Bill’ (RTH), which guarantees a right to free healthcare for the state’s 80 million citizens. It requires that no hospitals turn away needy patients & deny ‘emergency’ treatment and the costs incurred would be reimbursed by the government. This is a progressive move along lines of the health cover brought in by the Tamil Nadu Government in 2021. Public health spending remains low in our country and health facilities are unevenly spread. The move by the Rajasthan government is intended to improve its healthcare delivery. But, many have opposed the move. Hundreds of private-sector doctors have protested against this law as they fear they will be forced to provide free treatment. Due to the protests, the state government agreed to exclude from the scope of the law private hospitals with fewer than 50 beds; But this now means that over 90% of “private hospitals" in Rajasthan would not be covered by the new law, since the vast majority of these have between 10 to 50 beds. Despite these limitations, the new law is a step forward. The Rajasthan government now needs to set the operational ground rules for the Right to health legislation and to plan ahead; it should not hesitate to seek inter-state cooperation from friendly, non-BJP-ruled Govts and also from public health campaigns such as the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan. The Congress party won the state assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh in November 2022. Of the total 68 members of the new legislative assembly of Himachal Pradesh, only one MLA is a woman. In a landmark move the Himachal Pradesh government has now carried out an amendment to its 51-year-old legislation, ‘Himachal Pradesh Ceiling on Land Holdings Act of 1972.’ granting equal rights in the property to daughters. Property ownership by women remains unequal in much of India and reforms in inheritance and succession laws have taken a long time. (In 2005, when the Hindu Succession Amendment Act (HSAA 2005) was passed, it brought substantial legal equality in all forms of land ownership rights.) According to NFHS-4 in 2015-16, women’s ownership of land in Himachal Pradesh was just 9 percent. Let us hope that the legislative move in Himachal Pradesh will now translate into changing social attitudes with families across the state coming forward to register property rights in the name of women and triggering an advance towards greater parity in the North India state.

April 8, 2023 — HK

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