His Excellency, Ambassador Kugener from Luxembourg; my very good friend and old colleague and somebody who I always knew worked with a lot of passion, but today I am seeing a new dimension of Peter Sands where he is demonstrating compassion. Thank you very much Peter for giving leadership to this very noble cause. Ms Soumya Swaminathan, the Deputy Director General for Programmes at the World Health Organisation; Excellencies, delegates from all across the world, ladies and gentlemen.
I think it’s a matter of great satisfaction that the world cares. And it’s a matter of satisfaction for all of us assembled in this room today that our countries care, care for the rest of the world, care for a better future for mankind. And for me personally, it’s a matter of immense satisfaction, particularly, after what I have seen as the global effort to tackle the menace of climate change in the last successful engagement that I attended on that subject in France, in Paris, in 2015 that we once again have on this dais the French Minister and the Indian Minister for Health, together, pledging to work towards a better future for the people of the world.
In fact, I am given to understand that the final pledges are going to be made in France. And it’s only right that this initiative, this noble initiative to eliminate tuberculosis, to eliminate malaria, to eliminate HIV and AIDS from earth should also get a huge push, a huge support from two countries, which believe very passionately in this. France has given leadership to the global effort to fight against climate change. And I am delighted Madam to hear about what you just said is your commitment, personally, your President’s commitment and the commitment of the people of France to make this shared effort a grand success.
In fact, if I may add to your concluding remarks; we in India believe that when you desire something very passionately, with a great deal of determination the entire universe conspires to make that happen. And I am sure, the commitment that is reflected in this room here today, that is reflected in Madam Minister’s words, in the presentation made by Peter, in his Excellency’s increased commitment, will surely resonate with the global effort and the combined effort of every citizen of this world to truly make this a success by 2030.
My best wishes to all the discussions that will be held later in the day, preparing for this round of replenishment funding for the global fund. And I am sure, particularly, the donor countries will not let this effort go unsung and will, collectively, resolve to make this effort a grand success.
In fact, Peter I appreciate and understand some of the difficulties of fundraising, particularly, since that’s what I have done all my life for my party. My father before me was the treasurer of the political party that I belong to, the Bharatiya Janata Party that Mr Nadda and I both have worked for all our lives. And when I was a young child, I had once asked my late father that don’t you feel embarrassed when you are going to people and asking them for funding the party that we belong to. Isn’t it embarrassing to literally go with a, I won’t call it a begging bowl, but certainly go with a request for fresh funding, again and again and again. And more often than not we usually go to the same donors because they are the ones who have deep pockets.
And I still remember his words, and in fact, that’s encouraged me all my life. Whenever we had to raise funds for a good cause, I have never felt deterred, I have never felt embarrassed, I have never felt that there would be problems. Because my father told me that when you are asking for funds for a good cause, you don’t have to feel belittled, you don’t have to feel embarrassed at all, because the cause that you are asking for is something which will by itself encourage people to participate in that cause.
And a good cause is what people all over the world are looking for and a good cause, which does good to humanity, somewhat akin to the Global Fund that we are working on today, is something which I am confident will never have shortage of funds. Because, intrinsically, each one of us wants to contribute, wants to be a part of an effort to leave behind a better planet than the one we inherited.
And I am sure the efforts that your team is taking up today will have the same success as at least I have experienced whenever I went out fundraising for a good cause. My best wishes to you Peter and to your entire team.
In fact, our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has a vision for India, which very much resonates with the vision that the Global Fund has. When I was presenting the country’s budget earlier this week, I quoted from the Prime Minister’s vision, and I would like to share a few words with you about what we in India believe is a future for our people, particularly, in the health space.
And to my mind, it would sum up reasonably well with the effort that the Global Fund is doing. I had presented a ten-dimensional vision until 2030 that India is embarking upon, and I would like to quote the words relating to health – ‘we will be aiming at creating a healthy society in an environment of health assurance and the support of necessary health infrastructure.’
It goes on to explain a little bit of what we are doing, what we are planning to do, but we believe in India that unless we create a distress-free healthcare system that impacts the 1.3 billion people living in India, unless we look at health in a very holistic fashion, right from the preventive healthcare until the curative and then, of course, sometimes the palliative healthcare, we will not be able to truly take people out of the distress that healthcare can cause, particularly, to the lesser privileged and the marginalized sections of society.
And, therefore, while on the one hand we are looking at upgrading the infrastructure of healthcare. Of course, not exactly aligned to our discussions here today, but it also opens up huge opportunity for companies and countries from around the world to participate in our effort to expand our healthcare system, to expand our healthcare network of hospitals, clinics, wellness centres.
But more importantly, we believe that unless we look at a very holistic dimension of healthcare, particularly, from the preventive stage, particularly from the stage of eliminating malnutrition, ensuring better quality of maternity care for our children, better care for the mothers at the maternity stage, better care of children, particularly, in the first two years, which defines how a child is going to grow.
We believe that any effort would be incomplete, and therefore, the effort that we are trying to promote in the country, particularly through the Ayushman Bharat initiative which my colleague Mr Nadda has pioneered, which he has led from the front where we are working to provide free healthcare to 500 million Indian citizens. Free healthcare encompassing different dimensions of a family’s healthcare needs, reaching out to the most deserving that section of society, which for generations has remained deprived of healthcare.
And I believe it would probably be one of the world’s largest healthcare initiatives targeted towards that section of society which needs it most. And given the massive scale-up in the last four months now, it’s only about a four-month old programme. And in the first 130-135 days, we have already seen more than a million people benefitting from this free healthcare initiative. The government has already provided about a half a billion dollars in terms of funding for the programme. We expect to provide much more funds in the next year.
We have saved the patients, the citizens, who have taken benefit of this programme about half a billion dollars that they would otherwise have to spend on the healthcare of these million-plus patients. And in some sense, I dare say we would have saved, probably, about a million lives, a million families from permanent poverty, but for this healthcare initiative, but for this availability of free healthcare. Because very often, we have found in India, not only the poor but even the middle-class families, families with a reasonably decent quality of life, with a reasonably decent livelihood in the event of a health problem in the family, in the event of an illness in the family, having to borrow large amounts of money, the repayment of which causes distress, which may last many-many years.
And I think this initiative of Mr Nadda, reaching out to nearly 40% of India’s population, nearly 40% of all the people of India will certainly have a huge impact on the way of healthcare going forward, will define our own effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, much faster than the slated timelines. I can share with you one personal experience where we have been able to take energy access to every home in this country, much-much faster than what was planned in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Many of you will recall the SDG-7, which talks about energy access for every citizen in the world, and at last count, we have successfully been able to bring down the number of citizens of the world without energy access to now below a billion. It used to be more than a billion when we met in 2015. It’s now below a billion for the first time this year.
And in that reducing number, India has contributed the maximum number of new households who are getting free electricity connection. And by March or April of this year, 2019, India would have taken energy access, electricity, to every single home in this country, about 10 years, a decade ahead of the Sustainable Development Goal, which was 2030. I am sure, with the pace at which Prime Minister Modi likes to have sustainable development reach the people of India, I am quite confident we will also work with the Global Fund, collectively, with the efforts of all of you assembled in this room to ensure that we reach this goal of making India free of tuberculosis, making India free of HIV and AIDS, eliminating malaria in this country much faster than 2030.
And I wish my colleague Mr Nadda, I wish all of you great success in achieving these targets, in achieving the goals that you have set out for. I believe the efforts that we have done on different aspects of preventive healthcare, be it our Clean India mission, under which about a 100 million toilets have been created in the country in the last four years. Our effort to take cooking gas to every home so that no woman ever has to take in so much of pollution, cooking in the traditional methods of cooking.
All of these measures, collectively, will help India contribute to the ambitious targets that we just heard from Peter Sands. My best wishes to you Peter. My best wishes to all of you. And I wish this preparatory round great success in the deliberations today and in the efforts going forward.
Thank you very much.
February 8, 2019 Speaking at Post Budget 2019 Industry Interaction, in Mumbai