Kerala: No NHM funds unless health centres called 'Ayushman Arogya Mandirs'?

The Kerala government refuses to rename its National Health Mission centres, citing incongruence with local language and culture

“The Union government is insisting on removing the ‘Kudumbarogya Kendram‘ label given by the state to these centres and naming them only ‘Ayushman Arogya Mandir’,” said Kerala health minister Veena George, pictured (photo: National Herald archives)
“The Union government is insisting on removing the ‘Kudumbarogya Kendram‘ label given by the state to these centres and naming them only ‘Ayushman Arogya Mandir’,” said Kerala health minister Veena George, pictured (photo: National Herald archives)
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The Kerala government on Tuesday, 9 January, refused to comply with the Centre's directive to rename the state's National Health Mission centres 'Ayushman Arogya Mandir'—a name that was felt to be incongruent with the language and culture of its rural population.

“The Union government is insisting on removing the ‘Kudumbarogya Kendram‘ label given by the state to these centres and naming them only ‘Ayushman Arogya Mandir’,” said Kerala health minister Veena George.

This statement comes amidst reports that the state government has not been receiving funds from the Union government for the National Health Mission (NHM) project. The state has also not received funds from the union government for other important initiatives in FY 2023–24, resulting in projects being halted.

“NHM operations in the state have gone astray. The Centre will fund 60 per cent of the NHM project, with the state covering the remaining 40 per cent (is the arrangement)," said George. "For this, the Union government must set aside Rs 826.2 crore for various projects and should allocate Rs 371.20 crore as a cash grant, which ought to be received in four instalments. However, the dates for the three instalments have already passed."

The state has set aside the required amount for the past two months and NHM's work continued for the past two months with this amount, she pointed out. “The incentives for ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers and health staffers' pay have not been disturbed. We communicated the problem to the Centre," she added.

"However, they claim that this was due to (absence of) co-branding. The Centre demands that we include its logo along with the state government's logo on health centres," George said.

The state health minister said 99 per cent of the co-branding has, in fact, been completed—but now there's a new snag that has been introduced.

“The proposal to rename the health centres as 'Ayushman Arogya Mandir' came later, in December. However, we cannot accept this request as it affects (local) language and culture,” said George.

The state had agreed to the Centre's other demands and included six symbols provided by the Union government on the boards of the centres constructed one or two years ago. “However, now they are stating that the funds will be issued only after they are renamed Ayushman Arogya Mandirs,” said George.

This delay in the release of funds meant that the salaries of ASHA workers — of whom Kerala has the highest numbers — have been affected. She said they were receiving only their share from the state government, and not the Central-government component of their salaries.

Additionally, funds for providing peritoneal dialysis to patients, said George, have not been disbursed by the Union government, and the state is supposed to have received Rs 7 crore towards that.

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Published: 11 Jan 2024, 3:14 PM
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