Health, education should be free

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BusinessLine

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It’s high time diligent taxpayers paid attention to where their money was being used by the government. And it may not be out of line to insist that taxpayer money be used in providing subsidised, if not entirely free, education and healthcare for all. That’s what developed nations do and so should India as it aspires to become a $5 trillion economy.

The discussion on student fees goes beyond the #taxpayerswithJNU campaign that was trending on the micro-blogging site Twitter on Tuesday. Taxpayers should instead take a sharp look at other excessive spendings — for instance, the many perks given to policymakers in politics and the administration. Are all of these perks really necessary to dispense an honest day’s work? Subsidised housing, canteens, travel, the list goes on.

And we grudge the country’s students a little headroom they could use to educate themselves and improve their lives and that of those around them. No one in their right mind would have a problem if the money they are already paying as tax went towards building schools, training teachers, providing quality education and making it safe for children, especially young girls, to go to school in rural areas. The noon-meal scheme, for instance, is among the best support-initiatives by governments, past and present.

It’s the same with healthcare. Anyone should be able to walk into a hospital anywhere in the country and find clean, well-staffed units capable of delivering quality basic healthcare. Instead, hospitals are over-crowded, the equipment does not work or is antiquated, the staff are stretched and tired, and the hygiene, let’s just say needs much more attention. When education and healthcare institutions cry out loud for financial support, it is insensitive to mix this up with political messaging. Developed countries have managed to successfully channelise funds into free or subsidised quality education and healthcare for its citizens. As a nation, we the people too need to strive towards a similar goal-post.

The writer is Deputy Editor with BusinessLine



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