Meeting with PM Modi 'cordial': Abhijit Banerjee

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on October 22, 2019 Published on October 22, 2019

Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee is calling on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, in New Delhi.   -  @narendramodi

Subtly warning the media, Abhijit Banerjee, winner of 2019 Economics Nobel Prize said that during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the PM greeted him by cracking a joke about how the media was trapping Banerjee into saying “anti-Modi things”.

The PM will be watching you guys and he knows what you are trying to do, Banerjee quipped.

Speaking to media later on Tuesday here, he said he will not be taking any political questions. One of the primary reasons for him visiting India he said was to start a conversation with Ministry of Health’s Indian Council of Medical Research (IMCR) and NITI Aayog on issues surrounding untrained rural health providers.

Banerjee said that he practices practical economics which is exactly opposite of pure theoretical economics and that is what has led him to win the prize. Sharing an anecdote which changed his perspective towards Indian healthcare scenario, he said he used to go and sit on the door steps of ‘quacks,’ or informal care providers whom he and his co-researchers were training.

“We would go to the government office in Udaipur and ask the officials about these healthcare providers who are not trained. And they said it is an immense problem, but we can never find them because they are always underground. Two weeks later, we went to a house of a rural healthcare provider. He was very friendly, sitting in front of his house with a sign saying he is a doctor," he said adding "We asked him if he had a medical degree and what was his qualification. And his response was he has passed his 12th grade exam but could not get a job, so he took up the job of a doctor. He then brought out his mark sheet and showed that he has passed and his subjects were Geography, Psychology, Sanskrit and History. He was completely upfront about it while the government claimed that it was impossible to find him.”

Banerjee further said, “It is easy to make excuses but if we want to regulate, we can. Sometimes we use the fact that it Is a big country and it is complex to not regulate.” He feels that regulating the next generation antibiotics and steroids is an absolute must. “I don’t believe it is impossible to do. Send somebody and buy a drug, which they are selling without the prescription and then you shut them down. We should be draconian in regulating this,” he said.

On insufficient health budget, Banerjee said, “We have one of the highest share of private expenditure in the world. On the margin people are spending money, but the big question is when people spend a lot of money are they spending the money on the right things, and quality of healthcare that they are getting is the key issue. The research that we are doing for twenty years in health care points out that they are not getting value for money.”

On government-run cashless health insurance scheme — Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana popularly known as ‘Ayushman Bharat,’ which provides a cover of ₹5 lakh to poor families, he said, “Ayushman Bharat is much needed. Healthcare expenses wipe families out. It does something very important there, something that we need, that the family does not lose all the assets when someone in the family falls sick. It is a very important gap in our economic structure.”

Published on October 22, 2019
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