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Out of all the populist schemes launched by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, one has the potential to swing votes this assembly elections in Rajasthan. For, the free medicine scheme has not only drawn appreciation and interest from other states and countries but has also silenced the opposition BJP.

Although the state has been grappling with lack of infrastructure and doctors to support the ambitious scheme, statistics show over 13.71 crore beneficiaries have gained from the scheme since its launch on October 2, 2011.

Delegations of the Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation, the implementing body, have been making presentations to the governments of Nepal and Canada, who have shown keen interest in the scheme. The Orissa government too sent a team to understand the logistics of the scheme to be able to implement it in their state. Such has been the response that at a rally in Baran last month, Congress vice–president Rahul Gandhi announced that the UPA government plans to take the scheme to the rest of the country.

The scheme, grounded on infallible economics, is based on procuring generic medicines being supplied at one–sixth and sometimes even one–tenth the retail prices, officials said. Over the past two years, the government has allocated Rs 681.20 crore for the scheme, or a little over Rs 240 crore per year – considered to be a bearable fiscal burden in the health sector.

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"This has been possible only by the use of generic medicines, where we have found that the same multinational brands that sell a certain medicine in the market for Rs 18 is able to give it to us at Rs 3. This is possible because the company does not have to go through the circuitous route of medical representatives and other middlemen in selling their product," explained Ajay Aswal, Executive Director (Admin), Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation. "We have faced no instance of spurious drugs so far and neither is there any possibility of pilferage as the drugs are stamped 'not for sale' and cannot be sold in the market."

"Medicines for the treatment of critical and severe diseases are also available such as 21 drugs for cancer, 35 drugs for heart diseases, 13 for diabetes and 12 for asthma. Costly medicines are also being dispensed under the scheme," Aswal added.

The state has 17,000 health facilities, including 28 major hospitals, 56 district/satellite hospitals, 543 community health centres, 1,880 primary health centres, 232 urban PHCs and 14,365 sub–centres. In the year of its launch, when the scheme was also sluggish in implementation, 200 generic medicines, surgical and sutures were available. The list was expanded to cover 400 of them last year and this year it was raised to 600.

In this year's budget, Gehlot also announced an allied scheme of free medical tests as part of the comprehensive Right to Treatment scheme.

The opposition BJP, however, has been pointing out that the scheme has been a failure in its implementation owing to lack of infrastructure and doctors. Even the state government has been unable to refute this allegation.

How it works

Under the scheme, anyone walking into a government–run health facility gets free medicines, irrespective of economic status

A Prescription is made by the doctor and data entries are made by an operator following which the free drugs are handed over

Real–time monitoring of drugs stock in a hospital can be made through this and simultaneous record of the beneficiaries is made

Monitoring teams say many beneficiaries are from neighbouring Gujarat, Haryana, UP and MP.

Indian Express
10 October 2013, Jaipur

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