Healthcare – A fundamental right in India?

Fundamental Rights 

Fundamental Rights in India cover a variety of topics such as equality, freedom, rights against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights and right to constitutional remedies. The right to privacy is a new right which is given to citizens as a measure to protect their data and personal security. When introduced, the main purpose of fundamental rights were to provide equality to those citizens who were considered unequal or not privileged enough to access certain areas like temples, public ghats, public wells, theatres etc. 

As time progressed, fundamental rights became a necessity. Fundamental rights are enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution under Article 12 to 35. The Directive Principles of State Policies come in the Part IV of the Indian Constitution under Articles 36 to 51. These ensure that men and women get equal pay for equal work, children should be developed in a healthy manner, the state shall provide free legal aid to those who cannot afford it . The directive principles of state policies  provide a basis for a right to health. 

DPSP and Fundamental Rights 

The primary difference between Fundamental rights and DPSP is that fundamental rights can be enforced by the courts if there is a violation but DPSPs cannot be enforced by the courts if there is a violation. Hence, if proper healthcare is not provided, citizens cannot approach the court because it is not a fundamental right. It is obvious that healthcare should be a part of fundamental rights. That means it should be upgraded from directive principles to fundamental rights. In order to do so, a constitutional amendment must take place, which has to be passed by a special majority of both Houses of Parliament.

Adding healthcare to the list of fundamental rights is easier said than done. As it is, the government has proved itself to be incapable to foster the needs of the people. The number of Covid positive cases are increasing day by day and the hospitals are running out of beds. Oxygen cylinders are a shortage and hospitals are relying on external sources and donations to keep up with the ever increasing patients. 

The second wave of corona virus is more lethal than the first one. In the current scenario where basic healthcare is neglected and hospitals choose to treat only Covid positive patients, it is foolishness to push healthcare from directive principles to fundamental rights. Obviously our leaders will not allow for that to happen. It is not a wise decision because then the people will get the courts as a support and hospitals will have to provide healthcare with little or no resources available. Morally, it is the right thing to do but it will affect the country economically when viewed from a practical and logical perspective.

Healthcare Industry 

The healthcare industry is a booming industry and is expected to reach Rs 8.6 trillion by Financial Year 2022 from Rs 4 trillion in Financial Year 2017. Private hospitals provide more sophisticated treatments and lavish facilities and charge a lot more than public hospitals. 

Doctors are paid high salaries and they hold a respectable position in the society. They are directly exposed during treatment of the pandemic and many doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have sacrificed their lives for others. They keep working for many sleepless nights and if healthcare is made a fundamental right in India, the doctors s and nurses ratio will still remain the same but the number of patients will be skyrocketing. 

The doctor ratio in India is 1:1456, i.e, for every 1456 Indians, there is only 1 doctor available, while there is only 1.7 nurses for every 1000 Indians. With so many patients and so less healthcare workers, our country is failing to meet the needs of the people. 

Future Plan

In the near future when the Covid pandemic is brought under control and when hospitals are efficient to treat most of the citizens, healthcare can be made a fundamental right if our politicians are willing to make such a positive amendment in the constitution. If healthcare is made a fundamental right, we can proudly believe that India is moving in the right direction and that we are a progressive nation. 

Hence, it would not be the wisest idea to fight for healthcare to be made a fundamental right under the current situation. It would only prove to be futile and courts would be helpless if they keep ordering the hospitals and state governments to provide proper healthcare but in reality only the rich and influential people get the best treatment while the common man has to fight for a bed in public hospitals.

Aishwarya Says:

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