Amid Centre's flagship health insurance plan -- PM Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) -- under the Ayushman Bharat programme touching the 100-day mark, as many as 7.5 crore personalised letters from PM Modi have been printed by the NDA government at a cost of Rs. 15.75 crore, sources said.
The two-sheet letter in an envelope marked "Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana" also comes with details of Modi government's other flagship schemes, NDTV reported.
"I have experienced poverty very closely in my life ...The best way to uplift the poor is by empowering them. For this reason, ever since people elected me as PM and gave me the opportunity to serve them, my endeavour has been to empower the poor, the common people and women. We have taken many steps from building houses to income generation, from education to health...," says a message from PM in the letter.
He has also talked about the benefits of other programmes like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, the Saubhagya Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan and Jyoti Bima Yojana, before ending his letter with a note on the PMJAY.
Ayushman Bharat's CEO Indu Bhushan told the media that the letters were billed as administrative expenditure and it hasn't affected the patients' budget allotted under the scheme.
But the Opposition has termed the whole move as a poll gimmick. Many non-BJP states are also upset about the letters being sent to beneficiaries without the respective governments' consent.
CPI(M) MP from Kerala's Palakkad MB Rajesh said, "The Prime Minister is talking about every possible central government scheme in a letter meant to address health insurance beneficiaries. Each letter is being sent as speed post from the post office to the recipient's home, which can cost upto Rs. 40 for each envelope. The budget for this health insurance is just around Rs. 2,000 crores. Where is this money coming from."
A Kerala government official said that none of the 12 lakh letters sent to the state should be undelivered or returned and the whole process should start the day the letters reach their addresses.
The first batch of the letters landed on Sunday and the delivery process also started on the very same day.
However, Indu Bhushan said that because of the above letters, people across all Indian states are now going for treatments under the PMJAY scheme.
The letters written and signed in Bengali by PM talked about the personal struggle with poverty. The West Bengal Health Department objected to this and shot a letter to the Union Health Secretary.
The letter reads: "To our surprise, the entitlement letter/card issued by your ministry mentions the name of the scheme as PMJAY, which is not only a violation of the stipulation of the said MoU, but has created unnecessary confusion at the state level.... Under the above-mentioned situation, this is to inform you that the government of West Bengal is withdrawing from Ayushman Bharat-Swasthyasathi scheme with immediate effect."
BJP has already defended the mega outreach just before the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
"The government is doing this as an outreach programme and taking the government to the people. And if someone feels that this is political, it's because they must have misused money when they were in power. The taxpayer's money is being used so that more people come to know about it, so more people can benefit," said the party's Rajya Sabha MP V Muraleedharan.
He also said that the Modi government decided to organize the awareness drives since funds for most of its schemes were underutilised due to poor knowledge among the people.
How the non-BJP states have reacted to the Ayushman Bharat scheme:
Odisha CM and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik during last year criticized the Centre on the Ayushman Bharat and said that his government's Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) is far better the Centre’s flagship healthcare scheme.
The Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal walked out of the above scheme on January 2019, with the CM saying that she won't let taxpayers' money to be spent on the programme.
The scheme was merged with Bengal's Swasthya Sathi health scheme under which the TMC government provided 40 per cent of the total cost.
With the move, Bengal became the sixth state to discard the Modi government's healthcare scheme, joining Telangana, Odisha, Delhi, Kerala and Punjab.
The newly-elected Congress government in Chhattisgarh, on January 2019, decided to bring its own healthcare scheme in place of PMJAY. The state health minister TS Singhdeo stated that he WAS not in favour of the Ayushman Bharat, as the expenses (on insurance) are more but the output is less.