Union minister for health and family welfare Gulam Nabi Azad said it is important that students joining medical course be determined to serve the country. He made the statement while addressing the 17th convocation ceremony of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences.
"While most of the country’s doctors reside in urban areas, only 0.04% of them go to rural areas. But, 70% of the population live in rural areas. Unless you serve in rural India, you are not doing justice to the profession," he said.
Referring to the Mental Health Care Act 1987, he said, "A new legislation is being considered to replace the Mental Health Care Act under which the rights of mentally ill patients would be safeguarded. Such an act will ensure protection for people suffering from mental illnesses and will also lay a community oriented protocol for it."
Further, he said, "There have been several consultations, both regional and national, and the bill is being processed now for being introduced in the Parliament. This is something we should be in a position to share with the larger mental health community very soon."
Calling for the need to improve mental health programmes in the state, Azad said, "The recent Global Burden of Disease Study observes that world over fewer people are dying, but more now live with disabilities, mental health disorders, pain and injuries."
In a recent delegation Azad led to Moscow, where the WHO had organised a two-day ministerial conference on healthy lifestyles and non-communicable disease control, he said, "The Indian deligation argued that like all non-communicable diseases, mental disorders required long term treatment. And at India’s insistence, mental disorders were also included in the list of non-communicable diseases. A declaration was adopted that said that, mental disorders also significantly contribute to global disease burden."
Speaking on the sidelines of the function, the minister expressed ambiguity about the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM). Even after a year since it was announced in the budget, the mission is yet to have funds allocated. Until it comes up for discussion in the cabinet, such funds will not be allocated for the process. The mission is intended to cater to poor people living in towns and cities. It will cover around 779 cities, with Bangalore chosen for its pilot project.
Azad said the scheme was announced when the economy was flourishing. With the economy spiraling downwards in the past one year, it may take longer for the mission to kick off.
"Implementing the scheme will depend on the allocation of funds. I am not sure about how much money would be granted to our department for the NUHM," Azad added.