India’s tuberculosis programme hopes to hand out cash incentives to 13 lakh patients by the end of July, even though it only reaches 3.5 lakh currently. The Nikshay Poshan Yojana, the centre’s scheme to give Rs. 500 a month for nutritional support to TB patients has so far captured the bank details of 3.5 lakh patients who are currently on TB treatment, out of which it has made 1.5 lakh transactions.
The stated aim for the Yojana is to cover 13 to 15 lakh beneficiaries this year, for which it has a budget of Rs. 600 crore. From April onwards, when the scheme started, 1.5 lakh beneficiaries have got the first two instalments through Direct Benefit Transfer, and 3.5 have successfully registered their bank details.
These 13 lakh are the number of patients currently registered on Nikshay, the Division’s online portal that was introduced in 2016, to capture patients, their diagnosis, their treatment regimen and how it proceeds.
Though the language of the scheme is focused heavily on Aadhaar to register patients in the system and to link their bank accounts Sheel stated that it was not mandatory for any TB patient to be enrolled. They would not be denied benefits for the lack of an Aadhaar card.
But the government preferred patients with Aadhaar, as it helps them verify their bank details much faster. Health staffers across TB centres are advised to facilitate patient enrollment under Aadhaar, and help them open bank accounts under the Jan Dhan Yojana, if they have neither.
The nutrition scheme came into effect on April 1, 2018, to help TB patients make up for the calories, and most importantly, the protein their bodies lack, so as to respond better to treatments.
The union health ministry’s Vikas Sheel, joint secretary for the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) said that despite all the medicine, if the TB patient does not improve nutritionally, they will not respond positively to treatment.
The figure of Rs. 500 a month, said RNTCP Director General Dr, Sunil Khaparde, is based on studies done by the ministry, the National Institute of Nutrition and on scientist Anurag Bhargava’s landmark work on Body Mass Index (BMI). It was determined that in Rs. 15 a day it was possible to get the additional protein that a TB patient needs to get better.
However, Sheel admitted that they can’t be entirely sure where that Rs. 500 will go. They hope, he said, a family will use them for the needs of the patient, however, if the family has pressing financial concerns these resources may get diverted.
Nor can the government be entirely sure that a patient or their attendants spend the money on food that is nutritional. The TB programme depends on the relationship between the patient and their treatment support staff. They are bound to meet every two days, as the staffer hands over medicines only for that period, unlike earlier when they gave a month’s drugs.
The Yojana is hoping that the support staff will advise the patient on what to eat according to their age, their preferences and what is available.
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