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Welfare and health of India

Since achieving independence, India has witnessed significant advancements in its medical and public health sectors. Consequently, the average life expectancy at birth has increased by over 25 years post-World War II. Despite this progress, India’s life expectancy figures remain below those of more economically prosperous nations.

The incidence of starvation-related deaths has diminished considerably, yet malnutrition continues to be a pervasive issue. Access to potable water is still not universal, with many individuals facing seasonal shortages. Waterborne diseases, including dysentery, continue to claim lives, particularly among children. Inadequate sewage treatment and disposal remain critical public health challenges. Tropical diseases are prevalent and contribute substantially to the country’s morbidity rates. Tuberculosis remains a significant concern, while the prevalence of blindness, predominantly due to trachoma, is notably high. Nevertheless, India has achieved remarkable success in eradicating certain diseases; for instance, smallpox was eliminated in 1977. The National Malaria Eradication Programme, initiated in 1958, nearly succeeded in eliminating malaria before resistance to DDT among mosquitoes led to a resurgence. Renewed public health initiatives have since resulted in a gradual reduction in malaria cases. The spread of AIDS and HIV infections presents a growing challenge; although the percentage of the total population affected is relatively small, the absolute number of infected individuals ranks among the highest globally.

The expansion of healthcare infrastructure includes a rise in the number of hospitals and rural primary health centres operated by both union and state governments. These rural centres, often staffed by paramedics with basic training and limited equipment, receive weekly visits from qualified government doctors. Complementing these public services, private medical practitioners offer a range of traditional medical treatments, with Ayurveda being the most prevalent system supported by numerous colleges, often with governmental backing. The government leverages its healthcare network to administer immunizations and promote family planning initiatives, although the latter has achieved varying degrees of success.

Post-independence, welfare services have expanded in both scope and variety, targeting vulnerable groups such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, nomadic communities, women, children, and individuals with disabilities. However, the funding for these services is insufficient, with a significant portion of program budgets allocated to operational costs and basic facilities. Pension schemes are limited to government employees and a segment of the formal economic sector, leaving many without retirement benefits.

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