J&K to provide free drugs up to DHs with 33% Central support

March 12: The State Administrative Council (SAC) today carried enacted Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2016 by amending the existing law using the Legislature powers vested with Governor N N Vohra allowing use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for upcoming Municipal elections even as it approved `Free Drugs Policy’, which will be implemented in the State from June 1 and will provide free essential drugs to the patients at least up to the level of District Hospitals.
Under the `Free Drug Policy’, the Centre would contribute 33 per cent cost of the drugs while rest 67 per cent will be borne by the State Government. Under the Policy, the efforts would be to cover 100 per cent patients up to the level of the District Hospitals. All States in the country have already implemented the Policy and Jammu and Kashmir today became the last State to implement it, which would go long way to benefit patients by providing them free essential drugs.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Governor N N Vohra used the Legislature powers vested with him under the Governor’s Rule and carried out an amendment in Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation and Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Election Rules, 2003 facilitating used of EVMs for all 78 Municipal bodies across the State instead of ballot boxes as provided under the existing Act.
The Municipal elections were scheduled to be held in first week of May and a formal announcement was expected after publication of final rolls by the Election Authority on March 28.
Sources said a total of 4028 EVMs would be required by the Election Authority, who happens to be Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shantmanu, for carrying out elections to all 78 Municipal bodies. The Election Commission has with it over 16,000 EVMs. Therefore, it will not face any problem in readying 4028 EVMs, which have been estimated to be used in all polling stations for 78 Urban Local Bodies.
Excelsior had exclusively reported that the SAC in its meeting on March 11 will carry out an amendment in the Municipal Act using the special Legislature powers with the Governor to facilitate use of EVMs in the elections, which will ensure hassle-free polling and held the Election Authority in declaration of results within the few hours.
Sources said the SAC was yet to take decision on use of EVMs for Panchayat elections which will be held in June-July. Present Act provides use of ballot papers for both Municipal and Panchayat polls. However, if EVMs had to be used for Panchayat elections, the Governor or the next Government would require to carry out separate amendment in the Act.
“After amendment in the Act carried out today by the Governor, the Housing and Urban Development Department was now required to carry out amendments in Municipal Election Rules, 2003 to facilitate use of EVMs for the polls,” sources said.
There were 78 Municipal bodies in the State including two Corporations (Jammu and Srinagar), six Councils (Kathua, Udhampur and Poonch) in Jammu region, (Sopore, Baramulla and Anantnag) in Kashmir region and 70 Municipal Committees including one each in Leh and Kargil districts.
The elections to Municipal bodies were last held in January 2005 and elected Municipalities had completed their term in March 2010. However, elections were not held to them since then. The Government now proposed to hold elections to the Municipal bodies in first week of May.
Meanwhile, the SAC that met today under the chairmanship of Governor N N Vohra also have nod to adoption of ‘Free Drugs Policy’ for Jammu and Kashmir.
The Policy was part of Government of India’s Mission of ‘Health for All’ and was aimed at reducing expenditure of patients on healthcare. Though the Policy had been implemented in all the States, it was implemented in the State under the Governor’s Rule today as previous Governments made no efforts to implement it though it was directly going to benefit the poor patients.
According to sources, the Government proposed to provide essential drugs to patients free of cost, at least up to the level of District Hospitals.
Under the Policy, the Health authorities will have to display the boards in all hospitals including dispensaries, Primary Health Centres, Community Health Centre and District Hospitals etc displaying names of the drugs, which would be available to the patients free of cost.
“If the drug(s) mentioned in the boards were not available in the hospital, the Incharge of the hospital would have to arrange that drug from the market,” sources said, adding that the Health and Medical Education Department has estimated the costs for implementation of the Policy between Rs 35 crores to Rs 40 crores.
In anticipation of implementation of the Policy, the Health and Medical Education Department has already raised buffer stock of the drugs from 10 per cent to 30 per cent to ensure that the essential drugs didn’t fall short.
Noting that it was the Government of India’s Initiative aimed at providing ‘Health for All’, sources said the Centre would contribute 33 per cent funds in the Policy, which will be implemented in the State from June 1. By the time of deadline, the Health and Medical Education Department will make all possible arrangements aimed at implementation of the Policy.
The SAC meeting chaired by Governor NN Vohra was attended among others by both Advisors to Governor-Parvez Dewan and Khurshid Ganaie, Chief Secretary BR Sharma, Financial Commissioner (Planning and Development Department) BB Vyas and Principal Secretary to Governor PK Tripathi.
An official handout said: J&K is one of the States, which has already put in place a separate Central procurement mechanism in the form of the J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Limited. The Corporation has started functioning fully since 2015 and the drugs/ medicines procured by this agency have already started becoming available.
From the next financial year 2016-17, it shall take over the burden of making all the procurements for Health and Medical Education Department’s procurement needs. In fact, this was one of the pre-requisites for rolling out of the Free Drugs Policy.
The Policy initially provides for making available for all ‘In patients’ and ‘Out patients’ 23 medicines at the level of sub-centres, 53 at the level of Primary Health Centres and 68 at the level of Sub-District Hospitals/CHCs/ District Hospitals. This free drug list has been envisaged as an evolving list, which is subject to review by the State Government depending upon the availability of resources and the felt needs of various Health Institutions.
Health Department had earlier put in place a Drug Policy in the year 2012 which was based on the National List of Essential Medicines of India, 2011.
Recently, the Department notified the Jammu and Kashmir Drug Formulary, which is an exhaustive list of drugs/ medicines out of which alone the procurement of drugs/medicines can be made by the J&K Medical Supplies Corporation etc.
The State did not have a Drug Formulary till date and had to rely on the Formularies of other States for its procurement needs. This Formulary was notified based on the recommendations of a Committee constituted by the Government in 2013 under the Chairmanship of Dr Ajit K Nagpal, the first Director of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura and Convener, Task Force on Health Sector Reforms in J&K.
The Department undertook a detailed exercise while framing the Free Drug Policy which, inter-alia, contained a grievance redressal mechanism, and also underlines the need for a prescription audit and putting in place standard treatment guidelines so that the Free Drugs list can be made effectively implementable. The Free Drugs Policy is likely to be implemented in the State from the 1st June, 2016.
Meanwhile, the SAC accorded sanction to the transfer of 2 kanals of land at Pampore, belonging to Jammu and Kashmir Industries (JKI) to J&K State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) and Jammu and Kashmir State Water Resources Regulatory Authority (JKSWRRA) at the rate of Rs 50 lakh per kanal for the construction of office complex which will be utilized by both the institutions.

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