Covid-wary city laps up Swasthya Sathi scheme
Times of India, 05 December 2020
Kolkata: Manas Ghosh, a retired school teacher at a state government-aided primary school and a resident of Tollygunge, had to stand in a serpentine queue for over two hours to submit his documents for enrolment in the state’s medical insurance scheme, Swasthya Sathi, at a makeshift camp at Ashoknagar Park organized by Kolkata Municipal Corporation on Thursday.
Ghosh, who does not belong to the BPL category, is anxious to be on the list should he fall ill. The pandemic and rising health costs had left him worried when the chief minister announced the extension of the scheme to all citizens.
Like Ghosh, lakhs of citizens are waiting to enrol themselves for the scheme that will enable the insurance holder and his family to avail of treatment up to Rs 5 lakh.
A KMC official said the civic body on Thursday received 1,500 applications for Swasthya Sathi at the camp at Ashoknagar Park. Of this, around 500 applicants were from the lower middle income households that can’t afford expensive treatment.
According to Tapan Dasgupta, the borough ward coordinator (Borough X), civic officials had already received over 4,000 applications from four wards in the borough. “Of these applicants, a good number belongs to lower middle class or middle class. The health insurance scheme has become extremely popular among residents of Azadgarh, Netajinagar, Baghajatin, Pallisree among others,” Dasgupta said. He has arranged for a printer for delivering insurance cards on the spot. Ratan Malakar, the coordinator of Borough IX, said Swasthya Sathi was much in demand from residents of Harish Mukherjee Road, Bhowanipore and Kidderpore areas as well. “We have received over 1,000 applications on a single day,” he said.
Localities in north Kolkata also saw queues for enrolment. For Bina De, a resident of Hari Ghosh Street who belongs to a middle-income family, Swasthya Sathi meant a big relief from the worries of managing finances for treatment, especially during the pandemic days. For the septuagenarian, who needed to be physically present at the camp, walking till the camp was tough.
There has been huge response among residents of Salt Lake to apply for the Swastha Sathi scheme as the government’s ‘Duare Sarkar’ outreach camps are being held in different wards on different days across the 41 wards of Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation. The first camp was held for Ward 41 in Salt Lake.
Though there are nine schemes included in the outreach camps, most residents are seeking information about Swasthya Sathi, followed by the Khadya Sathi scheme.
“People are primarily interested in the health insurance scheme. Many don’t know how to fill up the form. So we are assisting them,” said Somen Dutta, a resident of Kashi Bose Lane area.
Ward coordinators have also been asked to go the extra mile to help residents in the enrolment. “While we were campaigning, some senior citizens approached us and sought help. Some of them stayed alone while some had nobody to accompany them. They needed a little more accessibility. We decided to hire some rickshaws and accompanied them to camps. We took telephone numbers of each of the elderly persons and escorted them to the camp,” said Faiz Ahmed Khan, coordinator of Ward 66 where 2,000 application forms have been submitted from Tiljala-Topsia.
Bapi Ghosh, councillor of Ward 7, arranged autos to carry elderly persons to the camps and back.