Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday offered the central government a proposal to use the services of every state to make health and education free in the country for all citizens.
Addressing a press conference on his birthday on Tuesday, he reiterated that providing free basic services to people should not be called “freebies” as every government ‘owes it to its citizens’.
The AAP chief said the Delhi government is spending an average ₹2,000 per person annually to provide free health services to its people, and that it can be replicated across the country for 1.3 billion people at a cost of ₹2.5 lakh crore. To be able to do so, hospitals, mohalla clinics and dispensaries will have to be opened on a large scale and the testing machinery must be augmented, he said.
“We will have to give quality and free health services to everyone in the country. We did this in Delhi in five years. We just need to change the system. I have heard that in some states, government schools and hospitals have intentionally been kept in a bad shape to benefit the private sector. Some others have launched an insurance scheme of ₹5 lakh for free health treatment. But what will citizens do if there are no hospitals to claim this scheme? Many villages do not even have government hospitals yet,” he said.
Kejriwal also drew a four-point roadmap for the country in order to make education free for all. “If we want to be rich like other developed countries, four things need to be done – first, all existing government schools will have to be redeveloped; second, more government schools will have to be opened; third, all temporary or ad hoc teachers will have to be regularised and new recruitment of teachers will have to be done on a large scale; fourth, teachers will have to be given quality training, if needed they will also have to be sent abroad like we did in Delhi,” he said.
The Delhi CM said there are 170 million children studying in government schools across the country and that only a few such schools are good, while the rest are in terrible condition. “The future of these 170 million children is in darkness right now. Their parents send them to government schools because they don’t have money. But hardly any teaching is done in government schools. If we make all government schools in India like Delhi, every child will study and can enrich his family,” he said.
His comments have come at a time when the AAP leader is looking at expanding his party’s presence across the country after its meteorite wins in Delhi and Punjab. The 10-year-old party is the fastest growing political outfit in India and is just one state away from being recognised as a national party, which is significant given that the Congress is losing its hold as a strong opposition to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre.
AAP is currently eyeing to fight the BJP in the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh towards the end of this year. Kejriwal’s party has 10 Rajya Sabha members, but has no representation in the Lok Sabha.
“I have just one aim in my life, while I am alive, I want to see India as the number one country in the world. We all want India to be a rich country and this can be done only when every citizen of the country becomes rich. I want to make every poor person rich. I have no problem with those who are already rich. Imagine a poor carpenter or plumber sends his child to a dilapidated government school, then the child will also not be interested in studying and he will remain poor by doing menial jobs once s/he grows up. On the other hand, if the child is sent to a very good government school which has solid infrastructure and good teachers, s/he would do well and may become an engineer or doctor or even a businessman. That child will then uplift his poor family from poverty,” the AAP chief said.
He gave examples of developed countries such as the United States, England, Denmark, Norway and Sweden who provide free and quality education and health services. “These countries are rich because they give good education to every child. It is not vice versa, that they are not giving quality education because they are rich… I am offering a proposal to the Centre – keep politics aside and use our services. You use the services of every state and let us all do this together. Please stop calling it freebies…130 crore people are our family. If someone from our family falls ill, we cannot shun them. Giving quality education is not a freebie,” Kejriwal said.