The first draft of the Centre's right to health and healthcare bill that talks about making "free and affordable healthcare" a fundamental right is ready. But instead of being put up for public consultation, it is being circulated among a "select few" for feedback.
The draft, accessed by The New Indian Express, has been prepared by a private university entrusted with the task by the economic advisory council of the Prime Minister instead of the Union Health Ministry.
The Right to Health and Healthcare Bill, 2021, prepared by OP Jindal University has proposed that every individual will have a right to access healthcare services that are free or affordable and available, accessible, acceptable and quality-compliant at "any healthcare establishment".
The draft says every individual will have the right to access and not be denied use of public or private transport services during a public health emergency.
It also says that no individual will be traced or otherwise subjected to any surveillance without their explicit, autonomous and informed consent while also laying down guidelines for safety, security and working conditions of healthcare workers. Recognising that transgenders and those with different sexual orientation are often mistreated, the bill says they will not be discriminated on such grounds.
An important aspect of the bill is introducing monitoring governance mechanisms and it says that within six months of the bill coming into effect, health councils from village to national level will be formed. These councils will be crucial for ensuring community participation.
Some felt the 'secrecy' around the bill may be against norms. "There has been no information related to this. It is shrouded in secrecy and rather than health ministry, a private law university is drafting while no public participation has happened," said Satendra Singh, a senior faculty with the University College of Medical Sciences and transparency activist.