Practo is happy with FM Jaitley's 'rural' Budget 2016


It is perhaps a moment for quiet reflection. A moment to think about what truly plagues our nation and what we need to do as citizens of the country to solve these issues and what role the government must play in this.

If you think about it, beyond the glitz and glamour of the thriving startup ecosystem that 200-300M Indians are a part of, there are another billion Indians completely untouched by it and unable to participate and leverage this growth. In effect, India has been growing despite these billion people and not with them. This is a huge opportunity - we’re growing at 8% with 300M connected Indians, imagine what could our growth rate be if a billion people were connected?

So I think the primary focus for our government should be to invest in infrastructure – both physical and digital. Connectivity will drive inclusion – social, financial and perhaps even political and this is exactly where the budget delivers by the truckload. It is heartening to see acceleration of road projects and an increased allocation towards connecting rural India. 24/7 electricity for every village would be a huge boon as well.

Once connected, over a billion people will have access to the same products and services we currently take for granted and many many more products will be designed that solve their unique challenges. So even though the budget may not have directly addressed startups directly, these infrastructure investments will open up a massive domestic market that is just aching for products and services – whether it is education or healthcare or even just entertainment.

The second aspect of the budget that I am very pleased with is the focus on an inclusive healthcare system. 1 lakh rupees of insurance cover for all families and an additional 30,000 for senior citizens is a fantastic move as it will ensure that for most people a health related catastrophe doesn’t jeopardize their entire financial health – not only will they be able to get access to good quality medical services, they will also be able to weather the financial burden of getting the right treatment.

India witnesses nearly 600,000 deaths every year due to diarrhea and a large part of that is due to the lack of proper sanitation and hygiene. Many of these will be prevented with the 9,000 crore allocation towards Swacch bharat and the focus on improving sanitation for everyone will go a long way in preventing these deaths.

India also sees nearly 1 million deaths a year due to household air pollution ( The Lancet Respiratory Medicine Commission) – majority of which are due to the smoke emanating from cooking on ‘chulhas’. Nearly 39% of neo-natal stillbirths in India are attributed to cooking fumes as per the National Center of Biotechnology Information. The 2,000 crore allocation in this budget focusing on ensuring rural India gets cooking gas within the next 2 years will be a major step forward in helping the women and children live healthier, longer and more productive lives.

I believe this is the first budget in a long time that focuses on the foundational elements of our country. It focuses on fixing a lot of the basics that have been holding us back from unlocking our potential. With the right execution the finance minister might just have given our country one of most impactful budgets we’ve seen.

This article has been authored by Shashank ND, CEO and founder of healthcare app Practo.
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