Newspaper article International New York Times

India Limits Foreign Aid in Providing Health Care

Newspaper article International New York Times

India Limits Foreign Aid in Providing Health Care

Article excerpt

For decades, India has turned to international aid agencies to fill gaps in its health care system. Now Narendra Modi's government is cracking down.

Expressing concern about foreign influence on its policies, India is turning away from a decades-old practice of filling gaps within its health system with consultants hired by foreign aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

Under the new rules, the contracts of consultants who have worked within India's health system for foreign aid agencies for more than three years, a total of around 100 people, will be terminated, said Manoj Jhalani, joint secretary in the Ministry of Health. The roughly 100 who remain will need to be approved by a new screening committee.

Fifty employees of the National AIDS Control Organization were given notice this month, though supervisors said they hoped to retain them as government employees.

Experts warned that if vacancies went unfilled, major health initiatives, like those aimed at fighting the spread of AIDS and tuberculosis, could suffer serious setbacks.

"Every one of these jobs is a necessary one," said Dr. Bobby John, a specialist in infectious disease and maternal health who previously worked for Global Health Advocates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "These people are doing something the country needs."

He added, "If this is a transition to hiring them on government of India rolls, brilliant."

Beginning in the early 1990s, when its health system was chronically short of funds, India began to employ specialists provided by the World Health Organization, the United States Agency for International Development, Britain's Department for International Development and the Gates Foundation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, however, has been wary of nongovernmental organizations, in some cases charging them with acting against the national interest. Last year, the government suspended the registration for Greenpeace and placed the Ford Foundation on a national security watch list for nearly a year, barring it from making grants in India without specific permission.

Similar concerns have arisen around the work of foreign-funded consultants in the health system. …

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