Mumbai: Central govt’s budget cuts render TB champions jobless

14 June,2024 07:05 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Eshan Kalyanikar

With a 40 per cent cut in funding, BMC forced to shut down crucial programme to counsel TB patients

The programme provided a fixed monthly salary of R10,000 to the TB champions. Representation pic

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Approximately 25 to 30 tuberculosis survivors are facing unemployment without prior notice after serving as patient counsellors in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's TB department. Officials from the state TB department said this is because the central government has reduced Maharashtra's TB control funding by 40 per cent, which may lead to several community-oriented initiatives being put on hold.

The TB survivors were referred to as 'TB champions' under the programme, which began in November, 2021. Their everyday role included creating support groups and counseling patients and their families.

An internal email sent by city TB officer Dr Varsha Puri dated June 4 reads, "...No budget is sanctioned in the budget head 'TB Champion'. As per instructions of the State TB Office Pune, CTD (Central TB Division) has instructed to discontinue the TB Champion scheme. Therefore, kindly give instructions to all TB Champions to not attend from tomorrow onwards."

According to a former city TB official who was crucial in setting up this programme, "The rationale was to provide a support system for TB patients by facilitating interaction with people who have recovered from the illness. This was primarily because the road to recovery is very challenging and comes with life-altering side effects."

The official added that the programme also provided a fixed monthly salary of Rs 10,000 to the TB champions. "I have been receiving calls from these survivors for the past few days. They should have been provided with at least a one-month notice," the retired official said.

While Dr Puri remained unavailable for comment, Dr Daksha Shah, head of BMC's public health department, said, "We depend on funding disbursed by the state. Now that they have decided not to fund this programme, we have to shut it down."

Ganesh Acharya, a city-based TB survivor and activist, said, "This programme should have continued as there is no other counseling programme for TB patients across the country. In Mumbai, Sewri Hospital is probably the only place where admitted patients are provided with psychological support."

Dr Anirudha Kadu, a WHO consultant with the state TB department said, "It was a highly localised programme for Mumbai. We had proposed it to the Central TB Division this year too, but they did not approve it."

He added, "Initiatives are proposed at the state level and approved at the Central level. For the TB control programme, the Central government bears 60 per cent while states bear 40 per cent . This year, the department received a budget of Rs 228 crore for the entire state, which is a 40 per cent cut compared to previous year. Now, Rs 100 crore will be reserved for Direct Benefit Transfer to the patients, while the rest will be used to run the programme. The state caters to about 3 lakh TB patients."

State TB officer Dr Sandeep Sangale said, "This is an inclusive amount of both state and Central governments. It will include staff salaries. But the budget can be reappropriated if it is falling short of fulfilling needs. This programme was halted because it was limited to Mumbai. BMC is empowered to continue this programme using their own funds if they wish to."

No. of TB patients in the state

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