News Brief

The 'Mandir' Problem: Ayushman Bharat Health Centres' Renaming Faces Resistance In Mizoram, Nagaland

Swarajya Staff

Jun 27, 2024, 11:26 AM | Updated 11:26 AM IST

Aayushman Arogya Mandir (Pic Via Twitter)
Aayushman Arogya Mandir (Pic Via Twitter)

The Centre’s decision to rename the flagship Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres as Ayushman Aarogya Mandirs (AAM) has encountered resistance from the northeastern states of Mizoram and Nagaland.

Citing societal and church sentiments, these states have reportedly expressed concerns and requested exemptions from the renaming exercise.

For now, they continue to use the previous nomenclature, “health and wellness centre,” while awaiting a response from the Centre on their objections.

Last year, the Union Health Ministry decided to rebrand its flagship Ayushman Bharat health and wellness centres — the network of 1.6 lakh primary health centres across the country.

These centres are now known as Ayushman Arogya Mandir, bearing the tagline “Arogyam Parmam Dhanam” (health is the greatest wealth).

This change was first communicated to the states in November via a letter from the Mission Director of the National Health Mission, L S Changsan.

Without much fanfare, the Centre, subsequently, made the changes to its website.

In January this year, Mizoram wrote to the Centre, asking for an exemption.

“I would like to express my concern regarding the instructions for rebranding of existing Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) as Ayushman Arogya Mandir (AAM),” Principal Secretary Esther Lal Ruatkimi wrote to then then Union health secretary.

“As you are aware, Mizoram is a Christian state with more than 90% of the population identifying as Christian. It is felt that in order to continue to garner public support for public health activities for health promotion, this rebranding may foster adverse sentiments among the populace towards the government. I, therefore, request you to kindly exempt Mizoram from this activity,” Ruatkimi added.

In February, Mizoram reached out to the Centre once more, emphasising, “It is again requested to exempt Mizoram from renaming of Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres as Ayushman Arogya Mandir.”

In March, Nagaland raised similar concerns.

“… the state government has serious reservations about such a move since it will offend the religious sentiments of the people of the State, and is likely to attract strong objections from the Church and Civil Societies…I am directed to convey the request of the state government that the State may be exempted from being required to rename the Ayushman Bharat and Wellness Centres,” wrote V Kezo, the state’s commission and secretary, Health and Family Welfare.

According to an Indian Express report, Kezo said that no communication has been received from the Centre regarding their request. The state continues to use the previous name, he added.

A senior state health official in Mizoram also confirmed there has been no response from the Centre, and the wellness centres in the state continue to operate under the earlier name.

In February, former BJP Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal asked the Union Health Ministry about the terminology behind the nomenclature “Mandir” in Ayushman Arogya Mandir and whether it was permissible to translate the word Mandir into local languages.

“Realizing the importance of Ayushman Bharat — Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWC) as India’s flagship programme to progress towards Universal Health Coverage, Government of India renamed all AB-HWCs as ‘Ayushman Arogya Mandir’ with the tagline ‘Arogyam Parmam Dhanam’ to realize the dream of Ayushman Bharat i.e. Healthy India,” the then Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pawar, said in her reply to the unstarred question on 9 February.

According to the Union Health Ministry, the existing Sub-Health Centres (SHC), Primary Health Centres (PHC), and Urban Primary Health Centres (UPHC) are being transformed into Ayushman Aarogya Mandirs.

These centres will offer a broader spectrum of primary healthcare services, including preventive, promotive, curative, palliative, and rehabilitative care, all provided at no cost.

Additionally, Ayushman Aarogya Mandirs will be part of the Free Diagnostics Service Initiative (FDSI), aimed at lowering both direct and out-of-pocket expenses for patients.

The initiative covers 14 diagnostic tests at SHC level and 63 at PHC level. Furthermore, under the Free Drugs Service Initiative, 105 essential medications will be available for free at SHCs, and 171 at PHCs.

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