New Delhi, June 7
The stage has been set for the enactment of a central law to enable the country to respond effectively to public health emergencies and create a special public health framework to meet future challenges.
NITI Aayog has shared a National Public Health Bill with the Ministry of Health for further deliberation. The bill proposes to repeal the 125-year-old Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, which was woefully inadequate to deal with Covid, requiring the government to invoke the National Disaster Management Act to enforce such measures than locks.
“In light of the changing public health landscape globally and nationally, the need to strengthen public health governance and implement India’s commitment under various international instruments, it is proposed to enact a Central Public Health Act in Entries 13 and 14 of the Schedule VII list and Article 253 of the Constitution of India,” the NITI draft states.
The law initially defines several unclear terms including bioterrorism, rat extermination, decontamination, disaster, public health emergency and others and proposes a national public health authority to guide the national emergency response.
The authority will formulate in six months a comprehensive written plan for the prevention, monitoring, mitigation and control of a “public health emergency” and “outbreak” or “potential outbreak” situations.
Government, both central and state, will declare a public health emergency, disease or causative agent as reportable on the recommendations of the authority. Importantly, the bill provides sweeping powers for the national authority, which will have parallel structures at state, district and bloc levels.
Under the heading “Powers of the National and State Public Health Authority”, the draft states: “For the purposes of conducting an investigation, the authority shall have all the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, with respect to summoning witnesses, producing documents and taking evidence under oath”.
Under the proposed law, the declaration of a public health emergency will also amount to a “disaster” under the Disaster Management Act 2005.
Complete plan in 6 months
- The authority will formulate in six months a comprehensive written plan for the prevention, monitoring, mitigation and control of “public health emergencies” and “outbreak” or “potential outbreak” situations.
- The bill states that the central government may set taxes on activities or products that harm human health or the environment and spend the proceeds on public health or sanitation, subject to notice. of the national authority.
- It makes ‘duty to report’ mandatory, under which pharmacists will have to report any unusual prescribing rates