The government has sought support from Non-resident Indians (NRIs) for the proposed state-funded health insurance cover scheme that is aimed at helping some 300 million people living below the poverty line (BPL) across India. Making an appeal before an assorted gathering of the Indian diaspora at the sixth Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD) in New Delhi, the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said India was in dire need of expanding its basic healthcare infrastructure to implement this scheme and NRIs contribution towards this would make a difference. The healthcare insurance scheme for BPL families envisages a 75 per cent contribution from the Centre and the rest from the states. The government had already announced this scheme in October and it is likely to formally launch it in the next financial year. Ahluwalia, who was speaking on the ‘Social Development in India: Health and Education’ theme, asked the NRIs to support NGOs working in the healthcare sector at the grassroots levels rather than open costly healthcare facilities. “India does not need costly technologies in healthcare but small interventions at the grassroots levels.” To make his point, Ahluwalia said an NGO led by a doctor couple, while working in the tribal districts of Maharashtra, had managed to lower the infant mortality rate by half in a span of two years. He sought support for NGOs like these from NRIs. He said the pilot project on healthcare insurance launched by Andhra Pradesh in five districts had shown encouraging results. “For the first time, service providers were chasing the poor to offer them insurance benefits,” he said. Ahluwalia said although the government had doubled allocations for the healthcare sector from 1 per cent of the GDP to 2 in the Eleventh Plan, “the Indian government carries the double burden of non-communicable diseases and its huge population base”. Ahluwalia also asked the NRIs to invest in the skill-based education. He told them that while the Indian economy was expanding fast, there was an acute shortage of skilled workers.