Stressing the need for better healthcare facilities in rural India, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has said the country will spend two per cent of its GDP on health in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12). Currently the central and state governments are spending one per cent of India’s GDP on health sector and by the end of the 11th five year plan 2011-12, they expect to spend two per cent of it. Speaking at the 35th convocation of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), he said: “There is a serious need for the expansion of healthcare facilities in rural areas and here the role of public (government) expenditure is essential. The government has decided to roll out double the fund for the purpose.” “In 1956, the life expectancy in India was only 37 years and now it’s 66 years. We have eradicated diseases like smallpox but a majority of our people in rural India continue to suffer due to lack of medical facilities,” he said. “At least 60 per cent of our pregnant women and 80 per cent of kids in the 6-18 month category are anaemic. Our infant mortality rate is 58 per 1,000 births. This number is 36 in Indonesia and 32 in China. “Our maternal mortality ratio is 301 (per 100,000 pregnant women) as against 130 in Vietnam and 56 in China. Still over 50 per cent of our pregnant women deliver babies without attendance of health experts,” the deputy chairman said. He said that primary healthcare centres were in bad shape, district hospitals lacked infrastructure as well as health personnel. The government is analysing a couple of schemes like possibility of public-private partnership to boost the health sector and “the prime minister has already mentioned a proposed health insurance scheme for people below the poverty line”, Ahluwalia said.