The primary reason why we need the private sector in health and education is because the resources of the government are limited and these moderate resources should be supplemented by private sector resources. However, we have seen that services provided by the private sector in education and health are expensive and often beyond the reach of the poor. This is why it is advocated that both the public sector as well as the private sector should coexist in health and education.
It has been observed that the standards of education in government schools are not up to the mark and many even from the poorer strata of society choose to send their children to private schools for education. But the supporters of universal public education argue that there are many schools run by the government like the Kendriya Vidyalayas which provide good quality education. It is therefore argued that the government can provide quality education provided the necessary will is there.
Instead of having only public sector in education the model we have adopted in India is to have both the public and private sectors coexist. But many argue that having elite private schools providing school education goes against the objective of providing equal opportunity to all. It is also argued that a great deal of profiteering and exploitation coexists with the private sector in education. They say education is for a noble cause and the private sector should not be allowed to earn profits by running educational institutions.
A solution that has been recommended is proper regulation and audit of the performance of the private sector educational institutions. One view is that educational institutions should be run on a no profit basis. Another view is that private education institutions should be allowed to make a reasonable amount of profit in the absence of which private parties will not venture into the field of education.
Then the question arises: what would be a reasonable level of profit for the institutions in the education sector. It would not be prudent to leave this vague and ill defined. What we would like to recommend is to specify a level of profit, say 10, 15 or 20 percent, which the private educational institutions should be allowed to earn. This percentage should be an upper limit and calculated after all expenses of providing education are taken into account. Need-less-to-say, a proper audit of cost and expenses incurred by educational bodies should be made mandatory.
The problem that exists in the health sector is very similar. Should the hospitals be run by the public sector or the private sector or by both. In India we have again adopted a model where private hospitals coexist with the government hospitals. The costs of providing health services have been going up rapidly. The costs of health services provided by the private hospitals are often prohibitive and the poor cannot afford it. Thus arise the need for providing subsidized public health services by the government.
It is only the rich who can afford treatment in private hospitals. To meet the requirements of the poor the government should operate a public health service. With the resources of the government being limited, the private sector should be made to cater to the requirements of all those who can afford it. As in the case of private schools so also profiteering should not be allowed in private hospitals. Prudent limits should be prescribed on the profits that can be earned by private hospitals. Annual audit of costs and expenses should be mandatory for private hospitals too.
As we see it both the public as well as private sectors should coexist in both the educational and health sectors in India. The evil that plagues both these sectors is not profits but profiteering. By introducing suitable regulation, we can check the evil of profiteering. The basic requirement is to specify a limit to the level of profits that can be earned by private schools and hospitals.