NEW DELHI: India has seen a huge jump in the number of visas given to patients, indicating a further liberalisation of the visa regime.
The number of medical visas given in 2014 was 75,671, which increased to 1,34,344 in 2015, up by almost 80 per cent. The first six months of this year has seen 96,856 medical visas issued.
This follows the online tourist visa scheme that was initiated in 2013 and has gradually been increased to 150 countries.
The highest number of patients in 2015 came from Bangladesh (68,034) followed by Afghanistan (19,644), Nigeria (5,765), Iran (5,656) and Oman (4,728.) The people coming to India under the medical visa category include patients and their attendants.
The number of medical visas issued by India in 2013 was 56,129 and that increased to 75,671 in 2014.The steady increase in the number of patients seeking medical and wellness solutions in India comes due to a variety of reasons with the country boasting of not only top-quality medical professionals but also state of-the-art facilities and reasonable costs as compared to several other countries.
The tourism ministry has been working to encourage medical tourism and has also recently constituted the National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board. Responding to a Rajya Sabha query , Union tourism minister Mahesh Sharma said, “A National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board has been constituted to provide a dedicated institutional framework to take forward the cause of promotion of medical tourism, wellness tourism and yoga, ayurveda tourism and any other Indian system of medicine covered by Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH).
The board works as an umbrella organisation that governs and promotes this segment of tourism in an organised manner.”
The board has representatives from AYUSH, Quality Council of India, National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH). NABH provides accreditation to hospitals and wellness centres covering quality standards. Under the Market Development Assistance (MDA) scheme, the tourism ministry also provides incentives to stakeholders accredited by NABH.