A single brick, with AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) written on it, held aloft during the Assembly election campaign a couple of months back in Tamil Nadu has left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hugely embarrassed.
The incident of lifting the brick by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Udhayanidhi Stalin exposed the actual status of the proposed AIIMS in Madurai. Nothing exists apart from the compound wall in the 262 acres site in Thoppur village in Madurai.
The BJP and its alliance partner, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) were left red faced, since no explanations were enough to justify the inordinate delay.
The foundation stone was laid in January 2019 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the new AIIMS for Madurai, after the announcement of an AIIMS for Tamil Nadu was made in 2015. With the Union government expressing interest to begin outpatient services and MBBS classes from the current academic year, the state government has sought time to explore the available alternatives.
‘UNION GOVT READY TO BEGIN SERVICES’
After much embarrassment for the delay in initiating the construction works, the Union government has now gone into trouble-shooting mode in an attempt to save its face. In an affidavit filed in the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, the government has expressed its willingness to begin outpatient services and MBBS classes, based on the availability of alternative space.
The Union government has proposed to admit the students to JIPMER, Puducherry or Madurai Medical college/any arts college or any private medical college in Madurai. The Minister for Medical and Family Welfare in the government of Tamil Nadu, M Subramaniam, however, has said that the three suggestions of the Union government are not feasible.
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“The State is exploring the possibility of admitting 50 students each to the government medical colleges in Madurai, Theni and Sivaganga, or 30 each to the government medical colleges in Madurai, Theni, Sivaganga, Thoothukudi and Tiruchi. We will consult with the Chief Minister and submit a report soon,” he said, The Hindu reported.
The higher intake of 250 students for MBBS course in Madurai Medical College, while Puducherry being another Union Territory are cited as the reason for the reluctance of the state government.
MP QUESTIONS DELAY IN WORK
Madurai MP, S Venkatesan of the CPI(M), had raised the question in Parliament in March 2021 regarding the slow process in setting up of the AIIMS. The MP sought answers for the phases planned for the completion of AIIMS, details of the blueprint of the construction of the blocks/buildings in phases and start date and target date of completion of each phase.
To which the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare replied that, “The Union Cabinet approved setting up of a new AIIMS in Madurai, Tamil Nadu at a cost of Rs. 1,264 crore. AIIMS at Madurai is being set up with a loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for which negotiations have been concluded. Pre activities have been started at the site of the project.”
But an RTI reply in February, a month earlier than the union minister’s answer revealed that the cost of the project was revised to nearly Rs 2,000 crore. The revised estimate was prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which will loan 85% of the project cost.
AGREEMENT WITH JICA SIGNED
The revised estimate for the hospital is pegged at Rs 1,977.8 crore of which, JICA will offer Rs 1,627.7 crore as loan. The remaining amount will be sanctioned through budgetary support.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in a reply to S Venkatesan stated that the agreement was signed on March 26, 2021, with JICA.
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The union minister of state also replied that, “Project cell posts for AIIMS Madurai have been created and Executive Director, deputy director(admin), Superintending Engineer and administrative officer have been appointed. The process of hiring Project Management Consultant through global tendering has been initiated by this ministry.”
The construction time could be longer than estimated as JICA is expected to disburse the loan in 71 months, against the initially announced 45 months. Meanwhile, several other AIIMS announced along with AIIMS Madurai have started admitting students.
WHAT LED TO THE DELAY?
The demand for the AIIMS was raised by former Madurai MP, P Mohan of the CPI(M), in Parliament during his tenure between 1999 and 2009. The long wait came to an end with the announcement coming in the Union Budget in February 2015. It took more than three years for the state government to identify Madurai as the location.
The approval was given by the Union government in December 2018, following which PM Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone in January 2019, a few months before the last Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP government announced that the 750-bedded facility at a cost of Rs 1,624 crore will be built in 45 months.
In September 2019, the permission for entering the land allocated was accorded by the Madurai district administration. The letter for handing over the land was sent to the Union government on November 6, 2019.
No work progressed even after the land was handed over, apart from the construction of the compound wall in the 262 acre site. The AIADMK led former state government and the BJP-led Union government have been equally criticised for the inordinate delay in the commencement of the construction works for the much sought after project.