How Adanis Got A PM Relief Funded Hospital
The games that politicians play!.
This is the story of Gujarat’s long pending All India Institute of Medical Sciences(AIIMS) so ‘graciously’ announced in this year’s union budget of the Narendra Modi led BJP government.
The fact is that if BJP patriarch and the first NDA prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had his way, Gujarat would have got the first AIIMS outside Delhi, in Kutch, at least a decade and a half ago. Ironically, it was the present prime minister ,Narendra Modi who was the state’s chief minister at the time. And thereby hangs a tale.
On January 26, 2001 a high intensity earthquake had devastated Kutch region of Gujarat bordering Pakistan reducing it to rubble with thousands perishing in one of the most ghastly human tragedies. Among the buildings destroyed was the government hospital in the district headquarter town of Bhuj wherein over 200 doctors, para medical staff and others were buried alive by falling debris.
The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spent two days in Kutch to oversee relief and rehabilitation work. He also laid the foundation stone of a new hospital to replace the old G.K.General hospital. It was his desire that the rebuilt hospital should be a state- of- the- art medical facility and he foresaw it as one of the best in the entire western part of the country.
Vajpayee sanctioned Rs 100 crores from the Prime Minister’s relief fund for the purpose and made it known that more would be forthcoming, if needed.
”Funds would not be a constraint”, he had assured the then Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel. It was’nt and around Rs 130 crores were eventually spent on it.
The hospital was designed after studying those in earthquake prone zones in China, USA and Japan and incorporated international specifications for structural safety. The 300 bed hospital had 15 wards and three operation theatres besides the latest equipment and appliances when it was operationalised.
Vajpayee took personal interest in the construction of the Bhuj hospital and had even asked a senior Gujarat BJP leader to send him a confidential progress report regularly. The then Prime Minister who was keen to set up four AIMS in four regions of the country wanted the Bhuj facility to be the AIIMS-West.
However Keshubhai had been replaced by Narendra Modi as Chief Minister by the time the hospital was inaugurated in January 2004 by Vajpayee.
Initially,the state government had conveyed to the PMO which had all along been overseeing it’s construction as well as to the then union health minister Sushma Swaraj that the newly constructed 300 bed, super speciality hospital should be managed by the union health ministry as the annual maintenance cost of Rs 15 crores would be beyond it.
The government was spending around Rs 3 crores annually on the previous district hospital. The state government even suggested setting up of a medical college and a nursing school attached to the hospital which too was cleared by the Centre post haste.
Thereafter matters went into a tailspin. According to reports emanating from within the establishment, the state government began dragging its feet on the Kutch AIMS issue, suggesting Patan in north Gujarat as a plausible location for AIIMS.
Vajpayee was so exasperated that he washed his hands off the entire issue telling all those who approached him in the matter to talk to L.K.Advani,the then Deputy PM.
But the Gujarat AIIMS failed to fructify and the G.K.hospital, Bhuj built with Rs 130 crores from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund -through an official proccess - ended up with the corporate giant Adani on a 99 year lease which now also runs the Gujarat Adani Institute of Medical Sciences(GAIMS) .
The lease was granted during Narendra Modi’s rule in Gujarat through a resolution passed by the state government in 2009.
The Modi government’s lease of the medical facility to the Adanis has been the subject matter of a protracted judicial tussle after a PIL challenged the decision. The issue travelled all the way to the Supreme Court where it was dismissed in the first week of December 2016 but a new one is in the offing.
The PIL filed by Adam Chaki and taken up in judicial forums by his lawyer Hashim Kureshi ,had sought cancellation of the lease in the interest of the poor people of the district and had listed sequence of events to make a case that the state government had handed over the administration of the hospital to the business house, bypassing mandatory procedures.
The PIL stated that the government had without giving any reason rejected offers from highly qualified groups like Narayan Hridayalaya, Institute of Cardiac Science, Bangaluru and Manipal Group of Educational Institutions and instead opted for Adanis who had absolutely no experience of working in the area of medical education or public health.
Though the Gujarat High Court dismissed the PIL in its judgment dated January 31,2012 with the then acting chief justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and justice J.B,Pardiwala,accepting the idea of public-private partnership,the high court laid down stringent conditions to be followed.
These included adding 450 beds,reserving 10 per cent in the medical college for students from Kutch, providing free treatment to poor patients and state government employees, setting- up a panel comprising government and Adani nominees to manage the facilities with the income of the hospital and the medical college to be spent in development of the complex only.
Subsequently Chaki was back in the High Court in October 2014 with a plea that the hospital was not providing proper medical facilities in contempt of the court’s 2012 directions. After the government pointed out to the Court that seats could not be reserved for students of a particular district, the 10 per cent reserved seats were also converted to government quota to be given out as per norms applicable to other medical colleges. The issue nevertheless remains mired in litigation.
Meanwhile with the Modi government dangling the AIIMS carrot before Gujarat this year,a ‘fratracidal’ face-off has broken out between Vadodara and Rajkot cities to bag it.
To begin with, the dice was loaded heavily in favour of Vadodara during the tenure of chief minister Anandiben Patel with her minister Saurabh Patel, a Modi favourite from Vadodara strongly pitching for it. However the tide turned in favour of Rajkot when Patel lost his cabinet berth in the Vijay Rupani government. The present chief minister hails from Rajkot.
For now the lob and volley political game continues.