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Rs 650cr for Calcutta cancer hospital

- Abu Hasem talks of plan to get PM to lay foundation of 500-bed facility

Malda/Calcutta, Nov. 25: The Union health ministry has sanctioned Rs 650 crore for a cancer hospital in Calcutta that had been in limbo for 10 years since being conceived because of lack of funds from Delhi.

Union minister of state for health, Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury announced in Malda today that the Centre had sanctioned the entire fund for the 500-bed second campus of the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute at Rajarhat.

He said the health ministry was trying to get prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to lay the foundation stone for the project in January.

“The land is already available with us. The Centre has sanctioned a sum of Rs 650 crore for the cancer hospital in Calcutta. If things move smoothly, the prime minister will lay the foundation stone in January. We are trying to finalise the date,” Khan Chowdhury, the Congress MP from South Malda, said at his Kotwali residence.

The Centre disbursed the first tranche of funds of Rs 25 lakh for the project soon after Khan Chowdhury was sworn in as the Union minister of state for health. CNCI officials informed that the money was spent as fees to get clearances from various agencies.

According to sources, the safety nod from the Airports Authority of India, a must for any highrise in the vicinity of the airport, has come.

“The minister will hold a meeting with me regarding disbursement of funds in the coming week,” said CNCI director, Joydip Biswas.

He said Rs 45 crore was to be allocated for the two-phased project in the current financial year. “If the amount is disbursed, construction will start before March 2013.”

The plan to set up the second campus of the state-run hospital was mooted in 2003-04 but the 10-acre plot in New Town Action Area I that was earmarked for it in 2008 is still lying vacant.

The state is to provide 10 per cent of the infrastructure capital and 20 per cent of the recurring and maintenance cost, while the rest will be borne by the Centre.

But Khan Chowdhury said if the state government did not release funds, Centre would bear the entire cost.

“The health ministry will fully-finance the construction of the hospital and its equipment. The doctors and other staff will also be central government employees. The state government will maintain the facility for which the Centre would also provide a portion of the funds,” he said.

Khan Chowdhury criticised Bengal’s healthcare system and said a letter had been sent to chief minister Mamata Banerjee seeking an appointment to discuss the problems.

“I have written to the chief minister on November 21 seeking a date to discuss matters with her. The Centre wants to plug the holes in the healthcare system in Bengal. There are many issues to discuss with her including the construction of an AIIMS-like facility for Raiganj,” he said.

The project, planned near the 167-bedded Tata Medical Centre, another dedicated cancer hospital, has been conceived in two phases. The first phase will come up at a cost of Rs 337 crore and have 300 beds and is likely to be ready in two years, said Biswas.