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Bloc’s Cong chorus on AIIMS clone

Cooch Behar, Dec. 24: The Forward Bloc today said it would start a campaign to demand an AIIMS-like hospital in north Bengal, adding voice to a campaign led by the Congress just days before the chief minister’s visit to the region.

The Bloc’s Cooch Behar district secretary, Udayan Guha, told a news conference today: “The Forward Bloc will embark on a campaign to demand the medical facility for north Bengal and we are ready to join the movement with any other party that has the same goal.”

He did not mention Congress minister Deepa Das Munshi, who has been campaigning to keep the project in Raiganj, or Mamata Banerjee, whose government wants to relocate the proposed hospital to Kalyani in Nadia.

Cooch Behar is one of few places where the Bloc has a base, although Trinamul is believed to be making inroads fast.

“We have no objection if an AIIMS-like hospital comes up in Raiganj. The main objective is that the clinic has to be located in north Bengal. We are not going to tolerate the state government’s efforts to shift the location out of north Bengal just because it wants to hit back at an Opposition leader. We are not going to let that happen,” Guha said.

Told about Deepa’s idea to launch a funding campaign to buy land for the hospital, Guha said he was not averse to that. “If the Congress launches a fund-raising drive, we have no objection to carrying out a drive with them. It does not matter which political party takes up the issue. We are with all those who are thinking on the same lines,” he said.

Deepa welcomed the move. “From the very beginning of our movement we have appealed to all like-minded persons, organisations and parties to join us. I appreciate and welcome the Forward Bloc’s decision,” she said over the phone from Delhi.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to arrive in Cooch Behar on December 26 and is scheduled to be at an official programme the next day at Pundibari where she would distribute stipends to SC/ST students and those studying in madarsas.

“The Forward Bloc is joining the movement with Deepa Das Munshi just before Mamata Banerjee’s visit to create pressure on Trinamul ahead of the panchayat polls,” an observer said.

He said this was a move by the Bloc to create pressure on Trinamul over the AIIMS issue all across north Bengal.

Sources in the Bloc here said the party’s district conference will be held on January 5 and 6 at Mekhliganj and the blueprint of the movement to demand an AIIMS-like hospital for north Bengal would be drawn up there.

The UPA cabinet had approved the setting up of an AIIMS-like facility in Raiganj in 2009.

However, since then, neither the Left Front nor the current Trinamul government has acquired the land needed to construct the facility.

Mamata had declared that her government would not take land by force from the farmers. The state government wants to shift the project to Kalyani where vested land is available.

Deepa, however, has been campaigning for the setting up of the facility at Panisala on the outskirts of Raiganj for nearly a year.

The Congress has planned a “Writers’ Chalo” agitation in Calcutta on January 10 in which the “willing” farmers of Panisala will participate.