People celebrate in Panishala on Thursday. Picture by Nantu Dey
Raiganj, Feb. 7: A declaration of an AIIMS-like hospital in Raiganj attributed to Sonia Gandhi today set off celebrations near this North Dinajpur town.
Most of the jubilant residents of Panishala, which is near Raiganj, were those who had volunteered to give land for the hospital for which Congress MP Deepa Das Munshi has been campaigning.
It could not be confirmed if Sonia Gandhi yesterday mentioned the making of the AIIMS in Raiganj. She spoke at a public meeting in Palghar, Maharashtra, where she had gone to kick off a health programme for children.
However, a release by the Press Information Bureau, a central agency, mentioned the proposed AIIMS in Raiganj under the heading Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram launched by Sonia.
“Under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, 6 new AIIMS have been established at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh…. In Phase II… 2 new AIIMS will come up at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh and Raiganj in West Bengal,” the release said.
The PIB release attributed the lines to “Smt. Gandhi”.
Congress sources said Deepa, who has spearheaded the demand to bring the AIIMS to Raiganj, had called up leaders in Raiganj late yesterday night and conveyed that Sonia was believed to have spoken about AIIMS.
Raiganj is also Deepa’s constituency.
As information reached here, about 200 residents of Panishala who had volunteered to give land for the hospital began celebrating with aabir and distributed sweets.
The AIIMS issue has led to much debate and acrimony between chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whose government wants the hospital to come up in Kalyani, and Deepa.
The state government wants to have the facility in Kalyani, in Nadia district, because there is vested land there. Deepa, in her bid to prove that the residents of Panishala were willing to give land, even paraded 84 such “willing” farmers in Calcutta recently.
Speaking over phone from Delhi today, Deepa said the UPA chairperson’s statement was a clear indication that the AIIMS would not come up anywhere else but Raiganj. She accused Mamata and other Trinamul leaders for trying to create confusion among the people.
“The state government has been acting irrationally and unnecessarily delaying the implementation of the project. The Union health ministry wants to establish an AIIMS in Raiganj and that has been made clear by Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Yesterday, Madam (Sonia Gandhi) has announced the same in Maharashtra and once again we have been vindicated,” Deepa said.
She said that the Centre was determined to set up an AIIMS in Raiganj.
Deepa, however, had a word of caution for Congress workers. “I sincerely thank the UPA chairperson on behalf of the people here. However, I am telling our party supporters and workers to react with caution and not to go overboard with celebrations as the Congress’s success is a source of irritation for certain persons,” the MP and junior urban development minister said.
But back in Panishala, someonehad written with aabir that the AIIMS clone would be set upon the land adjacent to NH34 that the Union health ministry had selected for the hospital.
“From the very first day we have offered to sell our land for the hospital. We had even gone to Calcutta on January 10, all 84 of us to offer our land. We had expressed our wish to sell the land on non-judicial stamp papers that were submitted to the chief minister. Yet, the state government is delaying the project unnecessarily. We thank Sonia Gandhi for her announcement and we see some hope now,” said Mohammad Rafiq, one of the farmers.
Liyakat Ali, the former sabhapaiti of the Raiganj panchayat samiti, said: “We are carrying out a sustained movement in this regard and people are with us regardless of their political affiliations. We are happy with the announcement our chairperson has made.”