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AIIMS land comment irks farmers

Raiganj, Jan. 7: Farmers willing to sell their plots for a proposed AIIMS-like hospital at Panishala today said a “false campaign” was being made by the state government to spread the message that land was not available.

The landowners numbering around 80 said they were disappointed by Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s statement in Calcutta yesterday that the Centre had faced land problems while trying to build the AIIMS-like hospitals in several places.

“Ever since Panishala was identified to set up the hospital, all of us who own land there have said repeatedly that we are ready to part with the 100 acres required for the project,” said Rafiq Azam, one of the landowners in Panishala.

“We have tried to meet the chief minister during her visit to North Dinajpur recently and visited Writers’ Buildings with our land deeds to express our willingness to give the plots. However, the chief minister has not met us.”

The farmers alleged that the state government was trying to show them in poor light.

“The state government wants to show that we farmers here are not ready to give land. This is entirely wrong,” said another farmer, Iftikar Ali.

“The government, which is run by the Trinamul Congress, is not acquiring land from us because of political reasons. The state government was carrying out a false campaign across Bengal to show that we are unwilling to sell our plots for the hospital. Because of the Union health minister’s comments, people of the state would feel that the hospital is not coming up at Panishala because of us,” Ali said.

Panishala is 9km from Raiganj town and around 100 acres are needed for the hospital.

Following Azad’s statement, Union minister of state for urban development and Raiganj MP Deepa Das Munshi today said the Congress would resume its movement to press for the establishment of the hospital in Raiganj.

“The state government is dilly-dallying over the project for narrow political reasons and not acquiring land from willing farmers. We have tried to convince the chief minister that land is available for the hospital at Panishala. After yesterday’s announcement by the Union health minister, we have no other option but to resume our movement,” said Deepa.