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Knock-knock season in Bengal
AMRI visitors for CM at office

Calcutta, June 10: Two of the owners of AMRI Hospitals and their two sons met chief minister Mamata Banerjee this afternoon and discussed among other things the possible reopening of indoor facilities at the Dhakuria unit.

The meeting at the chief minister’s 14th-floor office at Nabanna was the first formal interaction between the Bengal chief minister and the owners of the hospital since the fire tragedy in 2011. They were seen at a few events in between but the gatherings were largely social, such as the post-Puja meet-and-greet attended by the chief minister.

When R.S. Agarwal and R.S. Goenka, the joint chairmen of the Emami group, their sons Aditya Agarwal and Manish Goenka, both directors of the company, and AMRI group CEO Rupak Barua walked out of Nabanna around 2.45 this afternoon, they were all smiles.

The file for the final fire-safety clearance that will enable AMRI to again admit patients in the Dhakuria facility is now with the chief minister.

“Report aami peyechhi, dekhchhi (I have received the report, I’m looking into it),” a source quoted Mamata as saying.

According to state government sources, the licence was cleared by all departments concerned and is awaiting the final nod from the chief minister.

The hospital’s Dhakuria unit has been closed since the fire in its Annexe 1 building in which 91 people were killed on December 9, 2011.

“The promoters of AMRI had written to the chief minister seeking appointment a number of times but there was no response for some time. Today’s meeting shows a change in the attitude of the government towards Emami,” said a state government official.

Mamata had announced the cancellation of AMRI’s medical licence a day after the tragedy. The hospital’s trade licence was also withdrawn.

Eight of the erstwhile AMRI directors were arrested. Three of them were at today’s meeting: Agarwal, Goenka and Manish.

Agarwal was admitted to a hospital on the evening of December 9 but he was arrested from there and later shifted to the state-run SSKM Hospital. An arrest warrant was issued against Aditya but he was missing. The police later issued a lookout notice for him. All of them are now on bail.

At today’s meeting, the chief minister asked the Emami owners about the new investments they were making in Bengal, sources said.

They explained to her the plans for a cement-grinding plant in Purulia’s Raghunathpur and a new hospital in Rajarhat.

During the day, asked about the notable investments in the state, finance minister Amit Mitra had referred to the cement plant proposals by Emami and Anil Ambani’s Reliance.

Emami sources said the government had already allotted around 70 acres for the Rs 500-crore cement-grinding plant and a 10MW power plant for the factory.

The promoters of the company also told the chief minister about the group’s 450-bed hospital and a nursing college in New Town that would involve an investment of another Rs 500 crore.

“The meeting was cordial and the chief minister treated the Emami owners to tea and biscuits,” said a source.

She also told them about the condition of state-run hospitals and that they were overburdened with patients, the sources added.

In January 2012, industry chamber Ficci had issued a statement on the AMRI fire and subsequent arrests, demanding the immediate release of those “not responsible for day-to-day operations of any business”.

The first signs of a thaw emerged way back in November 2012, when Aditya Agarwal attended the annual post-Puja gathering for industry.

Around the end of 2013, AMRI got back the licence to reopen its OPD at the main block in Dhakuria, which had not been affected by the fire.