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Seal on land for AIIMS at Kalyani

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, committing 150 acres in Kalyani along with essential infrastructure to set up an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) there.

Union health ministry officials said a team would visit Bengal soon for a formal inspection of the land, after which a detailed project report would be prepared.

The 150 acres are adjacent to Kalyani railway station and JNM Medical College and Hospital. “The land belongs to the land and land revenue department,” the official said.

Mamata, who is on a three-day visit to north Bengal, confirmed the decision at Bagdogra airport on Tuesday. “AIIMS will be established in Kalyani. We would have been happy if AIIMS was set up in north Bengal. But for that, land has to be available. In the past 10 years, nothing was done to obtain land for the project and there was only politics over the issue.”

AIIMS Delhi is spread across 100 acres but a centre of excellence, which the one in Bengal is meant to be, requires 200 acres. The Union health ministry has apparently agreed to make do with 150 acres.

Sources at Swastha Bhavan, the headquarters of the state health department, said Mamata’s commitment to arrange for the requisite infrastructure along with land had removed doubts about whether her government was serious about the project.

Union minister Harsh Vardhan had written to the chief minister recently, mentioning that Delhi was “in principle” ready to set up the country’s second AIIMS in Kalyani if Bengal could provide land. “Now we can go ahead with the project. An inspection needs to be carried out before a professional agency is hired for the DPR (detailed project report),” a ministry official said.

Metro had highlighted Bengal’s offer of land in Kalyani for the proposed AIIMS on June 11.

Kalyani has been on the state government’s radar since 2011, when Mamata requested the then Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to shift the proposed Rs 823-crore project from Raiganj to a site closer to Calcutta.

Kalyani was the government’s pick because of its proximity to the city and the research environment already created by the presence of the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics there.

Raiganj is more than 400km from Calcutta while Kalyani is just about 50km away. “It would have been difficult to get top professionals for an institute 400km away from Calcutta,” an official said.