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Budget seal on AIIMS in Bengal

- Jaitley boon for campus twins

Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s first Union budget has one provision the Trinamul Congress would have no complaints about: an “AIIMS-like institution” for Bengal at a location already chosen by the state government.

“It is a matter of great satisfaction that all the six new AIIMS at Jodhpur, Bhopal, Patna, Rishikesh, Bhubaneswar and Raipur, which are part of Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, have become functional. A plan to set up four more AIIMS-like institutions at Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Purvanchal in UP is under consideration. I propose to set aside a sum of Rs 500 crore for this,” Jaitley said in his budget speech on Thursday.

A senior official of the Union health ministry said from Delhi that Kalyani, around 30km from Calcutta airport, had been “finalised” as the site of the proposed AIIMS. “The project is on. A technical team will soon visit the state for a feasibility survey.”

The inspection team will comprise engineers, architects and other experts to look into essential requirements like easy connectivity, power and water supply, drainage and proper roads.

According to the health ministry official, the “administrative decision” taken by the state to set up the institute in Kalyani was final.

More than anything else, connectivity was the clinching factor for Kalyani. “AIIMS needs top professionals on permanent posting. AIIMS professors and doctors are usually not transferred because the idea is to develop each one into a centre of excellence. It would be difficult to get such professionals if the location isn’t in proximity to a city, if not within it,” the official said.

The Mamata Banerjee government picked Kalyani over contender Raiganj because of its proximity to Calcutta and the research environment created by the presence of the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics there. The Indian Institute of Science Education and Research is also close by.

It takes less than two hours to reach Kalyani by road from Calcutta. Raiganj is more than 400km away from the city.

Sources in the state government said the chief minister’s office had been asked by the Union health ministry to confirm its choice of Kalyani and it did so.“We informed the Union ministry recently that we are ready with land in Kalyani. The project has been finalised,” an official said.

A team of state government officials had visited the 150-acre site adjacent to Kalyani railway station and JNM Medical College and Hospital for a survey before giving the green signal. The land and land revenue department owns the site.