The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hospital funds hocus-pocus
- Rs 20 lakh from Centre for eye clinic missing in Malda

Malda, June 21: Four years after the Centre granted the district Rs 20 lakh to set up a specialised eye ward in the district hospital, no one knows what came of the project.

No one knows where the money is either.

Principal health secretary Kalyan Bagchi, who visited Raiganj in North Dinajpur on May 26 to review the progress of the health department’s work in Malda and South and North Dinajpur district, demanded that Ashok Bala, the Malda district magistrate, give him an account of how the funds were used.

The district magistrate pleaded ignorance, saying he had been posted in Malda only in 2002 and never told by the district health authorities about the funds received from the Union government.

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra and director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee were present at the meeting during which Bagchi came down heavily on Bala for failing to come up with a satisfactory reason and not keeping an eye on how funds were being utilised in the district.

The sabhadhipatis and chief medical officers of health of the two Dinajpurs and Malda were present at the meeting.

An “immediate” inquiry has been ordered to get to the bottom of the “disappearance”.

More than three weeks have passed since the principal health secretary asked for a report but the district magistrate has no clue about the missing money yet.

After his return to Malda, Bala launched himself into trying to ascertain how the funds, released by the Blindness Eradication Society under the Union health ministry, were utilised.

He has asked chief medical officer of health Gopal Sarkar to submit a report at the earliest.

“It is strange that he had never uttered a word about the money sent by the Union government. I am awaiting his report. Things will be clear only after that,” Bala said.

Sarkar said he could not find any document relating to the funds.

“We were given the money to set up a specialised 10-bed eye ward in the district hospital. The ward never opened and I have not come across any document that specifies how the money was used. What report do I submit to the district magistrate'” he asked.

Malda is not the only district from where allegations of “disappearance” of development funds emerged. Earlier, Rs 25 lakh released by the Union government was said to have gone missing from Hooghly.

Sources said deputy director of health services Satyabrata Boot had first informed Chatterjee that several districts were not submitting details of how they were using central funds.

“I have spoken to Satyabrata Boot on several issues, but he never told me about the funds we had received. Had he told me about it, we could have avoided this mess,” Bala said.

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