Mamata Banerjee on Thursday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging his intervention for the immediate release of funds under the National Health Mission (NHM).
The letter was sent a day after Union home minister Amit Shah had claimed at a rally in Calcutta that the Narendra Modi-led central government had been generous in allotting funds to Bengal.
Although Shah said the Modi government had sent more than Rs 8 lakh crore to Bengal over the past nine years compared with Rs 2 lakh crore allocated in the 10 years of UPA rule, the Centre has stopped the release of funds under major rural development schemes like those for housing, roads and 100 days' work in the past one year.
“It is most unfortunate that very recently, I am informed that the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has withheld fund release under National Health Mission to West Bengal due to non-compliance of certain colour branding guidelines for Health and Wellness Centres, despite other conditionalities being fulfilled. The withholding of fund release would adversely deprive the poor people of their benefit,” the chief minister wrote in the letter.
That the Centre has stopped the release of funds under the NHM — on the pretext that the state has flouted the preconditions set for the scheme — should be highlighted to drill holes into Shah’s claim, said a source in Nabanna, explaining the trigger behind the letter.
Sources at Nabanna said Bengal was supposed to get Rs 800 crore from the Union government in the ongoing financial year to run nearly 11,000 health and wellness centres across the state. Although almost all states have received their dues, Bengal is yet to get its share, said a source.
A senior state government official said the Centre had underlined that Bengal had not followed the colour branding norm while painting the buildings of the health centres.
“The Union government had asked the state to colour the centres in metallic yellow with khaki borders. But the state has coloured them in blue and white,” a source said.
Mamata also raised the issue in her letter and stressed that repainting those 11,000 buildings would cost a handsome amount.
“These buildings have been constructed since 2011 in accordance with the colour branding of the State…. You would kindly appreciate that changes in the colour brand by way of repainting so many buildings would involve significant infructuous expenditure,” the letter reads.
Sources in Delhi said the state had not used the words “Ayushman Bharat” while writing the name of the health and wellness centres across Bengal.
“All states have written ‘Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres’, but in Bengal, it reads only ‘Health and Wellness Centres’. The health ministry had repeatedly written to the state to change the names of the centres, but nothing has been done so far,” a source said.
In her letter, Mamata requested Modi to intervene and do away with the colour branding conditionalities. “I would earnestly request you to kindly intervene for immediate release of NHM fund for West Bengal and for removal of specific colour branding conditionalities for the Health and Wellness Centres for fund release under NHM, so that the poor people do not suffer from lack of quality health services,” reads the letter.
Sources said that if the funds are released, the state would start the construction of several health centres, including 28 primary health centres and 65 block health centres.