AIIMS – Jammu’s still elusive dream

Rajan Gandhi

Jammu’s dream of AIIMS started in the year 2003 when six new AIIMS were proposed and subsequently set up in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttaranchal and all of them are functional right now but along with these AIIMS then BJP-led visionary NDA government also selected six states of the country for up-gradation of Medical Colleges and Hospitals to the level of AIIMS and GMC Jammu was one of them. On 25th January, 2004, the then Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Sushma Swaraj even laid the foundation stone of up-gradation of GMC Jammu to AIIMS in the presence of the then State Health Minister in the Congress-PDP Coalition Government. However with the change of guard at centre in 2004 the whole project got scuttled. The new dispensation at the Centre-Congress-led UPA reflected the project as only up-gradation of Government Medical College and Hospital, Jammu and sanctioned merely Rs 120 crore- Rs100 crore Union Government share and Rs 20 crore state share. During UPA’s ten years tenure, no-where in the official record it was mentioned that GMC Jammu would be up-graded to the level of AIIMS. Though an enquiry was promised to be conducted about who scuttled the AIIMS Jammu project but till date there is no update on that. None of the politicians from the state ever uttered any word about degradation of GMC Jammu from AIIMS to the level of Super Specialty Hospital. Further after being so called operational for four years even this Super Specialty Hospital has been reduced to Super Specialty Block only, an extension of GMC, Jammu.
AIIMS at Jammu is still a dream, a project on paper even after 14 years since its inception. With NDA Government once again at centre, our PM announced development package for Jammu and Kashmir on 7th November, 2015 which included creation of AIIMS ( 2 AIIMS) institutions for health care in capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar, the sites at Vijaypur in Samba district in Jammu region and at Awantipora in  Pulwaman district  in Kashmir region have been finalized. CPWD has been appointed as the agency for the construction work but work on ground zero is not moving at all. Though the state Cabinet in its meeting on 28th April this year only after much delay had accorded sanction for the transfer of state land measuring 270.23 acre situated at Chak Diwan Bhim Sen and Rakh Barotian villages, Vijaypur – Samba, to the Health and Medical Education Department for establishment of AIIMS yet the state government agencies have till date failed to acquire the land earmarked for the prestigious project. Though on papers land has been transferred but on ground the situation is quite different as some politicians with vested interests are allegedly provoking the families not to vacate the land under their possession as they don’t want the coalition partners to take credit for the laying of foundation stone of the prestigious AIIMS. It seems like many other projects of Jammu- Gandola, Artificial Lake, Heritage Mubarak Mandi to name a few, some forces within the government are also in favor of delaying the AIIMS project. The focus of the State Government agencies is on rehabilitating nomadic and other families who are currently occupying portion of the land shortlisted for the project. Till date authorities are unable to convince affected families to accept the package and shift to other places and unless these families vacate the major portion of land no forward movement can be achieved, even demarcation of land has not been completed due to this. The construction work of road has also been stopped due to private land dispute. With almost two years passed till date no foundation stone has been laid and at present only a sign board is standing tall on the selected piece of land though part of funds have already been transferred to state.
On the other hand AIIMS at Gorakhpur (UP), a dream project for CM Yogi Adityanath, which Akhilesh government had initially denied on the pretext of non availability of land but on Prime Minister’s advise he agreed to transfer 112 acres of land earmarked for the Sugarcane Research Institute but due to assembly polls, it could not be transferred to the Central government. The project finally saw the light when on 5th July this year, officials from centre contacted the UP government once again and asked for the sites that could be made available for the project and within a few hours, three sites were proposed and the land of Ganna Shodh Sansthan was transferred for AIIMS the following day 6th July. The market value of the leased land is about Rs 700 crores but UP government has even waived the stamp duty to the tune of Rs 35 crores and eventually PM laid the institute’s foundation stone on 22nd July, 2017. There, things are moving right now at express speed as the local government intends to start AIIMS as early as possible. Similarly, PM laid the foundation stone of AIIMS at Bhatinda in Punjab in November 2016 and this project is targeted to be completed by 2020. In Assam foundation stone has been laid by PM on 26th April, 2017 and PM has also laid the foundation stone of AIIMS Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh on 3rd October 2017. In Andhara Pardesh AIIMS is likely to commence the academic year for 2018-19 from Vaidya Vidhana Parishad Hospital on adhoc basis. AIIMS at Nagpur, Maharashtra is also supposed to start from Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) on temporary basis from 2018-19 academic sessions. In Kerala, the state health department has reached an agreement with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for setting up state-of-the-art trauma care centers in the seven government medical college hospitals on the pattern of Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre at AIIMS, New Delhi. Mentioning of all these foundation stone ceremonies is significant as majority of these AIIMS were allocated along with Jammu AIIMS. Each and every state is vying to get their AIIMS started as early as possible as the establishment of new AIIMS will serve the dual purpose of providing super specialty health care to the population while creating a large pool of doctors and other health workers in this region that can be available for primary and secondary level institutions/facilities being created under National Health .These institutes will also conduct research on prevalent regional diseases and other health issues and provide better control and cure of such diseases. The audit for all AIIMS will be done by CAG and it seems with construction by CPWD and audit by CAG, all our state politicians have least interest in the prestigious project of our state Jammu and Kashmir.
With continuous trouble at border, super specialties are the need of hour at Jammu as GMC being the only mainstay of medical facilities in whole Jammu region is unable to rise to the occasion. During peak winters sizeable population from Kashmir also shift to Jammu which further chokes already over burdened GMC.A 125 bed hospital and 50 seats medical college is the minimum requirement to start AIIMS on a temporary basis. Every state is running against time, trying to start OPD and medical college with temporary arrangements with the help from their already established respective GMCs. Similar setup can be started in Jammu without any delay with a tie up with GMC, Jammu which can provide requisite beds and other infrastructure. Super Specialty Block or even upcoming 200 beds Maternity Hospital at Gandhi Nagar Hospital can be utilized. It’s just question of putting up some extra effort for the same as centre will readily oblige and guide the state and in the mean time all political parties should rise above their petty politics to facilitate takeover of project land and get jet started dream project of Jammu at the earliest. Why can’t all 37 MLAs of Jammu region unite for common cause – establishing AIIMS at Jammu? It’s going to be win-win situation for all along with accolades from public. Jammu has patiently waited for AIIMS for last fourteen long years and the speed which things are moving it will take another fourteen to complete so it’s better for all to wake up from slumber and let the elusive dream of Jammu come true.
“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do and don’t mistake activity with achievement.”