Amidst Controversy, Bill to Acquire CCM Medical College Passed in Chhattisgarh Assembly
Raipur: Although the recent bill by the Chhattisgarh Government to acquire the Chandulal Chandrakar Memorial Medical College faced a huge backlash from the opposition who accused the project being linked with nepotism, the same has been passed in Chhattisgarh Assembly on Wednesday.
The Chhattisgarh Chandulal Chandrakar Memorial Medical College, Durg (Acquisition) Bill, 2021was passed after a debate regarding the matter and 56 members from Congress supported the bill and outnumbered 18 members from the opposition including BJP, reports Indian Express. Later BJP members walked out of the assembly with a demand for rolling back the bill.
"We had announced the acquisition of Chandulal Chandrakar Memorial Medical College, Kachandur in a program organized on February 2, 2021, on the occasion of the death anniversary of Late Shri Chandulal Chandrakar. This decision has been taken in the larger interest of people in the state and for the students of the college. A committee of senior officers was constituted under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary to examine all aspects of acquisition at the government level. After the committee recommended the acquisition, a bill was prepared to take over the college and it was approved by the cabinet ministers", Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel was quoted saying in the Assembly by ANI.
Bhagel said, "In last several years, many measures have been taken and hundreds of crores have been spent to strengthen the health services in the state. The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic is likely to continue in the future as well. Ensuring the availability of doctors in rural areas is still a challenge. It takes 400 to 500 crore rupees and a period of 3 to 4 years to build a new medical college."
"There are still many students (future doctors) studying in Chandulal Chandrakar Memorial Medical College. The medical college is on the verge of closing down, due to which the future of the students studying there is uncertain. Acquisition of this medical college would produce 150 new doctors every year", said the Chief Minister.
Bhaghel informed that the medical college will be acquired under the rules of land acquisition. Assessment of property is to be done only under the provisions of land acquisition. Instead of paying four times the guideline in rural areas, the cabinet has decided to evaluate it up to two times. No amount shall be paid or any other liability shall be incurred in addition to the amount fixed. The government will not bear the burden of other legal, financial liability of the promoters of the medical college. The process would be completely transparent.
Chhattisgarh Health minister TS Singh Deo, who piloted the bill in the assembly welcomed it and said the acquisition of the college was a step towards providing health facilities to the poor and common people. "Given the COVID-19 pandemic situation, this is the best time to run a government medical college in the state", said Deo.
Medical Dialogues had recently reported that the bill to acquire CCM Medical college triggered major controversy as the opposition parties including the members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have alleged that the aim of acquiring the private medical college which is facing huge financial loss is to favour people associated with the institute, whose management includes members from a family in which Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel's daughter is married.
CCM Medical College with an yearly intake of 150 MBBS seats was declared 'zero year' by the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI). The institute failed to get the MCI approval for 2019-20 after the medical council's team inspected the medical colleges' premises and found gross deficiencies.
Staring at an uncertain future due to prevailing gross deficiencies at their medical college which led to the de-recognition by the MCI, the students approached various governmental authorities seeking transfer to other medical colleges in a bid to save their career prospects. Subsequently, they filed a petition with the HC on the basis of the medical college's de-recognition and MCI report and High Court directed the state government to form a committee and draft a scheme for transferring the aggrieved MBBS students into other medical colleges.
Later, the management had expressed its difficulty in running the college and requested the government to take charge of the college.
In pursuance, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had announced confirming that the acquisition process of the medical college would commence soon and gradually the process of acquisition was initiated as well.
However, this move was not welcomed by the oppositions as they alleged the project to be linked with nepotism, and as an attempt to favor the member of the in-laws family of Chief Minister's daughter.
Amidst all the tension, the bill was tabled before the Assembly on Wednesday and the same was passed as well on Thursday.
As per the latest media report by the Indian Express, for the first time in the State Assembly, the opposition demanded a division of votes, where a total number of 56 MLAs voted in support of the Bill and 18 voted against it. Consequently, the amendments proposed by BJP leaders were also rejected by a voice vote.
Hindustan Times adds that the oppositions were especially against section 8 of the bill which specified that the government would get an assessment of the college's movable and immovable assets and then pay its owners twice the amount.
However, during the two-hour-long debate the Congress MLAs emphasized the fact that the bill does not intend to transfer the financial liabilities of the college but it only provides for the acquisition of its assets.
BJP leader Brijmohan Agarwal had raised three points to be included in the amendments. He had requested that the existing employees be absorbed, that the government clarify who would pay the loans taken against the college, and that the exclusionary powers of the special officer be revoked so that his valuation decision could be challenged.
BJP MLA Brijmohan Agrawal also said, "the bill is aimed at benefitting only a few selected people. The state government is playing against the interest of people who lent crores of rupees to the college."
However, voicing his opinion against these amendments, Singh Deo was quoted saying by the Indian Express, "The government cannot absorb private employees as hiring a government employee is a structural process. Once the college is acquired, we would follow the process and hire the employees. Similarly, the special officer will have to have powers to take decisions and not be affected by external factors."
The daily adds that questioning the process of acquisition itself, BJP MLA from Akaltara Saurabh Singh had said, "It is not clear if the government is only acquiring assets of a private company or the company itself. In any case, the Assembly should be made aware of the details filed by the company with the Registrar of Companies before passing the Bill. Without information on whether the company has clean books or not, how can we vote on the Bill?"
Questioning the additional financial burden at a time when the Government is already facing a financial crisis, the leader of the opposition in the assembly, Dharamlal Kaushik said, "When the government is facing a financial crisis and has a debt of around Rs 76,000 crores, an additional government expense of Rs 140 crore is not logical. Secondly, why is the government is paying twice the amount of the valuation of the medical college through acquisition? This could lead to corruption which is also not logical."
Former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh said, "The state government should have upgraded an existing 600-bed government hospital in Durg rather than acquiring a loss-making private medical college."