The State Government has maintained a devilish silence over agitation in Kalahandi over a sorry state of affairs in the Sardar Raja Medical College in Jaring despite the stir has entered its 13th days.
It should be noted that Selvam Educational Trust had signed a MoU with the Odisha Government in 2004 to establish a medical college in Kalahandi. The State Government had provided Rs 10 crore during 2004-07 besides 25 acres of free land to the trust. As per the MoU, the trust should have established the medical college within five years since signing the MoU. But it took almost a decade when the Medical Council of India (MCI) approved the medical college to take 100 students in 2013-14. Subsequently, in 2014-15, the MCI rejected the approval based on poor infrastructure. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court ruling for private medical college came as a relief and the college took another about 30 students in the year 2014-15. Now all these 130 students are nowhere in their medical education and their dream to be doctors has fallen like nine pins. Thanks to poor infrastructure, faculty crunch and administrative hurdles created by MCI and Sambalpur University, the college’s fate is hanging in balance.
The local people had warned the State Government about the duplicity of the Selvam Educational Trust which was not able to invest adequate amount to improve the infrastructure in the Sardar Raja Medical College in past 11 years. Its track record makes it clear that the trust has minimum expertise in establishing a medical college. Almost all the physical infrastructure building of the Sardar Raja Medical College has come from the Rs 10 crore given by the State Government through the Western Odisha Development Council (WODC) and free land given to the trust. Since from the beginning the trust had not taken the project seriously, people of Kalahandi have been appealing to the State and Central Governments to establish a Government medical college (instead of WODC initiated private medical college) that would benefit poor and tribal population locally.
KBK region is one of the most backward and tribal dominated pockets in India. The health scenario, especially secondary and tertiary health facilities, is extremely poor. Kalahandi is a central district and Bhawanipatna is a central town in the KBK region. A Central Government medical institution at Bhawanipatna will give additional advantages in terms of secondary and tertiary health need for the poor people in an affordable way who are now forced to depend on hospitals outside the State. Such institution will also meet human resource requirement in the Health Department at the local level and poor and lower middle class students in the region can access medical education unlike in the private medical college.
Since the Odisha Government has failed to take appropriate steps and has ignored the genuine need of public demand in last five years, the public in Kalahandi has lost faith on it. It is unfortunate that when the Central Government is planning to establish 60 new Government medical colleges across India, it failed to take note of the need of a backward region like Kalahandi.
The situation in the district is deteriorating by the day. The Centre needs to intervene immediately and establish a Post Graduate Medical College and Research Center or KBK Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences in Bhawanipatna, which would be in the line of North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences and resolve the ongoing strike in Kalahandi.
(The writer is Associate Professor of Chemistry, American University of Beirut, Lebanon and a native of Kalahandi)