Bengal to set up medical college, 500-bed hospital for minorities

Community does not support the move on human and legal grounds, say quota in higher education will be more helpful

By Zaidul Haque,,

Kolkata: For election purpose or to genuinely benefit minorities, the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government has decided to set up a medical college and a 500-bed hospital exclusively for minorities – majority of whom are poor thus having little access to medical facilities. Both institutions will come up in South 24-Parganas – a minority concentration district adjacent to the state capital Kolkata.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs & Madrasa Education, which is held by CM Banerjee has taken the initiative to set up the institutions. A letter was issued to Public Works Department (Construction Board) of West Bengal from Minority Affairs & Madrasa Education Department on 21st August 2012. Principal Secretary of Minority Affairs & Madrasa Education Department Mr Bikram Sen has written the letter seeking details of the project cost to establish a 500-bed Multi Specialty and super Specialty Hospital and Medical College exclusively for minorities. The proposal then will be submitted to Planning Commission of India for final approval.

The initiative could be historic in that health system in all Muslim dominated areas of West Bengal had been neglected for all 34 years of Left Front ruling.

Sen’s letter vide Memo No: 83-L/PS/MAM/12 dated 21st August 2012 to Sri Abhoy Mitra, the Chief Engineer of PWD of West Bengal, sought Project proposal for construction of 500-bed Hospital & Medical College at Bhangar in 24 Parganas (South).

“It has been decided that, a 500 bedded multi-speciality and super speciality hospital and Medical College at Bhangar in 24 Parganas (South) will be constructed basically for treatment of patients from the Minority community in the State. The proposal with details Project Report (DPR) need be sent to the Planning Commission by this Department through the Financing Department,” Bikram Sen wrote in the letter. Sen also told reporters that government of West Bengal wants to establish a medical college like the medical college under the Aligarh Muslim University and Christian Medical College of Vellore.

Bhangar is a Muslim dominated area in South 24 Parganas near Greater Kolkata. Sources said there is vast unused land in the area to establish a Medical College & Hospital. TCN has found out that the Government has not acquired any piece of land for that purpose in Bhangar or the adjacent area. Former Land and Land reform Minister Abdur Rajjak Molla of CPI-M told TCN that, once CPI-M led government had tried to acquire land for Aliah University in Bhangar area, but finally that was not done. However, he agreed there is sufficient land for Medical College near Kolkata.

Director of Minority Welfare and Development, Government of West Bengal Mr Motaleb Ali Sardar told TCN that, Minority Affairs Department is searching for suitable land to establish a Medical College & Hospital for Minorities. But it has not yet finalized any place.

Sources said one Muslim IAS officer has recently joined the Minority Affairs & Madrasa Education Department. He is a Keralite. On the condition of anonymity, a senior officer of Minority Affairs & Madrasa Education department said, chief minister Mamata Banerjee is seeking documents of Muslim Education Society run Medical College in Kerala, where Muslims made first private medical college to give medical services to the Muslim community and it was established in Left Front regime in Kerala. So, Keralite IAS officer may help the West Bengal government in establishing a medical college in West Bengal. There is no medical college in any Muslim-dominated districts of the state. There are 12 minority concentration districts in West Bengal.

community not upbeat as they think such exclusive institutions for minorities may not get legal clearance
TCN talked to people to get their reaction over the initiative. Former land and land reform Minister Abdur Rajak Molla of CPI-M said the initiative to establish a Medical College for Minorities is welcome, but it might not be right way to establish a Medical College exclusively for Minorities. He thinks, government could not establish a Medical College exclusively for Muslims or minorities due to legal complexities. If government tried anyone can take the case to the court. Rajjak Molla thinks, if Minority Affairs & Madrasa Education Department and Waqf Board of West Bengal jointly ventured to establish a Medical College for religious Minorities, then it may get green signal. Otherwise there is no option to establish a Medical College for Muslims according to law, he thinks. However, he said, if a Hospital is built in any Muslim dominated area like Bhangar, that is welcome, and ultimately Muslims will be benefited in a large scale. But a Government run hospital could not be exclusively reserved for Muslims, it should be open for all communities. Muslims can get reservation in most of the seats in the hospital, but cannot occupy all the seats legally.

State Secretary of All India Milli Council Sahood Alam shared similar views. Mr Alam said, if a Hospital is established in Muslim dominated areas, how can we stop non-Muslim patients from getting admitted? That would be inhuman and may send the bad message to the non-Muslim community in our state, he thinks. If Government declared reservation for Muslims in a whole in Higher education, then no need to establish a medical college for exclusively for Muslims, which is might not be acceptable by the Medical Council of India. But Hospital can be established in Muslim dominated areas, where naturally Muslims will get facilities more due to nearest location of the hospital.

The data for last three-four years says at least 25 percent Muslim students are getting chances to take admission in Medical College in West Bengal. So, if a new Medical College is set up for Muslims then Muslim students will be benefited more.

Jamiat Ulama leader of West Bengal Maulana Siddiqullah Chowdhury told TCN that, Medical Council of India could not give the recognition to the Medical College exclusively for Muslims by their law. But it is good initiative, he thinks. Maulana Siddiqullah said, there is a need for reservation for Muslim students in higher education. It is more necessary than establishing a new Medical College. Due to law bar, Medical College could not be exclusively for Muslims if it is run by any Government body. But If government gives reservation to Muslims in medical colleges in proportion to their population, that will be better for Muslim society in West Bengal.