At a DMK election campaign in Sattur, Madurai on Wednesday, Udhayanidhi Stalin was seen holding a brick in his hand. The party’s Youth Wing Secretary was highlighting the delay in building an AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) hospital in Madurai’s Thoppur. Setting up AIIMS in Tamil Nadu was a promise made by the AIADMK and the BJP.
In January 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down to Madurai and laid the foundation stone for the project. However, since then there has been no development with regard to the building construction. This delay has made it a hot topic of discussion among opposition parties in TN.
“Three years ago in Madurai, the AIADMK and the BJP had inaugurated the AIIMS hospital, do you remember? I have brought the hospital with me,” Udhayanidhi told the crowd, holding up the brick. “Only this single brick is there in the allotted land. What have they (AIADMK-BJP) done in three years?” he asked.
Speaking to media outlets, Tamil Nadu BJP General Secretary KT Raghavan dismissed Uhdayanidhi’s campaign as a ‘cheap tactic’.
State BJP spokesperson Naraynan Thirupathy alleged, “He (Udhayanidhi) must be busy acting in his movies. He does not know anything about the number of hospitals that DMK has brought to Tamil Nadu – in 50 years, that party has done nothing.”
Naraynan added that mega projects such as AIIMS “will take their own course” as they are done with centre-state coordination and a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). JICA will offer 85% of the total cost of building AIIMS, which is pegged at Rs 2,000 crore, according to a response to an RTI query.
“In all these years, the DMK has done nothing in the medical space and now they want AIIMS hospital tomorrow. How is that possible?” Naraynan asked.
In 2019, the BJP government announced 12 AIIMS institutions across India in Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and Jharkhand.
Funds have reportedly been allocated to 11 of these projects. In Tamil Nadu, the campus will be set up by availing a loan from JICA.
Su Venkatesan, CPI leader, Madurai MP and writer, has been raising the delay in building AIIMS in the Lok Sabha since 2019.
The MP said that it took two years for a name transfer to be done on the 250 acres of land set aside for the AIIMS campus in Thoppur. While the project’s foundation stone was laid in January 2019, its name transfer was only done in December 2020. “The Centre also took two years to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with JICA, showing that it has no interest in it,” Su Venkatesan added. He also said that no special officer has been appointed by the AIADMK-led state government to monitor the progress of the AIIMS project in the district.
According to the RTI response, the Governments of India and Japan are likely to sign a loan agreement for transfer of funds from JICA for the AIIMS project by March 2021.
In 2020, four teams of JICA’s representatives also conducted surveys on the land set aside for the AIIMS campus.
Speaking to TNM, DMK Madurai Youth Wing Deputy Secretary Adv Anbunidhi said that the Union government had laid out a few conditions that were difficult to meet.
“The requirements were 250 acres of land that had to be connected to the four-lane highway – this has been arranged. They also said that per day, there will be a demand of 55 lakh litres of water for the project. This, the state government has not been able to meet due to water scarcity,” he said.
Anbunidhi also added that an earlier JICA-funded project – the Government Rajaji Multi-Speciality Hospital – in Madurai had run into trouble for changes in its design plan by the state government. Doctors in the hospital had opposed the new plan to demolish a portion of a pre-Independence building in the campus to build a new six-storey complex with a 600-seater auditorium.
“With a previous project already in trouble, what is the likelihood of JICA funding another hospital in the district?” Anbundhi asked.