TN govt should take the blame for delay in AIIMS project: Nirmala
Sitharaman said, hence, the state government should take the blame and the Centre cannot be targeted for the delay
NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the 'budget' for the proposed AIIMS hospital at Madurai in Tamil Nadu escalated by Rs 700 crore since land acquisition was delayed and the state government should take the blame for it.
Speaking on the debate on the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha, Sitharaman, amid slogan shouting by DMK members said the budget for the proposed hospital went up from Rs 1,200 crore to Rs 1,900 crore since land acquisition was delayed by Tamil Nadu.
The DMK members shouted ''Eppo'' in Tamil demanding to know when the hospital would be built. The Minister replied in both English and Tamil.
Sitharaman said, hence, the state government should take the blame and the Centre cannot be targeted for the delay.
At the same time, during coronavirus pandemic, she said site inspections could not happen and as a result, they (the state government) could not speed up the work.
''I can understand the difficulty of the state government, ''she said. Sitharaman gave a detailed reply on Madurai AIIMS project after referring to DMK member T R Baalu expressing his concern over the initiative. She said it was very disappointing that such a senior member had asked if it was not 'shameful' on the part of the Prime Minister to borrow from Japan (Japan International Cooperation Agency--JICA) to build the hospital.
The Minister said AIIMS in Tamil Nadu is being set up in Madurai and the total project cost is Rs 1,977.80 crore and the loan amount is Rs 1,627 crore. ''I want to be clear and I want this to go on record. Since this is a central sector project, the centre has taken the entire loan and there is no burden on Tamil Nadu government; it forms a part of the central borrowing.'' The government of India has similarly funded, through JICA loans, the high-speed Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, which also falls under central sector and hence, the servicing of that loan too is done by the centre.
To the accusation that AIIMS has been established in other states but not yet in Tamil Nadu, she asserted, ''the treatment is no different.''
In fact, Tamil Nadu has one additional benefit in the AIIMS project. Usually, AIIMS hospital has 750 beds, whereas Tamil Nadu would have 900 beds because of the addition of the infectious diseases block. Also, MBBS classes with a strength of 50 students has already started from April 2022 in a temporary accommodation in Ramanathapuram (medical college) and currently, 99 students have been admitted. She said AIIMS is being built in Madurai and asked opposition members to not create a wrong opinion in the House (on the project implementation). ''Tamil Nadu has no loans and it is also getting more beds.''
There is no need for Tamil Nadu to worry as to whether the Centre is borrowing or funding the project out of its own funds. The borrowing from JICA by the Centre ''is part of our fiscal management and it is one of the external commercial borrowing,'' and therefore it does not undermine the importance of AIIMS in Madurai.
As the DMK members repeatedly shouted asking, 'when' (Eppo) the hospital would be built, she replied: ''So far, they asked are you not ashamed since the government is borrowing and now, when we are saying that it will be built, they are asking when the hospital would be constructed; let there be no utterance of lie in the House.''
When the DMK members started to walk out, she asked, ''why are you running away? There is more to be told on Tamil Nadu, do not run, in case you go out, at least watch on television.''