Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh wants the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look into the "PIMS scam".
Terming the allotment of the work of running the premier health institute to the charitable society led by Punjab rural development and panchayat minister Surjit Singh Rakhra fraudulent, Amarinder, in whose regime the project was decided to be executed in the public private partnership mode and the bids were first invited, said: "How can a farmer (Rakhra) be asked to run a premier health institute by getting in some NRI doctors? Former CM Beant Singh had built it for serving the Doaba and Majha regions."
"As CM, I had suggested to make it another All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). I had demanded a CBI inquiry when it was handed over to Rakhra. I have been proved right that it was all a big fraud. I again demand a CBI inquiry," said Amarinder.
"Why can't the government let a big professional group such as Apollo, Medanta, Fortis, Max Healthcare take it over?" said Amarinder. The criteria of turnover and net worth for the bidding hospital fixed during Amarinder's tenure was higher, downsized after the change of regime in the state.
The Medico Legal Action Group also demanded a CBI inquiry into the "PIMS scam". Its convener, Dr Neeraj Nagpal, said sheer greed and incompetence had ruined a premier institute. "They brought people from outside thinking they would pump in money. The very basis of granting the bid was flawed, as the intention was never to run the institute but only to make money," he said.
Where public interest is involved, the government can cancel any agreement but here, they Rakhra's society is being allowed to continue in spite of defaulting on the terms of agreement, said Nagpal, adding private players such as Christian Medical College, Dayanand Medical College, and Manipal Medical College could handle the job better.
On the PIMS Charitable Society's now demanding that the institute be subleased to Fortis, Nagpal said that in the long run, it would lead to corporatisation of healthcare and medical education. The PCMS Association also is against privatisation of the institute built with public money.
"The infrastructure should be handed back to the government, which can run the institute easily without a big amount. If it can squander crores of rupees of public money on superstars' dances, why can't it spend a little more to provide people with better healthcare?" said association's general secretary Dr Gangandeep Shergill.