The Punjab government is firm on not removing the chief minister's photo from the '108' ambulances even if the Centre halts its Rs 3.5-crore annual grant.
The state health department gets this grant as 20% of the funding to run 240 '108' ambulances across the state under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). The total expenditure is Rs 17.5 crore, with the state contributing 80%.
The union ministry of health and family welfare had in March shot off a letter to all states to give "a national identity" to these ambulances and do away with pictures of the chief minister or any minister and adopt an identical design of the vehicle's appearance if they wanted to continue getting financial assistance under the scheme.
"No, there will be no change. We will continue with it (CM Parkash Singh Badal's photo)," principal secretary, health, Punjab Vini Mahajan confirmed here.
Senior officials in the health department, who were earlier in a fix, had been conveyed by the CM to stick to the drill soon after union minister of state for health and family welfare and Congress MP Santosh Chaudhary took up this matter with state officials at a meeting here in June.
The state also has its own argument - the Planning Commission had already curtailed Rs 123 crore from the state's annual plan proposal of Rs 474 crore and, thus, Rs 3.5 crore was a petty amount that could be carved out of other budgetary allocations to meet the demand.
The Centre's communique, dated March 16, had asked the states to adopt a "universal display design and colour scheme" for all such mobile medical units (MMUs).
"In case it is not implemented, the union government would be constrained to discontinue financial support to the MMUs," the circular added.
A senior official in the health department here pointed out that the central share in the '108' service had already declined from 60% in 2009 to 40% in 2010 and 20% in 2011.
Union ministry of health and family welfare joint secretary Anuradha Gupta on Monday reiterated the Centre's dictate on the issue on the sidelines of a state-level seminar on healthcare under the NRHM in the state.