The construction work of Malegaon’s much-awaited government hospital will finally begin in a fortnight. The textile town with a 6-lakh strong population lacks proper healthcare — this was brought to the fore during the serial blasts on September 8, that left 37 dead and several injured.
The hospital will be located at Kalikuti, on the banks of the Mosam river. After the town witnessed riots in 2001, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had promised a hospital, a promise that never materialised.
After the serial blasts in September, relatives of the victims intensified the demand for a hospital and took to task Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Deshmukh and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil.
“Why are you giving us bheekh (alms)?,” chemist Shafique Ahmed Mohammad Salim (39) had told the VIPs, who were there to distribute compensation cheques.
As a visibly embarrassed Gandhi muttered “Shanti se boliye (talk softly),” Shafique, who lost his son Sajid (18) and nephew Shahbaz (17), noted that the number of dead would have been much less if the city had proper hospitals.
“The work for the 200-bed district-level hospital will start in a fortnight,” said S Chokalingam, District Collector, Nasik. “The state government has already sanctioned around 200 medical and paramedical staff for the hospital.”
The contractor for the Rs 15-crore project, which will take one and half years to be complete, has been sanctioned and the work of shifting encroachments on periphery of the plot is on.
“We have been asked to start the work without a formal inauguration,” said Chokalingam. The hospital will have facilities for treating all major ailments.
The existing health facilities provided by the government are inadequate to deal with any emergency in the powerloom town. The NN Wadia and Ali Akbar Hospitals run by the Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) have a shortage of even rudimentary medicines.
On the day of the blasts, the hospital referred the patients to private hospitals. Many of the injured were rushed to Dhule and Nashik for treatment and many injured died on the way.
Speaking to HT from Malegaon, Shafique welcomed the state’s move. “The hospital is a necessity for Malegaon, which has little public health facilities. Despite losing two members of my family, I have never demanded any aid but only a hospital.”
Shafique’s uncle, Haji Abdul Qayoom Abdul Majeed, said, "The hospital is long overdue and should have been started long ago. The government must take care to maintain this facility properly.”
However, politicking in the city has begun in the right earnest, with former MLA and Janata Dal strongman Nihal Ahmed, alleging that the delay in the setting up of the project smacks of "partisanship".
The Janata Dal has given a call for a Malegaon bandh on Tuesday and has threatened to stage a black flag demonstration against the chief minister when he visits the city.