Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal here on Saturday advocated need to "liberlise" visa regime amongst the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries to make the latter emerge as a strong economic and social power of the world.
Addressing a gathering at a conference of SAARC Surgical Care Society, Badal said that he would write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for opening the barriers on the borders especially with Pakistan. "The liberal issuance of visa to the professionals like doctors from across the borders will help us avail their services for betterment of the society," he said.
Going down the memory lane, the veteran Akali leader recalled his college days in Lahore, adding that if the visa regime was abolished then he would visit the city every weekend to have the food there.
Appreciating the role of private doctors in serving the society, Badal offered free land and requisite funds to establish a state of the art South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) hospital in Punjab for ensuring affordable treatment to the needy, while urging the Indian Medical Association (IMA) to manage daily affairs of the proposed facility for better results.
He emphasised the need of setting up SAARC hospitals in every member country for providing quality health services to the people of the region. "I am ready to provide land and funds, provided the doctors' body agrees to manage its daily operations. I understand private supervision is far better than government control of such hospital," he said, adding that it would also promote people-to-people contact in the region.
Badal said that the renowned surgeons and doctors of the SAARC countries should offer their services to these hospitals, where affordable and quality treatment could be provided to the common man.
Dr A Majeed Chaudhary, president of SAARC Surgical Care Society and principal of Lahore Medical and Dental College, maintained that the liberal visa regime would not only strengthen India-Pakistan ties but would also help both governments to explore untapped potential of their qualified human resource. "I sought help of the Pakistan deputy prime minister to arrange Indian visa for Pakistani doctors, aspiring to attend this conference. Let we have barrier-free borders," he said.
Badal also announced a grant of Rs 20 lakh for the under-construction IMA House in the city.
Dr PS Badal?
An emotionally charged Badal, soon after delivering his formal written address, caught immediate attention of the attending doctors by revealing that he too wanted to become a doctor in his early days of life.
"I joined the FSC (Medical) stream after passing the matriculation, presuming that I will become a doctor one day. But medical studies virtually proved a hard task for me. I used to study inside the house after attending college while my friends, who didn't opt for medical stream, used to play in the streets. I found medical studies very tough and somehow managed to clear the FSC (medical). Thereafter, I got admission in arts to get a sigh of relief," he quipped.