In less than a year between two successive governments, the eligibility criteria for managing Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), a prime government property across 56 acres in Jalandhar, was tweaked drastically after cancelling 10 bids received during the previous regime.
Captain Amarinder Singh, then Congress chief minister, and Parkash Singh Badal, after assuming charge as CM, had made written request to the union government to take up PIMS and develop it like the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) but the union health and family welfare minister had expressed its inability to do so. Finally, at its fag end, the Congress regime asked Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) to invite the expression of interest (EOI) for executing the project through public-private participation (PPP). The PIDB received 10 bids in December, 2006.
After the change of guard in the state, the Badal government, in a meeting of the PIMS governing body in July 2007, decided to revise the eligibility criteria and scrapped all earlier EOIs. In November 2007, overlooking the finance department objections, it issued a notification to remove the 30-year cap on the lease of PPP projects.
New 'foreign' varsity criteria
Experience: The 2006 criteria stipulated experience in developing and running a hospital for a minimum of two years. The 2007 criteria changed it to experience in developing, operating and managing of a medical college recognised by the Medical Council of India or affiliated to a foreign university awarding the MBBS or equivalent degree recognised by the General Medical Council, UK, or an American university or institution.
Turnover: From Rs. 75 crore for the last year (2005-06) from healthcare or related field in 2006, the criteria was changed to Rs. 50 crore in the past two years (2005-07).
Net worth: From Rs. 300 crore as on March 31, 2006, the requirement was changed to Rs. 100 crore as on March 31, 2007.
All gone, Rakhra in
A total of 10 bidders submitted their offers in December 2007, of which in February 2008, three were accepted. The Consortium of Fortis Healthcare was given a month to clarify on some counts. In April, Fortis submitted a letter saying the University of Minnesota (US) was keen to collaborate with it for the project. In July, Fortis was disqualified. It moved the Punjab and Haryana high court but got no relief, while the bid of Aishi Ram Batra Charitable Society was rejected as "conditional".
The foreign university criteria helped the lone successful bidder, a consortium of the NRI Academy of Sciences and others, bag the project. In January 2009, in compliance with the request of proposal, the consortium formed a PIMS Medical and Education Charitable Society led by Surjit Singh Rakhra, now state's minister.
No money for lowest bid
The project went to the lowest bidder but the consortium showed first signs of its financial health when it defaulted in paying the upfront consideration of `131 crore. It received a show-cause notice, and since has defaulted on almost all counts, from the infrastructure and facilities to paying doctors. Yet it has been getting lifelines.
Rakhra's society asks for week
From the PIMS Society, which represents the state government and looks after the running of the institute, the PIMS Charitable Society of minister Rakhra has sought a week to "resolve differences within its members". "As for its application to let Fortis take over its operations, the state government is to take the call based on views of the advocate general's office," PIMS Society director Dr Vimal Sekri has said.