The new minister of state for health and family welfare, Santosh Chowdhary, has said that state government will have to remove photographs of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on ambulances operating under the Ambulance-108 scheme.
She has said that pasting of photographs ran counter to the rules of the Central government scheme under which these ambulances were given to Punjab and other states.
Addressing the media at the district office of the urban unit of the Congress party here on Saturday, she said, "This free ambulance service was started with central funds for the convenience of the people, particularly for the benefit of the poor. However, it is unfortunate that instead of doing 'sewa' (public service) some people had politicized the political mileage from it and take credit."
Under the scheme, the Centre had given 240 air conditioned ambulances to Punjab in 2011 for ferrying patients free-of-cost to the nearest hospital or to the hospital of their (patients) choice. This service is being successfully operated by the government in collaboration with a Mumbai-based private firm, Ziqitza.
The state control room of this service is at Amritsar.
However the service ran into controversy after the Punjab government pasted photographs of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on the ambulances.
This annoyed the Congress leaders of the state, particularly the Youth Congress which even managed to whitewash Badal's photos from some of the vehicles.
While there was no reaction from the PMO on this issue, the state Congress leaders contended that the SAD-BJP government had no right to paste Badal's photo on the ambulances as funds for this service were provided by the central government. They felt that it would have been more apt for the government to give due credit and respect to PM Manmohan Singh for this service and paste his photograph on the ambulances.
However, Chowdhary did not say whether the PM's photograph will be pasted in place of the chief minister's. She simply indicated that she would go by the rules of the scheme and accordingly intimate the state government.
Misuse of central funds
The minister seemed to be in agreement with her party colleagues that central grants given for various health schemes were misused in Punjab. She said that this was the case in some other states also.
"I know that central grants given under various health schemes were diverted elsewhere by the Punjab government. I have called for the files on these schemes and will go into every detail,"she added.
Asked if an inquiry will be initiated into diversion or misuse of central funds, she replied, "I have been in office for just a day. The issue will be taken care of in due course."
Pays obeisance at Golden Temple
Chaudhary, who represents the Hoshiarpur constituency in Parliament, was given a rousing welcome by her party colleague at the party's district office. Those who welcomed her included MLAs Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and OP Soni, former deputy speaker prof Darbari Lal, district chief of the urban unit, Jugal Kishore Sharma, rural unit chief Harpartap Singh Ajnala and several others.
She along with her husband, Ram Lubhayia, a former MLA, later paid obeisance at the Harmandar Sahib and the Durgiana Mandir. She also paid homage to the martyrs of the freedom struggle at the Jallianwala Bagh.
"It is unfortunate that by pasting Badal's photo on ambulances some people had tried to derive political mileage and take credit for the Ambulance-108 scheme," minister of state for health Santosh Chaudhary.