8 years after it was mooted, Centre says no SAARC hospital in Amritsar in the works
Amritsar The Union ministry of external affairs (MEA) has said, in response to a plea filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, that no proposal to build a ₹1,800 crore SAARC super-specialty hospital in Amritsar is under consideration. The project was conceived at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) conference held at Lahore in 2013.
After HT had highlighted the forgotten project in May this year, social worker Naresh Johar had sought information from the Union health ministry under RTI. The ministry referred this plea to the MEA, which has replied, “As per information with this division, no such proposal is under consideration of the government within the SAARC framework.”
Amritsar was chosen for this hospital in view of its location, its international airport, hotel industry and religious tourism. It was also decided that renowned medicos from SAARC countries will offer their services at this hospital. The project, now, is dead, even as the Punjab government and SAARC officials had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) eight years ago. Since then, the state government has failed to follow it up.
“The Central government is responsible for the failure of this project, and the state government has not pursued this up. This will have been a milestone in the development of medical tourism in the holy city. All city MLAs, including Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu, are from the ruling party in Punjab. They failed to ensure the establishment of this already sanctioned project,” Johar added.
In 2016, Amritsar Vikas Manch, a city-based NGO, had raised the issue with the then Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan through an RTI. The ministry stated that the matter was under the consideration of the Punjab government, but state government officials feigned ignorance.
A tentative site for the SAARC hospital was chosen on the premises of an abandoned community health centre building in Verka locality; the state government is yet to allot a site. The proposed site for the hospital is situated in Amritsar East assembly segment that Sidhu represents. When his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu represented this segment, she said the file was on the table of the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.