All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are premier medical institutes, with expanded numbers of such institutes in the country featuring in the Centre’s plans to upgrade medical education and improve public health overall. Now the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has offered assistance to the Health Ministry to assist in building them.
“It is understood that your ministry has decided to develop new AIIMS in Haryana, Bihar-ll, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Tripura, Sikkim and Madurai,” said CPWD Director-General Prabhakar Singh, in a letter to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. “We in the CPWD would feel privileged to be associated with the development of these AIIMS complexes…I therefore request your good self, to entrust above works of AIIMS to the CPWD and accord administrative approval and estimate sanction to the CPWD, so as to enable us to commence the work at the earliest.”
The CWPD’s gesture to assist in constructing new AIIMS is potentially one means of the Centre realising its ambitions of expanding medical education in the country – a tenet of its public health agenda.
The BJP pledged to construct new AIIMS in the country, listing after four years in office the approval of thirteen such facilities to be built as one of its achievements whilst in government. However, India Today published a report in June last year in which it said “the government has miserably failed in fulfilling its promise of building new AIIMS facilities in the country.” The publication pointed to the fact, of the thirteen AIIMS approved, none had been constructed.
In response, then-Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda told India Today that four years is needed for construction of an AIIMS facility. He added that the Prime Minister intends for one AIIMS to be built in every state in India.
In advancing public health, medical education has been part of the Modi government’s agenda. However, its track record on the subject – not solely on AIIMS – has been mixed.
As reported by Health Issues India in advance of this year’s Lok Sabha polls, “the [BJP] claims that, in the last five years, the number of Bachelor of Medicine or Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) seats increased by 18,000. Postgraduate medical seats increased by 12,000.” In its election manifesto, the BJP pledged to create one medical college or postgraduate medical institute in every district by 2024. Since being returned to power in the polls, the government further claims success in expanding medical education seats.
“In the last five years, we have added 45,000 MBBS and PG seats. Till day, there have been 82 colleges added in this time period,” said Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar earlier this year. This, he claimed, “is the biggest ever expansion of medical education facilities throughout the world.” However, as Health Issues India noted before the polls, “the ground reality…seems to contradict [government claims]. A right to information (RTI) query has revealed that, in the last five years, only 920 MBBS seats were added in government colleges against the approved 10,000.”