Row over AIIMS site in Assam: Sonowal pushes ball to Centre’s court

“The state government is fully sensitive to the concerns of the people of central Assam and will do the needful for the interests of the people of the state,” the government press statement said.

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Guwahati | Updated: July 21, 2016 3:09 pm
Guwahati : Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal walks to Assembly house on the 1st day of Budget session at Dispur in Guwahati on Monday. PTI Photo (PTI7_18_2016_000179A) While the Sarbananda Sonowal’s government on Tuesday said that the decision to set up an AIIMS at Changsari near Guwahati was taken by the then Congress government in the state in February this year, the same government had on June 28 said that it was a selection committee sent by the union health ministry that had selected Changsari out of seven sites shown. PTI Photo

Six days after one person was killed in police firing when local residents of Raha in Nagaon district blocked the national highway demanding setting up of a proposed AIIMS there instead of Changsari in Kamrup, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said he would write a letter to the Centre highlighting the concerns.

Sonowal made this announcement at a meeting of a delegation of various agitating groups from Raha – also an assembly constituency that had recently elected a BJP MLA – here late Tuesday evening. Following the government’s decision, the protesting groups have decided to put their agitation on hold. “The state government is fully sensitive to the concerns of the people of central Assam and will do the needful for the interests of the people of the state,” the government press statement said.

“The (Assam) government will prepare a draft with full participation of the leaders of the AIIMS Demand Committee highlighting their concerns and proposals and send a letter to the Central government to do the needful,” an official press release quoting chief minister Sonowal said. The decision to write to the Union health and family welfare ministry was taken considering the “sentiments” of the people of central Assam, though it was the Centre’s “prerogative” to take the final decision, the press release said.

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While the state government on Tuesday said that the decision to set up an AIIMS at Changsari near Guwahati was taken by the then Congress government in the state in February this year, the same government had on June 28 said that it was a selection committee sent by the union health ministry that had selected Changsari out of seven sites shown.

The Assam government in fact had formally handed over land at Changsari on June 28, with chief minister Sonowal and health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma attending the function in which union health secretary AK Panda was also present. The state government had in that meeting announced that an All India Institute of Ayurveda would be set up at Raha. The state government has also sanctioned about Rs 50 crores to the concerned departments to set up power supply, water supply and road connectivity for the AIIMS at Changsari.

Several BJP MPs from Assam, including Tezpur MP RP Sharma and Nagaon MP Rajen Gohain, MoS Railways – the latter’s Nagaon Lok Sabha constituency includes Raha LAC – meanwhile have favoured Raha as an ideal site for the proposed AIIMS. Though it was during the erstwhile Congress regime that the Changsari site was finalized, former chief minister Tarun Gogoi has now supported the cause of Raha.

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