Disappointment over shifting of DRDO hospital to Khonmoh
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU: Abrupt shifting of the proposed 500-bed Covid hospital by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from Reshipora (Budgam) to Khonmoh (Srinagar) has caused considerable disappointment among the vast population across Budgam district.
Early this month civil work had been started by R&B Division Budgam on the war footing basis for the proposed DRDO Hospital at Reshipora, close to the Budgam Railway Station. Earth filling of the approach road was completed within one day. Felling of trees and the ground breaking started simultaneously under the directions and in presence of different DRDO officials, District and Tehsil officers.
On Wednesday, 12 May, authorities stopped the work suddenly and told the land donors that the site for the hospital had been shifted to Khonmoh, 40 Km away in Srinagar district.
“We donated 78 kanals of Kahcharai land without cost and free of any demand of developmental compensation to the government for the construction of a hospital here in the year 2006. The then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad deployed the then Divisional Commissioner Mehboob Iqbal, Director Health Dr Muzaffar, DC Budgam Farooq Reenzu and CMO Budgam Dr Kichloo for taking possession of the land. It was done 15 years ago. All the successive governments ditched us and the hospital promised to us never came up at this site, even after acquisition of 3 kanals of private land for the approach road. We were happy that a hospital was being raised finally. But shifting of the same to Khonmoh has caused disappointment in the entire Budgam district”, said the village headman of Reshipora, leading a delegation.
Deputy Commissioner of Budgam Shehbaz Mirza indicated that the site was likely to be shifted as the soil test reports were “not encouraging”. However, well-placed official sources asserted that the site had been already shifted from Reshipora to Khonmoh for “reasons not known to us”. Officials in the Mechanical Engineering Department, however, pleaded that R&B Budgam had sought 2 months time just for construction of the 100 metre long approach road. “We have a deadline of only 35 days to complete the prefabricated 500-bedded Covid hospital”, said an engineer.
The residents of Reshipora, claimed to have known from the official sources, that some officers were “hand in glove with a top cement manufacturer” for establishing the hospital at the site and structures owned by the cement manufacturer. “In early 1980s, the government had allotted that site at Khonmoh to Union Carbide. In the thick of the terrorism in Kashmir, a leading cement manufacturer purchased the land and the sheds from the Union Carbide. We have learnt that he wants the DRDO to acquire his land and structures on rent for a long term”, said a member of the delegation.
“The excuse of negative soil testing is completely baseless. It was supposed to be a prefabricated hospital with just negligible load. Besides, it is a plain area and there are no sliding or marshy lands around”, said a contractor who has raised a number of prefabricated structures in the valley. “There are certain elements in the government who are bent upon shifting everything from Budgam to other areas. In Pulwama, Government has just advertised a 200-bedded prefabricated Covid hospital. There are no such objections in other districts”, he said.
One Ali Mohammad Bhat of Budgam said that there were full-fledged, magnificent hospitals in all districts including Kulgam and even Handwara which was not even a district headquarters. “Budgam is the only district where we have just a poorly equipped Sub District Hospital labelled as District Hospital. There are four ICU beds and not even one is functional. This hospital’s oxygen plant has been set up at Chhanapora, near Srinagar”, he added.
The residents of over a dozen villages in Budgam said that they would not object to shifting of the 500-bedded Covid hospital to Khonmoh subject to the condition that the LG’s administration raises a full-fledged 200-bedded District Hospital with all related infrastructure at Reshipora. “This is our unanimous demand. If the government doesn’t accept it, we will take our community land back into our possession”, said one Ghulam Hussain Mir.
DRDO’s Scientist ‘E’ and incharge of the construction, Zuber Ali, could not be reached for comments. However, others in the organisation said that the Kashmir Divisional Commissioner PK Pole and the Srinagar DC, Aijaz Assad, had received instructions to set up the proposed 500-bedded hospital at the structures of a leading cement manufacturer at Khonmoh. They said that the staff, including two deputy directors, would be provided by Directorate of Health Services Kashmir while the hospital’s administrative control would remain with Principal Government Medical College Srinagar. Meanwhile work is currently in progress at Jammu’s Bhagwati Nagar on another 500-bedded Covid hospital to be executed in 35 days by the DRDO.