Brick by brick: A students’ union in Bihar launches campaign to collect bricks for stone laying ceremony of AIIMS Darbhanga

Weary of the delay in construction of AIIMS hospital in Darbhanga, a students’ union has started a campaign to collect bricks from residents for an unofficial stone laying ceremony of the institution next month. The project was cleared by the central government in September 2018, but not much progress has happened since then, complain the students.

Arvind Shukla
| Updated: August 4th, 2021

The student union plans to perform the stone laying ceremony in Darbhanga next month, on September 8. Photos by arrangement

As a mark of protest against the delay in the construction of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Bihar’s Darbhanga, a students’ union has launched a campaign appealing people to contribute bricks for the construction of the institute. These bricks, says the union, will be used at the unofficial stone laying ceremony of the hospital in order to put pressure on the government to act on the matter.

Mithila Student Union, an organisation with student members from educational institutions across the districts of north Bihar, launched the door to door campaign on August 1. It plans to perform the stone laying ceremony in Darbhanga next month, on September 8.

“The central government announced in 2015 that Bihar will get an AIIMS. Votes were secured on the basis of this announcement in both Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. But not even the foundation stone has been laid for the project so far,” Aditya Mohan, a leader from the student union, told Gaon Connection. “So finally, we have decided to appeal to the people to contribute bricks and we shall perform the brick laying ceremony ourselves,” he added

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When Gaon Connection reached out to Bihar’s state Health Minister Mangal Pandey to seek his reaction on the campaign and the alleged delay in the AIIMS project, he informed that it was due to the COVID19 pandemic.

“The project is being pursued actively, these people are not aware of the administrative work being done to complete this project. Recently, Rs 13 crores (130 million) were allocated by the state government to level the land where the construction activity has to begin. The central government shall decide on what date will the foundation stone be laid,” Pandey told Gaon Connection.

Most flood prone region but healthcare in shambles

North Bihar or the Mithila region of the state is India’s most flood-prone area and almost every year it faces floods displacing hundreds of thousands of people. At present also several districts in north Bihar are facing floods with acute shortage of safe drinking water, food and access to health facilities. North Bihar also has the highest population density for any Indian state. But, healthcare is in shambles and the struggles of local people have aggravated in the COVID19 pandemic.

This has intensified the demand for the AIIMS facility within the state as most people cannot afford to avail the healthcare facilities offered at far off places such as Delhi, which is over 1,100 kilometres away. 

“The miserable condition of this region with regard to healthcare is no secret. The area being flood prone adds to the misery. If you visit AIIMS Delhi, you will find that almost thirty per cent of the patients there are from Bihar itself,” Mohan, the student union leader, lashed out. “The condition of Darbhanga Medical College is in shambles, the six crore (60 million) people in this region desperately need an AIIMS,” he said.

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Eighteen-year-old Anish Chaudhary, a student union member, rode a bicycle for 175 kilometres to reach Benipur block in Darbhanga to join the campaign. He said that the students were fighting for millions of poor people who cannot access healthcare in north Bihar. 

Anish Chaudhary (right) with his fellow student union member on his campaign on a bicycle in Darbhanga.

“On my way, I met an old man who was terribly sick. His grandson said that doctors had informed the old man would not survive beyond five to ten days. There was no proper healthcare facility in his area to admit the old man.. Neither did he have enough money to take him to a hospital in Delhi,” Chaudhary narrated the plight of the grandson, adding that there were many like him in the region who were helpless. 

AIIMS Darbhanga project so far

The Union Cabinet approved the establishment of AIIMS at Bihar’s Darbhanga in September 2020. 

“The new AIIMS is likely to be completed within a period of 48 months from the date of the approval by the Centre,” the official statement by the central government was quoted as stating on September 15, 2020.

The institute shall come up under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) at a total cost of Rs 12,640 million, the statement informed.

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It is supposed to have 100 undergraduate (MBBS) seats, 60 B.Sc. (Nursing) seats and 15-20 Super Specialty Departments and 750 hospital beds, the statement added.

It also claimed that the setting up of new AIIMS would not only transform health education and training but also address the shortage of healthcare professionals in the region.

Mithila Student Union, an organisation with student members from educational institutions across the districts of north Bihar, launched the door to door campaign on August 1.

But as per Mohan, the student leader, nothing much has happened so far and it is impossible for the project to complete within the fixed time.

“Not even the work for the levelling of the land has started at the site,” he said. 

Previous projects’ track record adds to distrust

Anoop Maithil, the founder of the Mithila Student Union told Gaon Connection that it was not the first time that a development project was being delayed in Bihar. 

“The Kosi bridge project was approved when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi in September, 2018. If AIIMS is not finished by 2024 then it will stay hanging till 2o3o. That’s the reason why we and the people have taken up the task of actively doing something about it,” Maithil said. 

Read this report in Hindi