BJP-ruled states should emulate Bengal in healthcare: WB minister

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(Eds: Fixing typo in headline, correcting word in paras 2,3) Kolkata, Nov 19 (PTI) West Bengal Minister of State for Health Chandrima Bhattacharya on Thursday said the state is much ahead in healthcare under the TMC government, and it is for the BJP-ruled states to emulate Bengal instead of the other way round.

Taking potshots at a bevy of BJP leaders being sent here to strengthen the party before the assembly elections due in April-May next year, Bhattacharya said that the people of Bengal will not tolerate the 'menacing eyes of such people'.

'Bengal always welcomes people from everywhere, but if outsiders show menacing eyes with some sinister designs here, then the state will not tolerate them. We are seeing that those who do not have any knowledge about the state's heritage or culture are being sent here.

'These people do not even know the districts or villages of Bengal. We have no problem if they want to visit the state for educating themselves since our state is a pilgrimage site for development in the country, but we have a problem if they are day-dreaming,' the senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader told newspersons at the party headquarters here.

Bhattacharya said that those who are claiming that they will turn Bengal into Gujarat, should know that 'massive progress' has been made by the TMC government in the healthcare sector.

The Health portfolio is held by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself with Bhattacharya being her junior minister.

The number of hospital beds in West Bengal stands at 85,627, while BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh which has nearly double the population of the eastern state has 76,260 hospital beds, Karnataka has 69,721, MP has 31,106 and Gujarat has 20,172 beds only, the TMC leader said.

'Do you want 20,172 beds as in Gujarat in place of 85,627 in West Bengal?' she asked.

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh had on Monday asserted that the saffron party will turn West Bengal into another Gujarat through development to ensure that the youth of the state do not have to go to other parts of the country for employment.

Bhattacharya said, before the TMC came to power in 2011, the number of hospital beds in the state was 58,647 and it has been increased by over 27,000 by 2020.

The budgetary allocation on health care has increased by 6.8 per cent in 2019-2020 in the eastern state, while in Gujarat it has increased by 4.3 per cent during the same period, she said.

In West Bengal, healthcare in all three sectors - primary, secondary and tertiary - is free, the minister said.

'Does any of the states from where these outsiders are coming provide such facilities? Is it not an example that should be followed by other states of the country?' she asked.

While the central government's Ayushman Bharat healthcare scheme was launched in September 2018, the Mamata Banerjee government had introduced 'Swasthya Sathi' in 2016, belying the claims that people are being deprived of health care owing to the state's refusal to introduce it here, the minister said.

The chief minister has written to the Union health minister that West Bengal is willing to introduce Ayushman Bharat provided funds are routed through the state government.

Bhattacharya claimed that for registration in Ayushman Bharat, Rs 30 is charged per person by private agencies appointed to do the work.

'Going by the central government's claim that so far 20 crore people have been registered under the scheme, Rs 6,000 crore has been generated on this count only. I want to ask in whose pockets this money has gone?' she questioned.

The number of medical colleges in the state has increased from 10 to 24 and seats in medical education have gone up from 1,500 to more than 4,000 in the Mamata Banerjee regime, she said. PTI AMR MM MM

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