Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee caused a flutter Friday contradicting Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the inauguration of the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI) here. While inaugurating the facility Narendra Modi underlined his government’s commitment to give the benefits of high-quality healthcare services to the poor and the middle class.
Banerjee also attended the event which was held online. She caused a flutter with her remark that she had already inaugurated the complex during the second Covid-19 wave. She said the facility was inaugurated when West Bengal desperately needed more centres to cater to the surge of patients.
Banerjee is known as a strident critic of Modi. She said she attended the event after being invited twice by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandavia. Mamata Banerjee also underscored her government has been following all guidelines issued by the Centre despite differences and ‘questions raised by the governor’ over its decisions.
Modi dedicated to the nation the 400-bed tertiary cancer care centre built at a cost of Rs 534 crore. Modi told the gathering that India has reached the ‘historic milestone’ of administering 150 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccine during the day.
“Today, over 90 per cent of India’s adult population has already got the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine. This reflects the country’s sense of self-confidence, self-dependence and self-pride for an achievement that is difficult for even the developed and rich nations,” asserted the prime minister.
“This is yet another step towards our national resolve to reach high-quality healthcare services to all our citizens, especially the poor and the middle class,” Modi said. He pointed out that the new CNCI campus will cater to West Bengal, its eastern neighbours and the remote states of the Northeast.
“There was a time when a poor person either did not think of getting treated for cancer or sold his house and land for meeting the expenses. The poor and the middle class got anxious and lost heart at the sheer thought of having got cancer. We took determined steps to pull cancer patients out of their worries,” Modi said.
The prime minister said by regulating the prices of 500 drugs the government ensured the patients, particularly the poor, saved Rs 3,000 crore.
Regulating the prices of key medicines and implants helped common people save huge money, Modi said. He added reducing the price of coronory stents alone resulted in a saving of Rs 4,500 crore for heart patients. Under the Prime Minister National Dialysis Programme, 12 lakh people got free of cost treatment and saved over Rs 520 crore, Modi informed.
“If we consider the benefits patients reaped from these and other programmes under Ayushman Bharat, ordinary people saved anywhere between Rs 50,000 crore and Rs 60,000 crore,” Modi informed.
The prime minister also responded to Mamata Banerjee’s suggestion for increasing seats in medical colleges. Modi said the country had 90,000 undergraduate and post-graduate seats before he took over as the prime minister in 2014. He said 60,000 seats were added in medical colleges in the last seven years. “We had just six AIIMS in 2014 and today we have a strong network of 22 AIIMS across the country,” stated Modi. “We are going to produce more doctors over the next 10 years than we did in the last 70 years,” he asserted.
Banerjee, in her speech, said the state government spent 25 per cent of the cost incurred on setting up the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute. She she her government will also bear the recurring expenditure of Rs 71 crore. The West Bengal government, she said, had provided 11 acres of land for the institute.
“Cancer has no answer but we should not stop trying,” Banerjee said. She added her government has launched the ‘Swasthya Saathi Scheme’ covering all citizens of West Bengal under which people can avail medical treatment up to Rs 5 lakh.
Banerjee deplored that only 40 per cent of the state’s population has received the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine. West Bengal has an estimated population of little over 10 crore.
In his speech, the prime minister said the Centre had made available 11 crore vaccines to West Bengal free of cost. The Centre has also provided 1,500 ventilators and 9,000 oxygen cylinders.