This is yet another account of how Prime Minister Narendra Modi reversed the neglect suffered by North East India since Independence and is rapidly changing the face of the region.
Soon after assuming office in May 2014, Prime Minister Modi was told by a delegation of ministers from Nagaland that the state did not have a single medical college. They requested the PM to sanction one for the benefit of the people of the state.
Modi reportedly agreed immediately and asked the then health minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, to formulate a proposal for setting up a medical college in Nagaland.
The Union Health Ministry gave the necessary preliminary approvals and asked the Nagaland government to acquire land for the medical college. But the land acquisition process took some time and could be completed only in February 2018.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) started monitoring the project after Prime Minister Modi learnt in mid-2017 that not much progress had been made in setting up the medical college in Nagaland.
The PMO started interacting closely with the state government on the issue and kept up the pressure on state authorities to complete the land acquisition process. Once land was acquired, the PMO and the Union Health Ministry kept close tabs on the progress of civil construction works that began in early 2019.
The civil construction works are now nearing completion and the first batch of 100 MBBS students will start classes from the next academic session later this year.
Earlier this week, the National Medical Commission (NMC) issued a ‘Letter of Permit’ (LoP) allowing the Nagaland Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (NIMSR) to start classes from the 2023-2024 academic session with a 100 MBBS seats.
The NIMSR is located at Phriebagie, about 5 kilometres from state capital Kohima. Nagaland Health Minister Paiwang Konyak said that construction work will be completed by 31 May.
Initially, the Naga Hospital Authority, Kohima (the Kohima District Hospital) will function as the teaching hospital for NIMSR.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had already approved the upgradation of the Kohima District Hospital to make it fit to serve as the teaching hospital for NIMSR.
Apart from renovation and other works, the Kohima hospital received many modern equipment and underwent an infrastructure upgrade at a cost of Rs 189 crore.
The arrangement to designate the Naga Hospital, Kohima, as the NIMSR’s teaching hospital is a temporary one. NIMSR will have its own 500-bed teaching hospital at its Phriebagie campus.
The Phriebagie campus will house administrative offices, staff quarters and students’ hostels, besides other facilities.
“The opening of this medical college will be a great and historic day for the people of Nagaland. A long 60 years after statehood, Nagaland is getting its first medical college,” Konyak told Swarajya.
Of the 100 seats in the new medical college, 85 will be reserved for students from Nagaland and the rest will be all-India seats to be filled with candidates who pass the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET).
Recruitment of faculty and administrative staff is nearing completion, said NIMSR Director Professor Soumya Chakraborty. About 87 per cent of the staff are locals, she said.
The Difference That The New Medical College Is Going To Make
As of now, only 37 students from Nagaland get admissions to medical colleges across the country every year.
A total of 24 seats were reserved for students from Nagaland for admission to medical colleges in the all-India central pool, while 10 seats were reserved at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) at Imphal.
Another three seats were reserved for students from the state at Agartala Medical College.
Thus, only 37 Nagas would qualify as doctors from these medical colleges every year. That is grossly inadequate even for the small state. But that is set to change and from 2028, at least 85 young Naga men and women will qualify to be doctors every year.
Dr Lawrence Khizho, a cardiologist, has a private practice in Kohima.
“I got admission into a medical college in Uttar Pradesh through the central pool. It was extremely difficult adjusting to a new place and a completely alien setting in that state. Language was a stumbling block and there were times when I felt like giving it all up and returning to Nagaland,” he told Swarajya.
“But from now, aspiring doctors from my state will not face this problem. They will be able to study in peace,” Khizho, 59, added.
Health Minister Paiwang Konyak told Swarajya that five years from now, Nagaland will benefit immensely from the increase in the number of qualified doctors.
“We will get at least 85 new doctors every year and that will make a huge difference to our healthcare sector,” he said.
Konyak, a three-time MLA of the BJP from Tizit constituency in Mon district, said that Nagaland suffers from a severe shortage of doctors.
“There simply aren’t enough doctors in Nagaland. People from outside the state don’t want to come and serve here. As a result, people of Nagaland have been suffering a lot,” he said.
The Health Minister also said that the shortage of doctors leads to avoidable complications and fatalities.
“Due to lack of doctors, many patients from my state go to Assam and other states for treatment. That is a huge drain on their resources. The new medical college will change that completely,” he said.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said that the new medical college will attract good faculty from all over the country and will become a super-speciality hospital.
“Patients from Nagaland will not have to go outside the state for even specialised treatment. Everything will be available at the teaching hospital of the new medical college,” he said.
Second Medical College For Nagaland
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to development of the North East can be gauged from the fact that he wasn’t satisfied with sanctioning only one medical college for the state.
Modi asked the then health minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, to sit with the Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and explore the possibility of starting another medical college in the state.
Modi had reportedly told Dr Harsh Vardhan that even for a small state like Nagaland, just one medical college is not enough.
The state government identified Mon as the site of the second medical college. The state government has already acquired 90 acres of land at Mon village, just 3 km away from the existing Mon district hospital, for the new medical college.
Dr Harsh Vardhan laid the foundation stone of this new medical college in February 2021.
Of the approved cost of Rs 325 crore, the Union government has already released Rs 232.23 crore. Preliminary works, including construction of roads, have commenced.
Health Minister Konyak told Swarajya that all civil construction works will be completed by the end of 2025 and the new medical college at Mon can start functioning from the 2026-2027 academic session.
“The new medical college in Mon, one of the most backward and farthest districts from the state capital, will help bring affordable secondary healthcare facilities to the doorsteps of nearly 2.5 lakh people of northern Nagaland,” Dr Vardhan had said during the foundation stone laying ceremony.
Earlier Congress Governments Never Thought Of This
Health Minister Konyak said that the Congress governments at the Centre had never given the necessity of setting up medical colleges in Nagaland even a thought.
“That is reflective of the overall neglect of the North East during the many decades of Congress rule. This has now changed,” he said.
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