Rule derails Mamata pledge

The outpatients’ department of a railway hospital that Mamata Banerjee had promised would treat ordinary people opened its door on Tuesday, but only for Metro Railway employees and their families.

Junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury inaugurated the wing of Tapan Sinha Memorial Hospital, off Karunamoyee bridge, around a kilometre away from Tollygunge Metro station, on Tuesday. A physiotherapy unit of the hospital has been operational since March 2011.

Mamata Banerjee, while she was the railway minister, had laid the foundation stone of the hospital in January 2010. She had promised then that half the 75 beds would be reserved for patients without railway connection, particularly the poor and Tollywood film technicians.

“Only Metro Railway employees and their family members will be treated in this hospital. Common people would not be entertained, except in an emergency,” said Radhey Shyam, general manager, Metro Railways, on Tuesday.

Some hospitals built by the railways in the PPP mode treat ordinary patients, said a rail ministry official in Delhi. “But hospitals built by the railways on its land is for employees and their families, and that’s the rule,” the official added.

However, during his inauguration speech, Chowdhury also played to the gallery, saying: “Although this is a dedicated hospital for railway staff, everyone can get treated here, but without any concession.”

Railway officials claimed that the minister had said it “mistakenly”. “By everyone, he must have meant Metro commuters whom we would treat if they fall ill on our premises,” said Metro deputy general manager (general) Protyush Ghosh.

On his way to the hospital, the junior minister had faced a demonstration by Trinamul Congress activists who wanted the hospital to be thrown open to local people, as was promised by Mamata.