AIIMS for Jammu

The AIIMS controversy was born on March 28 this year when the union finance minister announced an AIIMS-type hospital in Jammu and Kashmir. The minister, however, did not specify the region where the specialist medical institution would come up. A few days later, chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed announced in presence of the prime minister that the AIIMS would go to Kashmir. True to its tradition, Jammu took strong note of Mr Sayeed’s announcement and demanded a similar facility for itself. People in the Jammu region had succeeded a few years ago with their demand of a Central University. Similarly, the region had been allotted the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences, Jammu (SKUAST-J). While no one in Kashmir opposes what the government calls equitable development of all regions of the state, it needs to be made clear that health facilities in the Jammu city cater to the needs of only a few districts. Patients from the Chenab and the Pir Panjal valleys prefer Srinagar hospitals, as do those from the two districts in Ladakh. Hospitals in the Valley, therefore, have to cater to the needs of a major chunk of the state’s population.  Second, people in Jammu have much easier access to the Postgraduate Institute at Chandigarh and the AIIMS in New Delhi as compared to the Valley whose only road connection to the outside world gets blocked very often. Even a moderate rainfall severs the Valley’s surface link to the rest of the world, making dependence on it for transporting critical patients highly risky, even suicidal, particularly when air travel rates shoot up as during road closures in winter.  A medical facility on the pattern of the AIIMS, therefore, becomes all the more necessary in Kashmir. People in Jammu must understand this aspect, and show an accommodating approach. During the peak of militancy, funds meant for Kashmir were diverted to Jammu.  Though many in Kashmir had raised their voice against the practice, their concerns were never heeded. Over the past twenty-five years of conflict, Jammu has developed at the expense of Kashmir. People in Jammu have a right to agitate issues, but while doing so they should not oppose Kashmiris. There was no opposition in Kashmir when Jammu was granted an IIT. Kashmiris do not resent an AIIMS at Jammu, and expect people in Jammu not to resent one in Kashmir.