Srinagar: In 2012, GB Pant hospital, the lone pediatric health facility in Kashmir recorded 358 neonatal deaths from January 1 to May 18. The high neonatal mortality rate triggered uproar in the Valley prompting then Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to announce that a 500-bed children hospital will be set up in Srinagar in the shortest possible time.
On May 31, 2012, Omar Abdullah led regime cleared the proposal for building the 200-bed maternity and 250-bed children hospital over an area of about 70 kanals at Bemina in Srinagar. The facility that was to come up within no time remained in limbo for nearly 10 years.
The work on the hospital was initially started in 2013, but it went on at snail’s pace. In 2015, when late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed came into power, he once again laid the foundation stone for a 500-bed Mother-Child Hospital.
Neither the Omar Abdullah led regime nor the dispensation led by Mehbooba Mufti could complete the children hospital project. The first deadline was missed in 2014, the second in 2017, and the third in 2018.
In July 2021, the J&K Administrative Council headed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha took note of the project missing several deadlines. The Council approved the construction of an exclusive 500-bed pediatric hospital at Bemina. After the Council gave its nod, the work on the facility, which was left incomplete by the former political regimes, commenced and the project is ready.
It is all set to become functional from September 26 (Monday). Machinery and other equipment have been shifted to the hospital. From next week the Out Patient Department and admissions at GB Pant hospital at Sonawar in Srinagar will be closed and at the same time, admission of patients will start at children hospital Bemina.
70-year long wait ends
It’s after 70-long years that Kashmir is all set to get an exclusive 500-bed facility for children. For seven decades politicians, who ruled Jammu and Kashmir just made tall promises but failed to deliver. Kashmir having a population of more than one crore had just one 130-bed hospital from 1947 to 2022 for children. What an Irony!
The politicians, who ruled J&K till 2018, didn’t focus on development and governance. They remained busy with raking up the issues which had got nothing to do with the welfare of a common man.
After August 5, 2019 — when the Centre announced its decision to abrogate J&K’s special status and divided it into two Union Territories — the Himalayan region has witnessed massive development. The projects like building a children’s hospital, which remained incomplete due to one or other reason, stand completed and have been thrown open for the public.
The children’s hospital at Bemina had become a typical example of missed deadlines. The mega project had to wait for one decade for its commissioning. The hospital has become a reality due to the relentless efforts that were put in by the present dispensation in J&K led by LG Manoj Sinha.
After the Administrative Council in the Union Territory gave its nod for the hospital in July last year the officials and the executing agencies were told in clear terms that no delay would be acceptable and the results are evident. The hospital having all the modern facilities is ready.
GB Pant hospital
The GB Pant hospital at Sonawar had started functioning in 2007. Before 2007 the lone Children Hospital in Kashmir was located next to Lal Ded maternity hospital at Lal Mandi in Srinagar.
The 130-bed GB Pant hospital used to cater to children from across the Valley. From OPD to emergency and from wards to laboratories, every section of the hospital remained congested all the time. Three to four patients used to occupy one bed in the health facility, leading to fears of the spread of infections and other communicable diseases.
There was no dedicated parking space at the GB Pant hospital despite it being the lone facility for children that catered to patients from all the corners of Kashmir.
The hospital was located on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway and the road leading to it remained clogged with a heavy flow of traffic. Many patients requiring urgent treatment used to get stuck in traffic jams for hours.
Politicians ignored the burning issue
The GB Pant hospital used to hog the headlines for wrong reasons every now and then. Politicians, who ruled Jammu and Kashmir, were aware of the fact that Kashmir needs a big health facility for the children as the existing one was unable to cater to the rush. They knew that neonates and small kids being admitted in the hospital deserve better health care facilities.
As the 500-bed new children’s hospital is being thrown open in Kashmir, people are asking why the politicians couldn’t do the same despite them enjoying power for 70-years. What stopped them from setting up the facilities that could have helped a common man? Is it that they were least bothered about the sufferings of people? Or it was simply their incompetence?
After the abrogation of Article 370, the people of Kashmir have understood that New Delhi always wanted to provide them with all the facilities but their own leaders, who claimed to represent Kashmiris and as on date are still projecting themselves as ‘Messiahs (saviours)’, were least interested in helping their own people.
From 1990 — when the Pakistan sponsored insurgency broke out in J&K — till 2018, Kashmir-based leaders used to claim that no development can take place in the Himalayan region till the so-called Kashmir “issue” is resolved. However, during the past three years the Central Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proven that “where there is a will there’s a way,” what J&K couldn’t get in 70-years has got in 3-years.
The 500-bed children hospital is yet another milestone aimed at making the lives of people easy and another step towards sending a message to the people of Kashmir that the country stands with them and the government is committed to provide them with all the facilities and build ‘Naya Jammu and Kashmir’.