Chandigarh: A death knell has sounded for Gian Sagar Medical College with the doors of most rooms, including classrooms, locked, power or water supply struck off, the only human sounds reverberating in the college corridors being those of protesting students and staffers. The faculty and staff have not received their salaries since October last year; No classes have been taken after January this year. Exams round the bend, studentsare not sure whether they would actually be able to appear for them or not.
The college which is merely an echo of protesting voices demanding study and salaries was a bubbling healthcare hub with 1500 students and an equal number of staff members all over the premises a year ago. A patient footfall of a 1000 odd number, along with their attendant, filled the place up , looking for treatment.
Hindustan Times reports that its visiting team saw a bunch of protesting students outside the institute. The security guards have also joined the protesters league, who include a few doctors, (60% having left), and other staffers. Inside, the gates the team saw a tehsildar and a few police personnel were taking down notes on the voices of protest . “We’ve been assured that our memorandum will reach former Patiala member of Parliament Preneet Kaur, who will do something about us,” said a faculty member, requesting anonymity. “We’ve knocked at all doors, the health minister, the chief minister, and several bureaucrats. Nothing has happened so far. But we can only hope for better.”
- On March 24, the trustees gave a written undertaking at a meeting convened by state Health and Medical Education Minister, Brahm Mohindra, saying that they were trying to muster funds from investors in Benguluru and other sources, and staff salaries would be disbursed from March 31.
- That did not happen, leading to the protest by the staff and students gathering momentum. It even resulted in their temporary detention in Chandigarh last week.The government is trying to come up with another solution.
“We don’t know what happens next. It’s a deserted place now with no power and water, and no staffers ,as they haven’t been paid for six-seven months now,” said the Dean, Dr AS Sekhon. “Whether students get to sit in exams will depend on Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, which would know that there have been no classes for two months now,” he added.
A robust institution in 2015, more than 3.2 lakh outdoor patients coming in for treatment for treatment, the hospital had 1.93 lakh indoor patients in that year. The 626-bed hospital with 10 super-specialty departments and 20 multi-specialty departments it boasted of 85% occupancy .
The institute is spread over 100 acres and has two campuses with several buildings, colleges, departments and hostels. The medical college has 100 seats. The college worked efficiently since its inception in 2007 with its enrolment increasing to 1,500 students at which it stands today.
- The college is run by Gian Sagar Educational and Charitable Trust, whose current chairman is an NRI doctor named Barjinder Singh. But insiders say that the entire show is run by its managing trustees, Harsatinder Singh and his wife Barinder Bhangoo, who is daughter of Rs 45,000-crore chit fund scam accused Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, owner of the Mohali-based Pearl group, whose only son Harvinder Singh was the college’s founder chairman till his death in 2011 reports HT.
- After Bhangoo’s arrest in January 2016, there were fears that enforcement agencies probing the scam would seize this college property as well, but it has not been touched so far. Many, however, link the college’s deteriorating financial situation to the Bhangoo family’s misfortunes that began as early as in 2014 when pressure built up for the arrest of Nirmal Singh Bhangoo.
The first time dharna in February last year to demand their pending wages, was viewed as a temporary crisis. A recent government inspection report blamed the crisis on financial mismanagement by the administration, which did not prioritize compulsory expenditures, including staff salaries, despite collecting the annual fee of over Rs 35 crore from students.While the management defending itself says much of it went into paying loans, the protesting faculty refuses to take the explanation. Faculty alleges siphoning of funds and wasteful expenditure at the behest of the top management. “For example, under MCI rules, the college does not need a chief executive officer, but it has one who draws over 72 lakh per annum even though he has no technical knowledge to run the college. We don’t need two posts of dean and principal as only one is sufficient,” said a faculty member.
- A senior government official, preferring anonymity proclaimed the government to be working on two possibilities. The first option :to shut down the college and move out all the students for which the health ministry and academic bodies, including medical and dental councils of India, have already been confided in and taken on board
- The second is appointing an administrator who will collect the next session’s fee in advance and start running the college. The DC, this official said, has the power to appoint a receiver to protect the interest of the students. Sandeep Kumar, a faculty member, said shutting down the college is not an advisable option as it would bring a 1,000 families, to the streets.
The official said the college accounts showed that Rs 40 lakh was paid as salary to bouncers. Insiders allege the books showing more number of employees than those actually on the rolls. The trustees salaries are also veiled .
Protestors say there is sufficient infrastructure to run it effectively, provided the intentions were sound.
“Ever since I assumed charge as minister”, said Punjab minister for Health and Medical Education, Brahm Mohindra to the HT. “I have spent most of my time addressing problems being faced by students of Gian Sagar College. But all my efforts have been futile because the management did not cooperate and back-tracked on its commitment to clear the salary dues of staff and faculty. We have now placed the matter before chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who will convene a meeting of senior officials on April 15 to take a final call on this matter. The government is concerned about the future of over 1,500 students and will take an appropriate call on priority.”
Another new development that has come to the forefront that clamps down closure of Gian Sagar Medical College, is the back tracking by various investors who had earlier shown interest in making an investment in the college which would have saved the sinking Titanic of sorts.
According to information Bengaluru-based Alliance University had shown in investing a 100 crores in Gian Sagar college. The hidden aim was to start management courses in a the near deserted Gian Sagar Medical College building and alongside help revive the college’s medical dental and nursing wings.
However, the last minute company back off due to mismanagement and dwindling fortunes of the Bangoo family, after its Head Nirmal Singh Bangoo, who started the college in 2007, got embroiled in the Rs. 45, 000 crore chit fund scam.
The college reins are presently in the hands of Nirmal Singh Bhangoo’s daughter Barinder Bhangoo and her husband Harsatinder Singh.
According to a family friend the Bhangroos are interested in investing in the college, however the hawk eye being kept on the family investments by the enforcement agencies probing the Chit fund scam is acting as a major hurdle.
The only safeguard that could prevent the college from closing down will be convincing the investors to take over the liability of Rs 108 crore as calculated by the state government said the family source. He further saw dim prospects of this happening as the state government has already begun cancellation of all permissions to the college, enough to weaken the credibility of the institution and the confidence of investors
“But we are still in talks with a few investors and hope we get a positive response. If they agree to invest in a couple of days, there are chances that the college can be put on a revival path. Otherwise the government’s dictum will prevail and college will eventually shut down, which the family never wanted,” he told the HT