On September 6, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya laid the groundwork for six branches of the National Centre for Disease Control across India, but one branch in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar was noticeably absent from the list.
Mirror has learned that the four years of work and planning to establish the NCDC branch in Gandhinagar have all been for naught because officials at the Centre and the state have decided to relocate the central agency’s branch to Ahmedabad.
On August 23, 2018, the Centre and the state signed an MoU to establish an NCDC branch in Gujarat. Three years later, on August 12, 2021, the NCDC wrote a letter to the Gujarat Health Department, expressing disappointment with the delay and requesting that the state expedite the process of establishing the lab and branch offices.
NCDC and state government had identified 2 acres of land in the premises of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar (IIPHG) and the location had been inspected by a team from NCDC Delhi. However, land laws mandated that the proposed land parcel be first handed back to the state government for reallocation to NCDC. Gandhinagar Collector Dr Kuldeep Arya told Mirror that the measurement and valuation of the IIPHG land had been completed in February 2022 itself.
However, sources revealed that the Union government had not taken possession of the land till the first week of September.
Mirror has now learnt that the state government has decided to cancel all previous plans for the establishment of the NCDC branch in Gandhinagar.
Sources informed that the state had in February-March itself begun exploring options to set up the NCDC lab in Ahmedabad. Officials of the urban local body, on the condition of anonymity said, “About six months ago, the state government began exploring land to establish the NCDC lab in Ahmedabad instead of Gandhinagar. It is now likely to be set up at the site of the abandoned Leprosy Hospital in Narol.”
An official of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) confirmed the development and added, “We are back to square one. All the work done over the last four years are down the drain.”
The NCDC had in June this year chosen Ahmedabad as one of 10 sites to set up a Metropolitan Public Health Surveillance Unit as well as one of 10 sites to set up a BSL-3 containment laboratory, both under the Prime Minister Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PM-ABHIM).
Now, since a state branch was already in the works in Gujarat, sources said that it was decided to build all three facilities in the same premises. However, the 2 acres of land allocated in IIPH Gandhinagar would not be enough to do so as it would take about 14 acres to set up all three facilities.
According to health department officials, the NCDC branch was relocated to Ahmedabad so that two major labs would not be located in the same city.
On September 6, Mandaviya laid the foundation stone for six NCDC branches in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tripura, and Uttar Pradesh.
The NCDC branch will provide a cutting-edge laboratory with sophisticated equipment to assist the state government in the diagnosis of emerging and re-emerging diseases.