A Ghost Hospital in Delhi by Joanna Sugden http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/03/06/a-ghost-hospital-in-delhi/ When it was conceived in 2000, the Guru Harkrishan Institute of Medical Sciences and Research was billed as a high-tech, super-specialty hospital with trauma center and transplant facilities, with 25% of patients receiving free care, all funded by Sikhs. Today it’s an empty five-story shell of a building on Delhi’s southern ring road, overtaken by weeds and barricaded by a perimeter fence made of rusting corrugated iron. Not a single patient has been treated within its walls. In any country this might be considered a waste but perhaps even more so in India where for the majority access to affordable, quality healthcare is rare to non-existent. In 2010, there were just 1.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people in India against World Health Organization guidelines for 3.5, said a report by McKinsey & Co. An earlier survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that two-thirds of India’s hospitals and health centers are in urban areas, even though World Bank data from 2010 show 70.5% of Indians live in the countryside. The completion of the hospital in Delhi has been stalled by a legal dispute around allegations that the building has twice been transferred to two separate commercial healthcare companies against the stipulations of the lease. The Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, which runs the capital’s 600 government-registered gurudwaras, or temples, owns the hospital building. The committee rented 11.43 acres of land for the hospital from the Delhi Development Authority, the capital’s planning department. According to the terms of the land allotment seen by The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time, the rent was on a perpetual lease on the basis that one in four of the hospital beds would be free of charge “for the general public, poor patients, needy patients.” The committee proposed spending one billion rupees (today worth $18million) on building and equipping the hospital and asked for donations from the Sikh community in Delhi when it took over the land in 2002. Funds began to pour in, according to Kuldeep Singh Bhogal, the chairman of the committee when the plans were made. In documents submitted to the High Court on Feb. 25 this year, Mr. Bhogal stated that the Sikh principle of Kar Sewa (voluntary work to build a gurudwara) was applied by the community in building and donating to the hospital. “This hospital was built by the public for the poor. The Sikh community raised almost one billion rupees with love and compassion, so that the sick and the poor would have a place to get well,” Mr. Bhogal told India Real Time. The amount raised couldn’t be independently verified because, according to the new committee, the previous administration didn’t publish accounts or comply with the Right to Information Act despite a Delhi High Court ruling in September 2012 that it should do so as a public authority. The new administration, which took office at the end of February, has pledged to open its accounts to public scrutiny and to comply with the RTI Act. Neither Jathedar Avtar Singh Hit, the president of the committee between 2000 and 2002, nor Paramjit Singh Sarna, president between 2007 and January 2013, when allegations of two separate transfers of the building to commercial healthcare companies were made, responded to requests for comment. According to the allotment agreement, the DDA leased the land to the committee on the proviso that it must only be used for a 200-bed hospital. That agreement barred the “transfer, sale or assignment” of the land or anything built on it without express permission from the DDA. By 2010 the hospital was still not functional and DDA cancelled the lease. The DDA wrote to Mr. Sarna, then president of the committee, alleging that he had entered into an agreement with M/S Manipal Health System Pvt. Ltd. for commercial use of the premises. Such an agreement was “in violation of terms and condition of allotment,” said the letter, which has been seen by India Real Time. Manipal Health System Pvt. Ltd. didn’t respond to requests for comment. A senior inspector at the Criminal Breach of Trust department of the Economic Offence Wing in New Delhi said the case is under investigation after a First Information Report was filed against Mr. Sarna by Mr. Boghal, the former chairman of the committee. No charges have been brought against Mr. Sarna. He didn’t respond to requests for comment. Upon receiving assurances in an affidavit from Mr. Sarna that the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Committee would run and manage the hospital and that there was no agreement with M/S Manipal Health System Pvt. Ltd., the DDA reinstated the land to the committee in November 2010. Things seemed to be back on track. The hospital had still not opened by June 2011, but the committee requested permission to expand the number of beds to 400 and enter into a “management/collaboration” agreement with a hospital company, according to the DDA. The DDA in a letter to the committee said it agreed to the expansion in the number of beds but reiterated that the land couldn’t be transferred. It said the committee could enter into a “working agreement,” according to correspondence between the two parties. But the DDA alleges that Mr. Sarna, on Jan. 19, 2012, violated the terms when he entered an agreement with Radiant Life Care Pvt. Ltd. A notice on Radiant Life Care’s website confirms the company in January 2012 entered into a working arrangement with the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee for “developing and managing” the hospital for 30 years. In a June 6, 2012, letter to the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, the DDA said that a working agreement “by any stretch of logic can neither mean nor include transfer of management for 30 years.” “The de-facto physical possession of the institutional land and super-structure constructed thereupon also appears to have been handed over to the aforesaid company [Radiant Life Care],” the letter said, adding that the agreement Mr. Sarna allegedly signed created a third party interest, violating the terms of the lease. It is unclear what the financial terms of the agreement were, but Radiant Life Care’s website links to a news report that put the deal at $77million. A senior official in DDA’s legal department told India Real Time that this agreement had been investigated and was in violation of the terms of the lease. The DDA is awaiting an opinion from the Additional Solicitor General of India’s office on the case before taking further action, the official said. Radiant Life Care didn’t respond to email requests for comment and the office address given on its website couldn’t be located. Manjit Singh, the new president of the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, who took up his post on Feb. 26, said he hadn’t seen the agreement between the previous administration and Radiant Life Care. Mr. Singh said his committee would investigate any such agreement and the terms of the lease and would be prepared to take legal action to reclaim the management of the hospital on a charitable basis. “We have to go through a legal fight,” Mr. Singh said. “But very soon we will finish the building and the hospital will run.” Until then it remains empty.