Six years on since the cabinet's nod, a permanent campus keeps eluding Rajshahi Medical University (RMU) and even the initial task of land acquisition could not begin till date, frustrating locals, including civil society members as well as politicians.
Rajshahi residents say the construction of a permanent campus is repeatedly delayed due to failures of the university administration. As a result, people of the country's northern region are being deprived of access to better medical services.
Meanwhile, the university authorities have been continuing with their academic, administrative and recruitment activities without any permanent campus.
The proposals regarding Rajshahi and Chattogram Medical University were approved by the Cabinet on 12 May 2016 and subsequently parliament passed the Rajshahi Medical University Act and the Chattogram Medical University Act in the same year. Two years later, on 22 February 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone for the construction of the RMU building.
With no headway in construction, academic and official activities have been going on through affiliating educational institutions on the basis of a law and a circular.
On 10 April, 2017, the first Vice Chancellor of the University was appointed and the university started its operations at the three-storey residential building for teachers and the second floor of the Divisional Continuing Education Centre building.
The late Dr Masum Habib, the first Vice Chancellor, failed to take any steps to build a permanent campus. During his tenure, 86 acres of land were selected for the permanent campus at Nowdapara Baro Road Crossing in the city. The location was later abandoned due to various complications. A few months later, the health ministry, divisional and district administration and the university authorities picked a 68-acre plot of land in the City Haat area.
According to university sources, all public and private medical colleges, dental colleges, nursing colleges and institutes of health technology of Rajshahi, Rangpur and Khulna divisions have been brought under the RMU. A total of 80 institutions, including 13 government medical colleges, 13 private medical colleges, two government and five private dental colleges, six government and 31 private nursing colleges, one government and two private health education technology institutes are operating within the university's ambit. Some 12,000 students are enrolled at these 80 institutes and their affiliate institutes.
RMU has been offering MBBS, BDS, Physiotherapy and Unani Medicine and Surgery (BUMS) courses from the academic year 2017-18. All activities, including data entry, registration of students and form filling for examinations, are being conducted digitally through the university's website.
Sources at the land acquisition branch of the Rajshahi district administration said the university authorities send land acquisition requests from time to time, which places the administration in a tight spot.
Besides, political tension over the construction of the RMU campus and hospital has further hindered the land acquisition process, they said.
According to multiple insiders, there are no land complications in reality. The complications are said to have appeared due to the university authorities repeatedly changing land locations.
Meanwhile, the people of Rajshahi have been voicing their anger and frustration over the prolonged delay in the setting up of a permanent campus.
"The project is yet to materialise due to administrative failure," said Asaduzzaman Asad, former general secretary of Rajshahi district Awami League.
"If they do not take an initiative in the matter soon, we will wage a movement demanding the resignation of the vice-chancellor," he added.
Rajshahi Raksha Sangram Parishad General Secretary Jamaat Khan said, "Rajshahi Medical University will open new horizons for research in medical science in the northern region. If the delay gets to be any longer, the scope for research and achieving higher degrees for the northerners will also recede. So we want to see the permanent campus of the university soon."
The RMU authorities say that the Development Project Proposal (DPP) has been finalised and the project will be completed in two phases at an estimated cost of Tk3,100 crore.
On 14 June, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) allocated Tk1,867 crore in the first phase, which includes land acquisition, construction of boundary wall, academic building, administrative building, hospital, school and day-care centre.
A total of 42 buildings are planned in the DPP, said the university sources.
Once the project is fully implemented, some 780 graduate and post-graduate level students will get education and research opportunities every year through 68 departments under 10 faculties. It will also create employment for 5,000 people including doctors and nurses and some 2 crore people of the northern region will have access to better medical care.
On May 27, 2021, Professor Dr AZM Mostaque Hossain joined Rajshahi Medical University as its second vice chancellor.
He said he has given utmost importance to the DPP proposal since his joining.
"A total of 21 buildings will be constructed with the money allotted by ECNEC in the first phase. The district administration will first do the land acquisition and compensate the landowners. It will be followed by hiring consultants, making designs and hiring contractors among other tasks," he said, adding, "It will take a few more years to build a permanent campus."
Rajshahi District Administration Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) Muhammad Shariful Haque said the administration has forwarded the land allotment letter from ECNEC to the Central Land Allocation Committee, which operates under the land ministry.
"Once the Ministry of Land gives its approval, we will go for land acquisition following the issuance of a notice," he added.