Tapovan: On the fourth day of winter session, Opposition today strongly protested in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly against the move to “privatise” laboratory services in government hospitals and later staged a walkout from the house.

Earlier, Shimla MLA Suresh Bharadwaj raised the question in the house and while replying the question Thakur Kaul Singh said that he had given a detailed reply and placed a copy of the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with SRL Diagnostics, a private laboratory with an international accreditation, for providing emergency services in 23 government hospitals. An agreement had been signed with the company for five years.

Health Minister stated that the idea was to give 24-hour laboratory services to patients, as government laboratories give its services only from 9 am to 12 noon. He informed the house that two companies had participated in the tenders. He assured the house that the patients would be charged at the same rates as at the government labs. No staff would be retrenched and instead, an approval had been granted for filling 99 posts of lab assistants, minister added.

After the detail reply from minister, Vidhan Sabha Speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail disallowed a supplementary of Rajeev Bindal, and maintained that the entire question hour could not be devoted to a single question. This agitates Opposition members and led to heated argument. BJP members were pressing the Chair for allowing more supplementary on the issue.

The Speaker advised the members to discuss the issue under some other provision if they needed more information as the scope of the question hour was limited. However, the BJP members refused to budge and walked out.

Opposition members accused Health Minister for misleading the House to oblige a multi-national company and started raising slogans before staging a walkout. Leader of the Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal said the government was ignoring the interest of local youths trained in running private labs to accommodate the MNC.

Commenting on the opposition’s walkout, Health Minister Thakur Kaul Singh condemned the action and said they had no faith in the democratic functioning.

In today’s question hour, total 37 questions were on table but house could discuss only two matters.