“Odisha will soon emerge as a leading oncology player in India” tweeted Subroto Bagchi, co-founder of Mindtree, business author and chairman of Odisha Skill Development Authority (OSDA) on April 12 when the State Cabinet approved a proposal for the establishment of a cutting-edge cancer hospital and a world-class palliative care unit in Bhubaneswar.
Susmita Bagchi, writer, chairperson of Mo School Abhiyan Parichalana Sangathan of the State government and Subroto Bagchi’s wife, tweeted on the same day: “Our State will be a leading centre for oncological care, cure, research, outreach & advocacy”.
Their tweets appeared soon after the Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, approved a proposal for the establishment of the cancer hospital and palliative care centre with a total donation of Rs.340 crore pledged by the Bagchis.
The proposed hospital—Bagchi-Sri Shankara Cancer Hospital and Research Institute—will be provided 20 acres of land by the government in Infocity-II, Bhubaneswar. It will be operational by January 2024. The Bengaluru-based Sri Shankara Cancer Care Foundation has volunteered to establish the hospital, for which the Bagchis have pledged an amount of Rs. 210 crore.
Cancer hospital & research institute
The proposed cancer hospital will initially be equipped with 250 beds, and will later be made a 500-bed hospital. With advanced cutting-edge cancer care facilities, the hospital will earmark 25 per cent beds for free treatment and another 25 per cent beds for patients supported under different government health schemes. The remaining 50 per cent patients will pay for the services and the revenue generated will be utilised for expansion and supporting poor patients.
A government notification said: “It will be an oncology centre of excellence with academic and research facilities with major categories of services such as surgical, medical and radiation oncology, imaging nuclear medicine, paediatric and haemato-oncology and centre for lung disease.”
Palliative care centre
The Bagchi-Karunashraya Palliative Care Centre will be first of its kind in Odisha. Bengaluru-based Karunashraya Hospice Trust has partnered with the Bagchis, who have pledged Rs. 130 crore for the centre.
Apart from hospital-based care, the centre will provide palliative care services at home too. It will also train local doctors, health-care providers and caregivers in palliative care.
Social media platforms were flooded with messages of appreciation for the Bagchis’ gesture for the proposed cancer care projects. State Governor Ganeshi Lal tweeted: “Their remarkable act of altruism will go a long way in addressing a major public health concern.”
This is not the first time that the Bagchis have donated funds for public benefit. In 2020, they donated Rs. 7.5 crore to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF) to be used for COVID-19 affected destitute elderly women of Puri district. Earlier, they contributed Rs.2.5 crore to the CMRF to be used for women COVID-19 patients staying in temporary medical camps in Balangir district.
Subroto Bagchi was born in Patnagarh block of Odisha’s Balangir district. He studied in Utkal University and began his career as an employee of the Industries Department of the Government of Odisha before he went on to co-found the multinational information technology and outsourcing company Mindtree. He has been drawing a salary of Re.1 a year as head of OSDA since May 1, 2016.
As chairman of OSDA, Bagchi has transformed the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in Odisha in the past five years. Of the 49 State government-run ITIs, many have achieved 100 per cent placement. As many as 11 of these ITIs have been ranked among the country’s top 100, as identified by the Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
Under the “Skilled in Odisha” mission, Bagchi has ensured one-third reservation for girls in enrolment in the ITIs, apart from introducing many welfare schemes for students belonging to weaker sections. The enrolment of girls increased from 4 per cent in 2015-16 to 25 per cent in 2019-20. An exclusive ITI has been opened for differently abled youth.
Susmita Bagchi’s contribution as chairperson of the Mo School Abhiyan has been equally praiseworthy. Thousands of government schools have benefited with financial assistance from alumni and others interested in the betterment of these schools. The initiative has spread in all blocks across the State.
The Bagchis not only donate money but also devote time to social causes. Bagchi donned the role of Odisha government’s chief spokesperson for COVID-19 and briefed people online when the pandemic struck last year.
Asked to respond about his philanthropic gesture towards fighting cancer in the State, Subroto Bagchi said: “We are grateful to Shri Naveen Patnaik. It was he who asked us to return to Odisha after being away for four decades. In the last five years that we have been here, it has been a complete reboot for both of us. Most of us, people who live in cities, people who have made it big professionally, live in a bubble. Our time here has been an eye-opener on how deep and difficult the problems of India are at the grassroots level. But the moment we see a big problem, we simply deflect it to the government. It is then that Susmita and I said, we will engage in our own small way, at least with one big problem and give it all the push needed. Money isn’t the thing. We need empathy. We need urgency. We need engagement.”
Susmita Bagchi added: “Odisha gave us the platform. In the last five years, we have realised how much we always craved to make a difference to the land that gave us our first breath, our first drop of water, our first cry and our first laughter. We are grateful we are in this time and this space to offer our small might. Long after we are gone, we do not want to be remembered for the money, we want to be recalled with affection.”