An IIM. An NIT. A Spices Research Institute. IMHANS. Colleges for medicine, engineering, law, dentistry, nursing and then some.
The case for AIIMS.Going by the list above, Calicut does have some visibility on the academic map of India. This creates a stronger case for an AIIMS, as this visibility builds upon itself. To most people, for example, Oxford invokes a notion of higher education. Bangalore has an IT reputation that builds upon itself. The presence of IIM and NIT already provides Calicut an identity, within India and abroad; perhaps much more so than does Sri Chithra or others do for Trivandrum. I should say this creates a sort of critical mass that will help any new center of higher learning in the city.
There are two distinct advantages to this critical mass, both of which build on themselves. On one hand, the city builds a reputation as a center of learning, which attracts even more talent, research and funding. On the other, the benefits to the local economy lead to greater goodwill among the citizens of the city.
In a metro like Chennai or Bangalore, the influence of a clutch of institutes could easily be diluted by a multitude of other factors. In a smaller city with no other major claims to current-day fame, however, the presence of some premier institutes could easily become its defining feature, and one that the city prides itself in. The material benefit of such a feeling will be in the creation of a more conducive environment for higher learning, with greater public and administrative support.
This is, at once, an argument against allocation of an AIIMS to smaller towns with less ‘educational visibility’ or to a city like Trivandrum with its administrative centers and Technopark or Kochi, with its port and growing IT presence.
It may perhaps be argued that Trivandrum has a critical mass in terms of medical research and education. Here, however, it is needed to move away from commercial interests and examine the needs of the general populace. Research and higher education in medicine are almost synonymous with better healthcare, and public spending should concentrate on making better healthcare more accessible. As it is, there exists a southern bias in public specialty healthcare in this state. A democratic and geographically equable distribution speaks even against the centrally located Kochi, for it would still not significantly alter this bias.
The Calicut Medical College Hospital has one of the largest ‘catchment areas’ of any in the world. This by itself ought to be enough reason for a higher status. One simply has to look at the number and quality of private hospitals in and around Calicut to understand the scope of the healthcare industry here, and its attendant need for research and super-specialty. An AIIMS is just what the doctor ordered.