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Kolkata: To put a leash on people from neighbouring states availing free treatment in Bengal government hospitals, Mamata Banerjee government has made the production of ration cards mandatory while availing treatment in the outpatient department (OPD).

The ration cards shall have to be the one issued by the Bengal food and supplies department.

In the event of a prospective patient not having a ration card, shall have to provide a mobile number at the time of registration in OPD.

A circular issued on this by the state health department on 31 December, however, does not clarify whether the mobile number has to be that of Bengal.

The new rules will come into effect from 15 January and, the health department has asked all medical colleges and, district hospitals, to prominently display the rules somewhere near their OPD.

The health department circular does not speak of curbing the flood of patients from other states as the purpose for new rules.

Instead, it states that the steps are being taken to ensure that the queue-time in OPD is reduced.

Scanning the barcode on digital ration card issued by Bengal government will automatically fetch the name, address, etc., of a patient and, thus save time, the circular maintains.

The state government sources said that there are about 8.8-crore digital ration card holders in Bengal out of the total population of 9.03-crore.

At the fag end of first Trinamool government, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that treatment in state government medical colleges and all hospitals will be absolutely free.

Taking advantage of this, needy people from Bihar, Jharkhand and, Odisha have been coming to Bengal to avail the free treatment.