Cornered by a shortage of doctors and medical specialists in the country, the Centre plans to start colleges attached to hospitals run by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC). Union minister of state for labour and employment Oscar Fernandes on Saturday said the government will start construction immediately after ascertaining how much land would be available. He also laid the foundation stone for a project to upgrade an ESIC hospital at Rajajinagar . “Since we have a severe shortage of specialists, we will start post-graduate courses and create 400 seats across the country,” he said. “To increase the number of paramedical and nursing staff, we will have training programmes in all the 144 ESIC hospitals,” he added. The government might launch a medical credit card for below poverty line employees . They can take credit up to INR 30,000. Five ESIC hospitals in the country have been selected for upgradation, starting with those in Karnataka. To prevent exploitation of workers, Fernandes said the salaries of workers in the unorganized sector or those working on a contract basis, should match that of government class four employees. “I will raise the issue of minimum wages for such workers plus study the details of the unorganised sector bill in the next Parliament session,” he said. B N Bacchegowda, state minister for labour, said only 20,000 employees in the state are under the organized sector . “We are working out the allocation of Mysore Lamps’ land to start a medical college for children of employees in Peenya. Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge stressed on the need of having ESIC hospitals in Mysore, Belgaum and Gulbarga . Director general of ESIC Prabhat C Chaturvedi said the Rajajinagar hospital project will be completed in 18 months. The cost is INR 160 crore and the hospital will have 500 beds and many new medical equipment will be installed . ESIC has 144 hospitals, 42 hospital annexes, 1,942 panel clinics and 813 branches Around 25,000 employers are covered by ESIC and around 10 lakh are from industrial areas in Karnataka.