Telangana government announced its decision to shift central Jail in Warangal following a visit by the Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao recently. It proposes to set up an open jail at a different location, like the Cherlapally Open Air Jail and it would be a Correctional Centre. But, there is no authentic information to confirm this. Upcoming open air jail, whenever the site is identified and buildings constructed, can be possibly in a lesser space than the current 54 acres.
Additionally, in the present jail premises, a multi-super specialty hospital would be developed with all the facilities. The present MGM Hospital, an extent of 13 acres, adjoining central jail would be converted into a Mother and Child Health Centre (MCH). With no public document to support, either in the form of a GO or Detailed Project Report, ultimate extent of the hospital is likely to be far less than the available 54 acres. News reports suggest that it will be a 24 storey building. Government of Telangana is likely to convert part of this land to augment its finances. It may in fact come with a model where a private entrepreneur is asked to develop hospital buildings in exchange for prime urban land.
Warangal Central Jail was built in 1886, and has very good building structure. Even though it is not listed as a heritage construction (not sure), its edifice has heritage characteristics. It would have been an additional attraction to the heritage city of Warangal, which has at least 13 other heritage sites. In fact, this city has won heritage award 3 times so far. This city has culture and heritage monuments of Kakatiya dynasty that include fortresses, lakes and temples. This was also chosen by the Government of India as a smart city and also chosen for the HRIDAY for Warangal Fort, Thousand Pillar Temple and Kakatiya Kala Thoranam.
Contrary to media reports that this is conversion of a jail into a hospital, all the structures of the central jail were demolished in a span of 24 hours. It’s a demolition and construction proposal, not conversion. In fact, the proposal to shift the jail and construct a hospital in its place was publicly announced in 2017, by the then Minister for health. Even though, a decision was taken long back, this proposal is not reflected in the City Development Plan or KUDA Master Plan, which were put up for public consultations in the same period. Apparently, government does not follow Master Plan prepared by its officials..
Earlier in 2011, Warangal City Development Plan (CDP)was developed. The CDP is not a statutory document, but has wider objectives including guided growth of the city, ensure citizen’s participation, to reform governance and facilitate financial investments and sustainability.This Plan was not reviewed and updated, after its initial approval. Meanwhile, the Warangal Municipal Corporation expanded its jurisdiction by including 42 villages surrounding it to form ‘Greater Warangal’. With the expansion of city into the surrounding lands, location of a public hospital has to be carefully planned. It is obvious that the Government of Telangana did not deem it necessary to work on a City Development Plan that includes augmentation of public health facilities. It does not give credence to the instruments of planned development, such as CDP.
In March, 2020, Telangana government approved a master plan for the Kakatiya Urban Development Authority for 2020-2041.
There is no information available in the public domain about the land use zone, in which the current jail and MGM hospital are located. With no clear information on the proposed site for the open air jail, its zonal status in the Master Plan and CDP is hazy as well.
Neglect of Warangal Master Plan, in this regard, by the government is equally appalling. This proposal, and other actions, of Telangana government take away the sanctity that Master Plans have for planned development of cities. City Master Plans are largely for land-use regulation. The Master Plans lay down the spatial requirements for the coming years, whereas a City Development Plan provides the vision and development strategy for the city. Both documents, Warangal Master Plan and City Development Plan, were prepared in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. If the current proposal was not incorporated earlier, Government should have organised a consultation on how this huge proposal, of shifting, demolition and construction, integrates into the Master Plan of Warangal and City Development Plan.
Apparently, there are 129 health centres in Warangal Municipal Corporation. The primary health centres, including major hospitals like MGM hospital, are 29. In surrounding 42 villages, there are 54 primary health centres and 30 secondary health centres. The tertiary health centres are within an average distance of 6.5 km in surrounding 42 villages. These health centres are gasping for funds towards infrastructure development, capital investment and appointment of trained personnel. Without response to their needs, TS government proposes to develop a centralised multi-speciality hospital. Is this based on an assessment of the existing public health facilities and emerging disease profile of the area? It does not appear so. Necessity of a multi-speciality hospital and its location are important factors that cannot be ignored in public health planning.
News reports mention that the Chief Minister wanted a delegation to study hospital designs in Canada. If the design is still to be worked out, why the hurry in demolishing the jail? That too, these are the times when State finances have hit a nadir and corona pandemic has not abated. Every structure should be utilised, and not demolished.
On the other hand, Union Minister of State for Home, G. Kishan Reddy, revealed that Union government has released Rs.120 crores for the development of the hospital, under PMSSY, to be built on the premises of the Kakatiya Medical College (KMC). He accused State government for not sanctioning its share of Rs.30 crore.
With Telangana economy in tatters caused by public policies, economic downturn, corona pandemic and lockdown, rationale for undertaking an expensive demolition and construction activity, albeit with public health objective, is not clear.This demolition and construction is likely to cost more than Rs.1,000 crores. In most States, fresh hospital spaces were created using existing infrastructure, primarily to reduce the burden on meagre finances of the governments.
This proposal can possibly lead to:
- Commercialisation of prime urban property of 67 (54 + 13) acres of space currently under Warangal central jail and MGM Hospital.
- Financial burden of at least Rs.1,000 crores on Telangana government, which is reeling under a huge debt of more than Rs.3 lakh crores.
- Loss of a historical heritage site in the historical and heritage famous Warangal city.
- Distortion of Warangal City Development Plan and KUDA Master Plan by the government.
- Non-integration with the plans under Smart City and HRIDAY scheme.
- No change in the dismal status of current public health centres in Warangal city and erstwhile Warangal district.
- Interference by State government in the local self-governance.
Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi is a public policy expert. He can be reached at email@example.com.