Hyderabad: The inundation of state-run Osmania General Hospital due to heavy rains last week causing innumerable hardship to patients has kicked up a fresh debate as to whether the 110-year old heritage structure would meet the same fate of 132-year old Saifabad Palace in the Secretariat complex which was razed to rubble recently.
The heavy rains that lashed the twin cities led to heavy waterlogging in the ground floor of the OGH forcing the hospital and GHMC authorities to shift the patients to the first floor. Of course, it is not a new phenomenon – it happens every time when there are a few spells of rain. But no permanent solution has been found so far.
Several pleas to renovate the building to protect the age-old structure and shift the hospital temporarily to a new premises were ignored by the government.
Incidentally, the foundation of the OGH was laid after the destructive Musi floods that hit the city in 1908. Before moving to the present premises, it was originally known as Afzal Gunj Hospital which was built by Mir Turab Ali Khan or Salar Jung I in 1886. But it was washed away in the floods. The popular tamarind tree inside the hospital premises is a mark of those floods which saved the lives of about 150 people who clung onto it.
The present high-domed structure was designed by British architect Vincent Jerome Esch and chief engineer Nawab Khan Bahadur Mirza Baig in Indo-Sarcenic style. It was spread over 26.5 acres with a capacity of 450 beds. The Seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan opened it to the public in 1919. It was one of the most sought out health care facilities of the country before it fell to the government’s neglect and apathy.
A team from Aga Khan Trust for Culture along with the Department of Archeology inspected several blocks of the building for renovation and restoration last year. However, the follow-up works have not begun so far. On Saturday (July 18), the Telangana Government Doctors’ Association (TGDA) submitted a written request to the state government asking to dismantle OGH and construct a new one. The Most Backward Classes Welfare Group representatives also appealed to the Health Minister Etela Rajendar to do the same.
Back in 2015, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi government proposed to demolish both Osmania General Hospital and Chest Hospital in Erragadda to construct modern medical facilities. The plan did not materialize because of the strong opposition from the heritage conservationists and general public.
In fact, not just the historic OGH building, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao attempted to raze several other heritage structures and was successful in doing a few. Though the demolition of Errum Manzil Palace for the construction of a new assembly was stalled by the High Court, the KCR government demolished the Saifabad Palace for the new Secretariat complex and took up construction activity inside the Government College of Nursing, both erstwhile heritage sites under HMDA.
The deliberate callousness of the government towards heritage buildings, however, is not new. Including the OGH and the Government Chest Hospital, several buildings of historical importance like Unani Hospital, Dar-Ul Shifa Hospital, Sardar Mahal, Mahbub Mansion, Khairunnisa Tomb among others are victims of neglect.
The collapse of Mississippi Hangar that had been handed over to the Road Transport Corporation in 2018 and the Nampally Sarai in 2019 were the result of this monumental neglect by the government.