Keep poll promise, restore Osmania Hospital: Activists to Congress govt

Despite making a poll promise, activists were shocked when one of the state's advocates maintained the stance in the Telangana High Court, to tear down the Osmania Hospital.

Hyderabad: Activists from the Osmania General Hospital conservation group on Wednesday demanded that the Congress government keep its poll promise and prevent the demolition of Osmania General Hospital’s heritage building.

The activists stated that the government should take back the ‘fictitious and misleading’ affidavit submitted by the previous Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) regime in the Telangana High Court, which stated that the historic structure needed to be demolished in lieu of a new hospital.

It may be recalled that the Congress, in the run-up to the November 30 Assembly election last year, promised to save the Osmania Hospital building and to restore it. However, after coming to power, many were shocked when one of the state’s advocates maintained the same stance in the Telangana High Court recently. This development was a rude shock for activists who were hoping that the new government would keep its word.

MS Education Academy

Dr Iqbal Jaweed, one of the activists from the group, who was born at Osmania Hospital, said that the heritage structure is very important given its significance in the history of Hyderabad. He added that in spite of a the Indian National Trust for Cultural and Architectural Heritage’s (INTACH) assurance on its structural integrity, people have been vying for its demolition. In the ongoing case in the High Court, apart from the government, one of petitioners has been seeking Osmania Hospital’s demolition.

INTACH members plead for restoration of Osmania Heritage Building
Osmania General Hospital in Hyderabad

‘Building only needs plaster’

He pointed out that in the 26 acre-hospital premises, the Osmania Hospital’s heritage building takes up only three acres of space, and that it is possible to construct new blocks in the premises without destroying the historical building.

“The building is not in a bad condition or the ICU. All it needs is some repairs and plaster,” stated Dr Jaweed. Historian and activist Sajjad Shahid also said that saving the heritage building will be important for Hyderabad and the state as well. “It has also been 13 years since a Heritage Committee (with civil society and government representatives) was formed. Since the government has changed we had some hope,” Shahid said at a press conference organised in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

The group also demanded the Congress government to form a new Heritage Committee soon and also to issue a new affidavit in the High Court. INTACH convenor Anuradha Reddy and other activists were also present at the press conference.

It may be recalled that AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi caused a furore and came under fire from activists for saying that the heritage building should be torn down for a new hospital building to be built in its place. While there is no doubt that Osmania Hospital’s infrastructure is in shambles, the heritage structure, which was built in the 1920s by Hyderabad’s last Nizam occupies only three out of the total 26 acres of the entire premises.

Osmania Hospital
A view of the historic Osmania General Hospital’s main heritage block, which is currently not in use. (Photo: Siasat)

Well-know architect Srinivas Murthy, who designed Yashoda Hospital’s Gachibowli site, last year gave several alternatives during a presentation at Lamakaan last year. Other activists have also time and again pointed out that there is ample space to construct a new hospital.

Heritage structure shut since 2020

Prior to this, the previous BRS government under ex-chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) was stopped from demolishing the Irrum Manzil building, which is a 19th century palace that was built by Nawab Fakhr-ul-Mulk at Punjagutta. The matter had gone to court after KCR announced his decision to raze it and construct a new Secretariat there. His plan eventually was scrapped.

Similarly with Osmania Hospital, KCR had first visited it in 2015 after which demands to restore the monument were made by activists. The issue was came to the fore once again in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic when rain water caused flooding in the heritage building’s ground floor. It was evacuated and sealed, following which a group of doctors have been asking to demolish it, and the matter eventually ended up in the High Court.

However, it may be noted that soon after the 2020 flooding, it was found that a clogged nala in the premises had caused the flooding and that the building was not at fault.

History of Osmania General Hospital

Osmania Hospital was completed in 1925 after Hyderabad was affected by the bubonic plague around 1911. The city administration then took care of the issue, following which the then Nizam Osman Ali Khan (1911-48) set up the City Improvement Board (CIB) in 1912 to improve Hyderabad’s infrastructure. It was designed by architect Vincent Esch, who also designed the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata.

The original or heritage building of Osmania Hospital (along with others like the High Court and City College) is a fine example of the Osmania style or Indo-Saracenic genre of architecture and is an integral part of Hyderabad’s 20th-century riverscape and skyline. The CIB during the reign of Osman Ali Khan had transformed the medieval city into a modern metropolis, complete with infrastructure like the High Court, railway stations, etc.

Back to top button