Yunus Y. Lasania
Hyderabad: Four days after the Osmania General Hospital’s (OGH) old building was sealed shut, more than 6,000 people signed a petition on change.org, appealing the state government against demolishing the heritage structure. Moreover, though the old building was shut on the pretext of its wards getting flooded with rain water, the newer blocks where patients were shifted to have also been facing the same issue, apart from water leaking on upper floors too, said doctors working at OGH.
“A new ward was created in the Quli Qutb Shah building, where patients from the old building were shifted to, on the fourth floor. However, few days ago when it rained heavily, the roof began leaking. Moreover, the emergency ward is also not in a good situation,” said a junior doctor working at OGH, who did not want to be quoted.
He added that the situation in the hospital has gotten worse since the old building has been shut.
When this reporter visited the OGH’s old building on Sunday morning, it was mostly empty except for a few offices, which were also in the process of being shifted. Heritage activists from the city fear that the state government may demolish the old structure without even considering to repair or restore it, which conservation architects have said is entirely possible.
It may be recalled that a 2015 INTACH report, submitted after a structural, stability and safety study by experts, summarized that the conservation of the in-patient block or the old heritage building, should be restored based on heritage conservation principles. The study was conducted after a storm of protests against the government’s decision to demolish it then.
The building was sealed shut on 22 July, based on an order by the Telangana State Medical Education director, following which the petition to save the OGH building was created by a group of concerned citizens. In its petition, the concerned group of citizens appealed to the state government to protect Hyderabad’s heritage and health, by restoring the OGH building.
It stated that the OGH is situated on an area of 26.5 acres, of which the old building lies on only one acre. It also added that the hospital’s old building is “II-B Heritage Building in Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) Listing and is protected under the Heritage Regulations of HMDA.”
The hospital was in the news nearly a fortnight ago after images and videos of water-logged wards went viral on social media. It was a result of a nala that passes underneath the hospital, getting choked. OGH doctors also said that a new internal cement road that was laid had caused the flooding.
“Anyone who visits the structure will see that it is in a good condition, and that it just needs some repairs. If the state government has managed to keep the High Court in a good condition, and has restored the Government City College, why can’t it repair the OGH building?” questioned a Hyderabad-based conservation architect, who did not want to be quoted.
OGH 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 OGH’s old building is a fine example of the Osmanian 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 the Seventh Nizam Osman Ali Khan had transformed the medieval city into a modern metropolis, complete with infrastructure like the High Court, railway stations, schools and OGH.
The writer is a Hyderabad-based journalist who has worked with The New Indian Express, The Hindu and Mint in the past.