Historic health centre relegated to a park

Historic health centre relegated to a park

By Ufaq Fatima

SRINAGAR: Probably the first hospital in Srinagar, the Public Health Centre Maharajgunj is operating from a few makeshift sheds erected in a public park, while the heritage building that housed it is in shambles since September 2014 floods which damaged the building “irreparably”.
The Maharaj Gunj hospital once formed the backbone of health services in Kashmir. Local residents say that on July 13, 1931 when Maharaja Hari Singh’s police killed and injured many Kashmiri Muslims the causalities were brought to this centre.
Dr Irfana Rasool Gadda, acting Zonal Medical Officer (ZMO) Maharaj Gunj, said the building erected during the era of Maharaja Hari Singh, was a court first but later turned into a hospital. Famous doctors like Dr Ali Jan and Dr Hafiz Uddin have started their career from this hospital.
Talking about the present scenario she said, “The building was unsafe so we have moved to the park.”  “Despite not having a building we examine around 400 patients per day. We have one ambulance allotted and if we have any emergency cases we have the referral hospital Jawaher Lal Nehru Hospital (JLNM) Rainawari.” Dr Irfana said.
Before the floods the centre had started work on additional rooms in the backyard of the main building.    “We started building four rooms on backside of hospital to get more room, but as the building developed cracks after the floods, the work was stopped,” Dr Bashir Malik, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Srinagar said.
Dr Malik said the department tried to shift the centre to a nearby building but the rent was too high.
Explaining the delay in taking up the reconstruction, he said that the tenders for dismantling the building failed to evoke any response so far.  “We have given out tenders to dismantle the building three times but we did not get any takers. We spoke with Divisional Commissioner Srinagar who directed the action to R&B department,” he said.  Now, the R&B has to issue the tenders.  Considered a heritage building, the archaeological department, was not in favour of dismantling it, but changed its opinion after it was declared unsafe. Jamshed Ahmad, Registry Officer, Directorate of Archives, Archaeology and Museums said the building was a protected site but was delisted after several meetings with Divisional Commissioner (DC), Srinagar.
DC Srinagar, Farooq Ahmad, said, “There were issues that it was an archaeological building but the building was unsafe and we had no option but to dismantle it. Now one crore rupees have been allotted for the reconstruction of the hospital,” Farooq said that the decision was taken in consultation with a team of archaeology and a local NGO.
Local residents in rue that no work was going on the ground.
“The main site has been inspected several times by the team of engineers for the soil testing purpose which was supposed to take three days but there is no progress and nothing is finalised yet,” Mehraj-ud-din, a local resident said.
He said the government was neither working on saving the heritage building, nor constructing a new one. “If they have to renovate, they should renovate, if not why are they taking so long,” he said.

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