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Associated with Gandhi’s 1947 visit, heritage PMCH building faces demolition

Patna, Jan 30 (PTI) Three months ahead of India’s Independence, Mahatma Gandhi had visited the historic Patna Medical College and Hospital for a surgery of his grandniece Manu, but the heritage landmark associated with Bapu faces demolition as part of a redevelopment project.

On Gandhi’s death anniversary on Sunday, PMCH Alumni Association and several Gandhians issued a fresh appeal to the Bihar government to spare the over 100-year-old Bankipore General Hospital building in which the operation had taken place nearly 75 years ago.

“It is a priceless legacy of Patna and of Bapu. We are marking 75th year of India’s Independence, and it is also the 75th year of Gandhi’s association with the historic institution of PMCH. But, instead of celebrating it, we have marked it for demolition,” lamented Gandhi Peace Mission Chairman N Radhakrishnan.

He appealed to the state government to not dismantle the historic structures. He said demolishing them will “be akin to demolishing a part of legacy of the Mahatma”, more so when Gandhi had a “special place in his heart for Bihar as his ‘karmabhoomi’”.

The heritage buildings of the PMCH, which was founded in 1925 as the Prince of Wales Medical College, are planned to be demolished in three phases as part of a major redevelopment project.

The first phase of dismantling began a couple of months ago to make way for modern, high-rise structures on the campus, officials had earlier said. Old medical superintendent’s bungalow, prison ward, nurses hostel, and a few other structures in the sprawling campus located on the banks of river Ganga, have already been razed.

Gandhi’s first visit to Bihar was on April 10, 1917 when he had arrived at Patna on way to Champaran where he would lead a Satyagraha that will change the course of history.

The Mahtama had also stayed in Patna for several days in May 1947 and toured various places. He used to stay in the outhouse (now called ‘Gandhi Shivir’) of Syed Mahmood’s bungalow (now part of A N Sinha Institute), adjacent to Gandhi Sanghralaya.

Manu was taken to the Patna Medical College and Hospital (then Prince of Wales Medical College and Hospital) during this stay, and so worried was Gandhi that he sat next to her, wearing a surgical mask and watched the entire appendicitis surgery in the operation theatre.

Rare, old black and white photos of the May 15, 1947 surgery, showing Gandhi sitting on a chair inside the operation theatre, are preserved in old photo libraries. The PMCH website also mentions about Manu’s surgery.

Manu, in whose arms Gandhi had collapsed after falling to the three bullets of his assassin on January 30, 1948 at Delhi’s Birla House, was his dutiful companion in the crusade, caregiver and a chronicler of his life especially in the last two turbulent years.

The surgery had taken place in the iconic Patna General Hospital (earlier Bankipore General Hospital) building which is also equipped with a rare British-era lift, currently lying all dirty and decrepit.

The operation was performed by Col Dwarka Prasad Bhargava, a well-known surgeon, who was the head of the department of surgery at the Prince of Wales Medical College in Patna from 1936-47, according to old records.

The institution, set up as Bihar and Orissa’s (now Odisha) first medical college was renamed PMCH years after Independence.

PMCH Alumni Association president Dr Satyajeet Kumar Singh also issued an appeal to the state government to not demolish the heritage landmark which is a “significant piece of history” of the country and of Bihar, and Gandhi’s connection, “magnifies its priceless legacy”.

“More than a century-old hospital building in which the surgery took place is older than PMCH itself. It existed even before the medical college was born in 1925, evolving out of the Temple Medical School set up in 1874. It is an architectural marvel, a key piece of creation of first medical college in Bihar, and a Gandhian legacy. These reasons are enough to merit its preservation,” he said.

The two-story old Bankipore General Hospital houses the old Hathwa Ward and Guzri Ward. It is fronted with a handsome structure having tall, magnificent Doric pillars on two sides. The old operation theatre where Manu was operated is located on the first floor.

“Gandhi is relevant today and a role model, and that is why even after 150 years, our country and the world is remembering him. But to ensure he remains relevant in coming years we must preserve his tangible legacy too. Old buildings and institutions connected with him should be preserved,” said octogenarian Razi Ahmad, secretary of the Gandhi Sanghralaya in Patna.

The PMCH Alumni Association had recently appealed to preserve and restore at least the administrative building which houses the principal’s office; and the iconic old Bankipore General Hospital Building, whose image had also adorned the postage stamp released on its platinum jubilee in 2000.

Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life at Delhi’s Birla House, on whose premises the Mahatma was shot dead exactly 74 years ago.

Patna’s Bankipore Maidan, not far from the PMCH, was renamed as Gandhi Maidan after his death. PTI KND TIR TIR TIR

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.


Source: The Print

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