People’s Watch, a citizen activism and advocacy group, has urged the District Collector to save the structure.

175-yr-old heritage building of Govt Rajaji hospital in Madurai to be
news Heritage Saturday, December 22, 2018 - 17:11

If rumours are true, then residents of Madurai can prepare to bid goodbye to the symbolic 175-year-old heritage building of the Government Rajaji hospital near Goripalayam signal and instead welcome a swanky new structure in its place. With news afloat of the government’s plan to demolish the structure, People’s Watch -- a citizen activism and advocacy group, has urged the government of Tamil Nadu not to go ahead with it.

In a statement released by the organisation, it stated that there is a proposal to replace the heritage structure with a new one. “We are made to understand from very reliable sources that this demolition is being planned to relocate the proposed JICA-supported new building which is to host an advanced operation theatre centre, an imaging department and an auditorium estimated to cost Rs 118,19,79,000,” reads the statement.  This new building is said to be part of the Tamil Nadu Urban Health Care Project with funding support from Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA).

The main building of Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, was originally built as the Erskines Hospital in 1842. It was taken over by the government of Tamil Nadu in 1918 and it was inaugurated as the Government Rajaji Hospital in 1954 through the efforts of the then Chief Minister K Kamaraj. As such, the building is more than 175 years old and has stood the test of time. It is now the biggest government tertiary healthcare facility in south Tamil Nadu.

People’s Watch alleged that the original spot for constructing the new complex was the place where the hospital’s auditorium stands at present and was inspected by a Japanese team in 2017. The organisation, in the statement, stated that the original plan has now been abandoned and that it is being proposed to construct the new complex in place of the main building of the hospital. The statement also alleged that the Dean (acting) of the hospital had revealed in an internal meeting that pressure was exerted on the Deputy Director of Medical Education, Dr Sabitha, to visit the hospital and change the location of the upcoming structure.

The organisation said that many outpatient facilities of the hospital like ophthalmology, cardiology and female medical ward would be demolished if the proposed construction is approved by the authorities concerned. Requesting the District Collector not to permit the change in location of the new complex, People’s Watch implored the Collector to undertake special efforts to maintain the heritage symbols of the city.

Agreeing with the demand for efforts to protect and preserve Madurai’s heritage spots, Arvind Kumar, Convener of Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Madurai chapter, said that INTACH will support any and every organisation that will work to stop the demolition of the building.

“We are all stakeholders to protect the city’s heritage and will adopt the legal route to stop such an act which will destroy the rich history of Madurai. The news is not official yet, but once it becomes official, we will lend our support to all organisations to stop this,” he said.

However, the Dean (acting) of the hospital, Dr Shanmugasundaram, told TNM that no official intimation regarding the change of site has been received yet. “This is only a proposal as of now. I have not got any official communication regarding this. So unless I receive it, I cannot comment on it,” he added.

The District Collector of Madurai was not available for comment despite multiple attempts to contact him.

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