PMCH alumni body appeals to CM to spare demolition of its key historic buildings

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Patna, Feb 14 (PTI) The alumni association of the 96-year-old PMCH in Patna has pleaded with the Bihar government to spare the demolition of at least 'two of its most historic buildings', associated with the genesis of Bihar and Orissa's first medical college, for posterity.

The two iconic structures of the Patna Medical College and Hospital, popularly known as the PMCH, which the alumni association has appealed to preserve and restore are -- the administrative building, which houses the principal's office, and the old Bankipore General Hospital building, which houses the Hathwa Ward and the old operation theatre.

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, whose foundation stone was laid by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on February 8 on the campus.

PMCH Alumni Association president Dr Satyajeet Kumar Singh said, 'All historic institutions across the world, while moving forward, endeavour to preserve their heritage for the posterity. And, the coming generations will be robbed off seeing the heritage of Bihar's first medical college, which is also one of the oldest in Asia.' The association, whose members are spread across the world, asserted that medical infrastructure can be upgraded through 'other reasonable measures'.

'What will you tell the future generations, and future doctors who will graduate from this historic institution. Should our history and heritage be just reduced to pages in a book,' Singh asked, and asserted that preservation should be part of our evolution as a society.

The then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, had visited Patna in December 1921 as part of his royal tour of India, and Bihar and Orissa's first medical college was named after him to commemorate his visit to what was then a young provincial capital.

Patna-based Singh, who finished his MBBS and master's degree from Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) in the late 1970s and worked for several years in the UK and other countries before returning to Bihar, rued that the college was first renamed a few years after the Independence, and then fell into neglect, which 'diminished its glory'.

'The administration block has the principal's office, and the wall outside its chamber bears the historic plaque telling the story of the college's inception and carries the names of main donors too,' he said.

The huge marble plaque, bearing the old name of the college and the Prince of Wales' royal crest, reads that the college was established in 1925 and formally inaugurated by the then Lt Governor of Bihar and Orissa Sir Henry Wheeler on February 25, 1927.

The old Bankipore General Hospital with its imposing double-storeyed main building connected to the handsome structure which houses the old operation theatre (OT) and the PMCH superintendent's office is situated adjacent to the administration building that is located on the banks of Ganga in Patna.

The old general hospital building, famously known as Hathwa Ward, which it houses, also has a British-era lift system. The OT building has beautiful and huge Doric columns in its facade, which present a striking view, and its image had adorned the stamp released by the postal department on PMCH's platinum jubilee in 2000.

In May 1947, Mahatma Gandhi had visited the hospital for an appendicitis operation of his granddaughter, according to old records and photographs.

Other historic buildings on the campus of the PMCH include the women's hospital set up in 1930, also equipped with special lift of that era, the old Radium Institute, and physiology and anatomy departments.

'We are going to have an executive committee meeting soon, following which a delegation of the alumni association will be meeting the chief minister to present to him our appeal,' the association's president said.

As part of the revamp plan, a 5,462-bed hospital complex will come up at the site at a cost of Rs 5,540 crore, and the project is expected to be completed in seven years.

In 2018 also, Singh, along with alumni members from several parts of the world, had appealed to the Nitish government to not run a wrecking ball through the heritage fabric of the campus and preserve it for future generations.

They had suggested developing 'extension centres' in peripheral areas of Patna, like Bihta or Fatuha, on the lines of AIIMS extension centres, instead of a 5,000-bed facility at one place on Ashok Rajpath.

Prateek Nishant, another PMCH alumnus, whose great grandfather Tarini Prasad Sinha was among the first graduating batch in 1927, said medical infrastructure upgrade was the 'need of the hour' but the government could have explored other ways instead of demolishing these historic structures which are 'of heritage value now'.

Nishant, who joined AIIMS Patna in August 2020 during the pandemic, reiterated his suggestion that 'non-harmonious buildings' added after Independence could have been knocked out, like the Rajendra Surgical Block or the Platinum Jubilee Auditorium and Maternity Department, and new buildings in sync with the old architectural fabric constructed in their place. PTI KND IJT