Hyderabad’s high court has moved to ascertain if a government hospital is actually a heritage building after a petition was filed against the Telangana government’s decision to construct a secretariat complex on its grounds. The relocation of the Government Tuberculosis and Chest Hospital at Erragadda, to make way for the government’s new secretariat has seen a lot of resistance since the plan was announced. The hospital grounds has been witness to protests against the move with medical staff and students joining in. The opposition has also come down heavily on chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao since the decision to shift the Chest Hospital to the TB Sanatorium at Anantagiri, Vikarabad in Ranga Reddy district - almost 70 km away. (A police car parked outside the hospital's main building: File Photo) "The city is already facing a population explosion. Two government hospitals (Osmania and Gandhi) are not enough for a population of more than one crore, a majority of whom cannot afford private hospitals," one doctor earlier told The News Minute on the condition of anonymity. The main reason for the chief minister to shift the secretariat from its present location was cited as “vastu”. He also added that there was a need for an integrated complex and offices of heads of departments, which are scattered around in Hyderabad. KCR's ambitious development plans at the cost of heritage sites has not gone down well with historians and cultural enthusiasts. “The government should work towards conserving many heritage structures around the city, especially things built during the Qutub Shah era as that was the dawn of a new era,” says Mohammed Safiullah, a renowned heritage enthusiast in Hyderabad. When quizzed about KCR leaning on Vastu, Safiullah traced the story of how the abandoned G block of the secretariat, which is now a heritage structure was built and abandoned by the sixth Nizam in 1888 on a superstition. “The concept of Vastu and other superstitions have been there every since the monarch rule and some of it has passed on to democratically elected leaders as well,” he quips. Others add that the government should work out a way to develop various structures while taking into account the heritage of the people. “A good example in Hyderabad itself is the Taj Falaknuma palace which was refurbished and got a facelift without changing or removing anything from the core structure of the building. Another example that could be followed is the Raffles hotel in Singapore,” says Dr Anuradha Reddy, co-convenor for Hyderabad, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) The hotel originally built in the pre-colonial area, was closed in 1989 for a two-year, $80 million renovation and reopened its doors in 1991. The architects and workers had the original 1887 blueprints in hand and made sure that none of its heritage was lost. When asked about the government’s move, Anuradha says, “If there is no land available in any other area, the government should make sure that it is careful in retaining the heritage. The building can be renovated with care and used for any purpose, rather than demolishing it.” The high court on April 17, while responding to PIL challenging the Government Order issued to shift the TB and Chest Hospital ruled that a new Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) should be formed within six weeks. “Till March 2013, there was something called the HCC, which consisted of enlightened individuals from various walks of life that worked towards preserving various structures with historical value,” says Safiullah. The HCC's term had expired in March and no effort was made by the government to constitute a new panel. Reports also suggest that the government is delaying the formation of the committee as it fears roadblocks in acquiring properties for the proposed metro rail project. Generally, the HCC is headed by a retired chief secretary or retired special chief secretary with five to six members. The committee members comprise eminent citizens, historians, archaeologists, architects and environmentalists and ex members from GHMC and superintending archaeologists of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). (The out patient department of the hospital: File photo) The committee gives “No Objection Certificates” (NOCs) for demolition and repair of listed heritage buildings and could also take up cases suo motu for protection of buildings not listed as heritage structures, but have heritage character when there could be danger to the structures in situations like land acquisition and bulldozing by government organisations or private builders. Safiullah who is strongly urging the authorities for a speedy revival of the HCC also adds that “I have seen the HMDA’s new list on the various heritage structures and it turns out that a few of them only exist on paper and have already been demolished. There is a need for this committee to be revived so that we do not forget our history and where we came from.” Anuradha adds that “the individuals who are selected for the new HCC should be responsible, qualified and not a “thod phod’ (destructive) committee.” Read the first story of the series Losing Hyderabad: High rises around Hussain Sagar a good move?
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