Nizam-era Osmania hospital to be restored, not razed, Owaisi says after huddle with KCR govt

Hyderabad: The Nizam-era building housing the Osmania General Hospital will be restored rather than demolished, Hyderabad MP and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi said Tuesday. In addition, a new hospital building will likely be constructed on the premises, he added.

The decision to not pull down the crumbling early 20th-century building was taken at a meeting Monday that was attended by Owaisi as well as the Telangana ministers for health and home, and a committee of engineers.

The cost of restoration and construction of the new building, he said in a series of tweets, will be approximately Rs 560 crore, and the proposal will be presented to the Telangana Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) and then to the Cabinet.

“A report will also be submitted to the high court as a PIL is pending regarding the heritage structure,” he added.

The announcement has been welcomed by heritage enthusiasts who had been fighting for the preservation of the structure.

Dr Mohammed Iqbal Jaweed, a member of the Indian Medical Association and Osmania College alum whose father was a surgeon at the Osmania hospital in the 1960s, lauded the “historic decision” to restore the building and said “we profusely thank” the CM.

The historical hospital, which largely caters to patients from economically weaker sections, had been caught in a debate over protecting heritage versus prioritising health. The dilapidated building was riddled with problems, including leaking roofs and loose plaster falling from the walls and roofs.

In 2015, CM Rao proposed the demolition of the building, promising a new one, but immediately received flak from heritage activists. In 2021, when Owaisi suggested that a new hospital should be built, he too was criticised for overlooking the building’s historical significance.

Also Read: Osmania hospital, the Nizam era Hyderabad hospital caught in a heritage vs health debate

Historical edifice, but also a health hazard

The government-run Osmania General Hospital is a 1,168-bed facility, covering roughly two acres of a 26.5-acre campus, which also includes a nursing and a dental college.

The current building was constructed between 1911 and 1925, following the devastating 1908 floods in the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, which was then under the rule of its last Nizam, Osman Ali Khan. Before this building came up, the 1866-built Afzal Gunj had stood at the spot, overlooking the Musi River in the older part of the city.

What the government and heritage activists agreed on is that the crumbling infrastructure of the hospital could not stay as it was.

In July 2020, a few hours of intense rain left the heritage wing of the building inundated, prompting the state health department to order its closure. Reports of falling plaster and stray animals roaming the wards also contributed to demands for an overhaul.

Owaisi has for long demanded that a Rs 1,000 crore hospital should be built at the site. Although he had not explicitly called for the razing of the old structure, he had not called for its restoration either.

The Telangana High Court is hearing a clutch of petitions on the demolition of the heritage Osmania hospital building.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

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