HYDERABAD:The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which came to power on the separate statehood sentiment by promising to protect the rich culture and heritage of Telangana, now appears to be hellbent on demolishing some of the historical structures in Hyderabad only to give way to swanky buildings and new infrastructures.
After deciding to demolish the Chest Hospital, a heritage building at Erragadda, to relocate the state secretariat, the state government appears to be contemplating pulling down the in-patient (IP) block of the Osmania General Hospital (OGH) at Afzalgunj, which was built in the early 1900s by Mir Osman Ali Khan.
The Nizam era building is often in news for all the wrong reasons—defunct and rotten bathrooms, patches of ceiling giving away with several parts of the structure in need of restoration.
Successive governments neglected this heritage structure which is part of the rich history of the 400-year-old city.
Now, the Telangana government, instead of giving a makeover to these buildings, wants to construct a miniature of the IP Block in place of the old structure. “About eight acres of land occupied by it and a six-acre plot beside it would also be used to build twin towers of 12 storeys each,” said a Telangana Health Department official.
However, the proposal is being criticised by activists. P Anuradha Reddy, convener of Hyderabad chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, said, “Heritage is about history and connection with people. That is why we have to keep OGH intact.”
Officials of the health department said they had not been able to construct new buildings on the OGH premises, as heritage committee ruled that any new structure cannot exceed shoulder height of the IP block. “Patients are sleeping on floors. If we construct a new building in accordance with the heritage committee’s rules, we can build only ground plus three floors. Hence, we are planning to construct twin towers in place of the existing building,” the officials said.
OGH caters to the underprivileged sections of not only the city but also other districts in the state and patients of neighbouring states. The state’s Director of Medical Education Dr Putta Srinivas said treatment of patients is of paramount importance. “The building was originally constructed to house the hospital. If a new structure is not built, the very purpose will be defeated. The purpose is to treat patients,” he added.
There are several heritage structures in and around Hyderabad, which were neglected by successive governments. For instance, Qutub Shahi tombs, the final abode of Qutub Shahi rulers at famous Golconda Fort here, are also in a dilapidated condition. However, the state government has decided to restore the tombs.
Following Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s announcement in his budget speech that eight heritage sites would be restored across the country, including the Qutub Shahi tombs, the State Principal Secretary, Tourism and Culture, BP Acharya, had said the state government was making efforts to give facelift to the tombs with the Centre’s aid.
Though the state government has decided to restore the Qutub Shahi tombs, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s grandiose plans to build skyscrapers and transform the city into a “signal-free city” are likely to take a heavy toll on heritage structures. Rao wants to construct skyscrapers around the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad, which was built in 1562, by demolishing various buildings that have cultural significance—in order to make the city look like Bangkok.
The signal-free traffic system would entail an expenditure of Rs 20,000 crore in the next three years. “I want to make Hyderabad outdo IT city Bengaluru by having a good traffic system to attract global investors,” said Rao.
The state government’s proposal to demolish heritage structures is drawing considerable flak from the opposition parties. Congress leader and former minister DK Aruna said, “The TRS government is taking unwise decisions only to help the contractors. The Congress Party will not allow the government to pull down any heritage structure in the city.”
As the chief minister’s decision to relocate the state secretariat from its exiting place to historical Chest Hospital premises is attracting criticism, Rao, for now has put this proposal on hold and is requesting the Centre to give defence lands in Secunderabad for that purpose.