Patna: The Bihar government’s decision to redevelop Patna’s prestigious PMCH by demolishing its historic buildings has upset the alumni of the state’s first medical college, who have appealed to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to save the heritage of the 93-year-old institution for the posterity.
Born in 1925 as the Prince of Wales Medical College, set up to commemorate the visit of the then Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, its iconic, old heritage building are now proposed to be dismantled in multiple phases as part of a redevelopment plan.
The Prince of Wales had visited Patna on December 22-23 in 1921 as part of his royal tour of India and the college was established four years later to perpetuate the memory of his visit to what was then a young provincial capital of Bihar.
The college, renamed a few decades after Independence, as the Patna Medical College and Hospital, popularly known as PMCH, is dotted with historical buildings, including the Bankipore General Hospital and Women Hospital, which were equipped with special lifts in that era, the main administrative building, and physiology and anatomy departments, among other structures.
The new project of the Bihar government has not gone down well with the PMCH alumni, living in Bihar or abroad, who have suggested restoring and preserving the historic institution in its original form and developing “extension centres” in peripheral areas of Patna, like Bihta or Fatuha, on the lines of AIIMS extension centres.
“All historic institutions endeavour to preserve their heritage for the next generation. And, the coming generation will be robbed off seeing the heritage of Bihar’s first medical college. The government should preserve it,” PMCH Alumni Association president Dr Satyajeet Kumar Singh said.
Patna-based Singh, who had worked for several years in the UK after completing his graduation, rued that the campus buildings had suffered some neglect over the last few decades, but it would be “grossly unwise” to demolish them and such a massive hospital in a congested area meant it would lead to “traffic nightmares” in streets.
The state cabinet had in November given its nod for the redevelopment of the PMCH into the worlds largest 5462-bed hospital at an estimated cost of Rs 5540 crore.
Dr Prateek Nishant, another PMCH alumnus, whose great-grandfather, Tarini Prasad Sinha, was among the first-graduating batch in 1927, says the prospect of losing these “signatures of the past” disheartened him.
“PMCH runs in my family, my grandfather, grandmother, the father did post-graduation from PMCH, and then, I graduated from it in 2017. We have still carefully preserved the degree handed out to my great-grandfather, who was transferred from Calcutta Medical College when the Prince of Wales college opened,” he told.
Nishant suggested that non-harmonious buildings added after Independence can be knocked out, like, the Rajendra Surgical Block, Platinum Jubilee Auditorium and the maternity department, which are very ordinary-looking structures, and new buildings in harmony with old architectural fabric can be constructed in their place.
PMCH Principal Dr Ajit Kumar Verma, when asked about the redevelopment project, said it would be a state-of-the-art facility, with “modular-operation theatres” and other high-tech amenities.
The hospital will be redeveloped by the Bihar Medical Services & Infrastructure Corporation Ltd (BMSICL) on a turn-key basis. In future, there is a plan to link it with the Ganga Drive, he said.
“The project will be executed in three phases. In the first phase, nurses quarters and other buildings would be demolished. As of now, the only administrative building has been planned to be preserved, as it also has the old plaque of the inauguration of the college,” he said.
The huge marble plaque, bearing the old name of the college and the Prince of Wales royal crest, installed right outside the principal’s office, 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.
PMCH alumni are spread across the world and those living in the UK and Pakistan also appealed to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to rework the plan to spare those historic buildings.
Patna-born doctor Navin Kumar, in his late 60s, who moved to London in 1982 to further his medical career, said, “I left Patna, but my heart always hankered for these old landmarks and buildings. I am shocked that the government has even considered demolishing old PMCH. It has to be saved for the future generation.”
Karachi-based Shamim Hasnain, an alumna of PMCH, who hails from Bihar, graduated in 1976 and moved to Pakistan post her marriage soon after, says, “The news of proposed demolition has left me dejected.”
“I entered PMCH, that time still called Prince of Wales Medical College, in 1969. Next year is the golden jubilee of our batch. Hope, I can make it to alumni meet in February 2019 and see PMCH again after ages. I appeal to the government to not demolish the old buildings,” she said.
The college traces its origin to the Temple Medical School set up in 1874 in Patna, which was upgraded to a college as the Prince of Wales Medical College and established in Muradpur area of Bankipore on the banks of Ganga.