Osmania General Hospital’s Heritage Building Faces Demolition Threat Amidst Controversy in Telangana

In a city steeped in history, the century-old Osmania General Hospital (OGH) in Hyderabad finds itself at the center of a heated debate over its future. The newly formed Congress government in Telangana has upheld the decision of the previous Bharat Rashtra Samithi regime to demolish the iconic heritage structure and replace it with a modern multi-speciality hospital.

Telangana’s advocate general, A Sudarshan Reddy, conveyed to a division bench of the state high court that the old heritage block of OGH must be razed to construct a new hospital complex. According to Reddy, the existing structure is deemed unfit for hospital purposes, citing concerns about its precarious nature. The high court, hearing petitions from heritage conservationists opposing the demolition, has scheduled the case for further deliberation on February 12.

Two expert committees, formed on the high court’s recommendations, supported the government’s stance that the current OGH building is unsuitable for hospital use. The advocate general explained that due to the building’s precarious condition, the sanctioned bed strength would be reduced from 1,800 to 1,000. The government has allocated funds for the construction of the new complex, pending the court’s direction.

Heritage activists, represented by senior counsel Nalin Kumar, argued for the preservation of the heritage building based on recommendations from an independent committee. However, the advocate general countered, asserting that even this committee acknowledged the impracticality of running a hospital in the old structure.

During a health department review meeting, Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy emphasized that the government would abide by the high court’s decision on the heritage building’s fate and hospital expansion. Citing legal complexities surrounding the heritage building, officials informed the chief minister of challenges hindering OGH’s expansion.

In an affidavit submitted to the high court in July of the previous year, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi government advocated demolishing the 100-year-old heritage structure and its adjoining buildings. The proposed plan outlined the construction of an ultra-modern multi-storeyed 1,812-bed hospital spanning 35.76 lakh square feet on the 22-acre land.

The consultative committee, which included public representatives, officials, and technical experts, unanimously recommended the demolition of OGH’s existing building. Engineer-in-Chief of roads and buildings, I Ganapathi Reddy, emphasized the need for a new hospital complex, citing National Building Code 2016 requirements that restrict the footprint to less than 40% of the total area.

As the debate intensifies, the fate of Osmania General Hospital’s heritage building hangs in the balance, waiting for the high court’s decisive direction. The clash between preservationists and proponents of modernization underscores the complex challenges inherent in balancing history and progress in urban development.