Dangerous Delay

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A respected religious leader wanted to build a maternity hospital in Anantnag. After spending Rs 2.86 crore on a huge building, the Trust founder died encouraging his followers to request the government to take over the asset. Five years later, the sluggish pace has prevented South Kashmir from using this facility, reports Samreena Nazir

Hospital building under construction.

Hospital building under construction.

Almost 25 years back, Mohammad Yousuf Shah, a religious scholar, while travelling to Hazratbal shrine by a hired taxi got stuck in the traffic jam at Lethpora. He was witness to the death of a pregnant lady who could not reach the hospital because of the jam. It led him to vow that no female should die while travelling from South to Srinagar in such a condition.

This led to the beginning of a private hospital in Anantnag.

Shah was not an ordinary man. After his father, Mohammad Abdullah Shah, a religious preacher and Masjid Imam, passed away, Shah succeeded him at a young age. Eldest among six siblings – five brothers and a sister – Shah matured fast. He also succeeded his father as a teacher in the Hanfia School, a wakf-run school in the heart of the town.  His salary was Rs 1.50.

In order to make a living, he would, during spare time, work as a bookbinder in crowded Reshi bazar. Many years later, he upgraded his binding shop and converted it into a hosiery outlet. Later, Shah gave the responsibility of this shop to his younger brother Ghulam Ahmad and personally shifted to footwear.

This maturity encouraged the residents to make him head the local Wakf and also lead prayers at the Jamia Masjid Dangerpora. He was also into the spirituality that helped him help people fight bad spirits. His fame was because of being bout pir, pir who was in the business of shoes. As people started visiting him in hoards, he eventually had to stop taking care of the business and fully devote himself to the social work, according to his son Mohammad Ashraf Shah.

The Lethpora incident led him to constitute the Rehmat-e-Aalam Trust on January 18, 1998, to set up a Maternity and Children Hospital inAnantnag. People donated generously to the initiative. In the first year, the Trust raised Rs 10 lakh. Cash apart, some people contributed in kind by donating gold jewellery, bricks, cement and even a piece of land.

“People had a firm belief in him so everyone came forward and contributed wholeheartedly,” Mohammad Ashraf Shah said.“We used to go around and raise donations. Shopkeepers would open their daily earnings and ask us to take whatever we wished.”

Though the architect Mushtaq Khan told Shah that a million rupees will be consumed by the basement, the Trust promoter went ahead and the foundation stone was laid on July 11, 1999.

During the month of Ramzan, Shah raised Rs 20 lakhs. Everything was going smooth till Shah’s demise in 2006.

With Shah not around, things changed rapidly. Even though the Trustees never let the construction work stop, the project required more than what they could offer. They were working against the target of making the hospital operational by 2012. But they required a whopping one crore rupees for mandatory equipment.

By then, the Trust had completed two-storey building on the plinth area of about 20,000 sqft and the construction of the third level was in progress. In 2014, the trustees realized that they could not run the hospital as envisioned by the Trust founder. They approached the then government suggesting a takeover. By then, the Trust had booked an expenditure of Rs 2.86 crore.

“As the aim of this hospital was to serve people and they had contributed in the making of the hospital,” the Trust Chairman said. “It would have been inappropriate to charge for the services that they would avail and so the decision was to request the government to take over the institution.

The proposal took its own time in the governance maze. Three years later, the cabinet presided over by the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, approved the idea in a cabinet meeting. The government finally decided to take over the assets and liabilities of the organisation through Health and Medical; education Department. In quick follow up, the government decided to complete the building and shift the Maternity and Child Care operations of the district Hospital to the new premises.

Inside of the hospital building.

Inside of the hospital building.

Since 2014, the government has been able to construct one more storey. Now it is almost a 200-bed hospital. But the take-over and managerial shift had its own problems. The hospital looks like a messy construction site, where the stretchers are used to carry bricks and other construction material by the workers. Despite being almost eighty per cent complete, the hospital would still require more time for the house-warming.

The area on which the building has come up measures 29 kanals and 17 marlas on theKhanbalPhalgam road away from the crowded town. Currently, the Maternity and Childcare Hospital operates from the congested Sherbagh area. The access to this facility is narrow and impassable. Massive traffic rush adds to the movement problems for the patients. In order to add to the tensions, part of the MCH hospital building has been declared unsafe by the fire and emergency services authority.

As a result of all these issues, the MCH facility is hugely crowded. Anytime, one finds more than one patient sharing a single bed. There are beds holding patients in the hospital corridor also. Doctors said that because of the paucity of space, they have no option but to refer part of the patient load to LalDed Hospital in Srinagar.

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