The legacy of Sir Ganga Ram
by Ravi Nitesh
Published at Daily Times
This was 163rd birth anniversary of Sir Ganga Ram. Sir Ganga Ram was born on 13th April 1851 in Mangtanwalla, South of Lahore. Though with time, many have forgotten him and probably do not know much about him, but in both India and Pakistan, there exists his memories, his great vision and efforts still intact in stone. He continues to be remembered and appreciated through his countless works in the service of humanity.
Sir Ganga Ram was born and brought up in British India. With his vision of progress through scientific and technical developments, he got admission in Thomason College of Civil Engineering. This college, now called the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, is regarded as one of most reputed institutions in India. He was the first Indian to graduate from this college.
This can be said to only his first achievement in his long list of achievements. Sir Ganga Ram has been regarded as the Father of Modern Lahore. He has been credited for designing and building the General Post Office, Lahore Museum, Ravi Road House for the Disabled, the Model Town and a number of educational institutions. These include the Aitchison College, Mayo School of Arts (now the NCA), Lady Mclagan Girls High School, the chemistry department of the Government College University, the Albert Victor wing of Mayo Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram High School (now Lahore College for Women), the Hailey College of Commerce and the Lady Maynard Industrial School. Among his other innovative contributions is Sir Ganga Ram’s ‘lift irrigation system’ that converted about 50,000 acres of barren land into green land.
Besides being a civil engineer, he was also a great philanthropist. A very important contribution of Sir Ganga Ram is the Sir Ganga Ram Trust. Originally established as dispensary, it was later developed as a hospital and still exists in Lahore. Though he died in 1927, but after partition, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital was established in New Delhi as well in the year 1954. It is one of the most reputed and trusted hospitals in India. Another equally important fact is that it seems that the trust invoked by the name of Sir Ganga Ram and the unparalleled quality of the hospital attracts many patients from Pakistan. In this regard, I also find it important to mention the vision that he not owned but which also got communicated to the people who manage the hospital now.
Last December, we, Aaghaz-e-Dosti (an Indo-Pak friendship initiative), got an opportunity to invite the Chairperson of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (India), Dr. D. S. Rana as one of our prestigious speakers for a discussion on Indo-Pak peace and friendship. Dr. Rana during his speech shared the great vision and work of this great philanthropist. He also said that Sir Ganga Ram still lived in millions of people of India and Pakistan through these two hospitals in Lahore and Delhi where we treat all patients equally regardless of any socio-economic identities. He had also talked about his experience of visiting Pakistan and the warm welcome that he had received. He also told that both the hospitals are also in communication with each other. It is great to know how his vision is shared by the people who manage the hospital today. His vision for the progress of humanity is being served today for not just a more progressive and just society but also to bridge the gap between India and Pakistan.
His works standing as symbols of peace also reminds me of a famous story of Saadat Hasan Manto called ‘The Garland’. The story which was set in partition-related riots described that in the violence-hit Lahore, a mob had turned to attack the statue of a hindu philanthropist, Sir Ganga Ram. They first pelted the statue with stones; then smothered its face with coal tar and then a man made a garland of old shoes climbed up to put it round the neck of the statue. The police arrived and opened fire. Among the injured were the fellow with the garland of old shoes. As he fell, the mob shouted, “Take him to Ganga Ram Hospital”.
I feel that the memory of Sir Ganga Ram, his vision, his works that are a part of our shared past can become a connector for a peaceful and prosperous future. Though, he would not have imagined the separate existence and creation of India and Pakistan, his works and his vision has indirectly tried to bridge the gap between the two countries.
Ravi Nitesh is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam (India) and a core member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti