PAKISTAN

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sir Ganga Ram (1851-1927)

Sir Ganga Ram (1851-1927), a civil engineer and leading philanthropist of his times founded the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in 1921 at Lahore. The Janaki Devi Hospital and later the Fatima Jinnah Medical College were made on same but expanded premises by the government of Pakistan.

After the partition in 1947, the another namesake hospital was established in New Delhi on a plot of land of approximately 11 acres. The foundation was laid in April 1951 by the then Prime Minister of India, Shri Jawahar Lal Nehru and inaugurated by him on 13 April 1954.

His grand-daughter Baroness Shreela Flathers, British House of Lords says: "Without Ganga Ram Lahore would never have been the city I have known since childhood. Let me give you a preview of a letter the NCA people have secured from Sir Ganga Ram’s great grand daughter for inclusion in the reprint. She now lives in Britain. She says about her great grandpa:I never had the chance to see my great grandfather but his presence permeated my childhood. Everything we did, everywhere we went, great grandfather’s name was there and his presence was almost tangible. If we went to the hospital, it was the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, if we went to the village it was Gangapur. My school was Sir Ganga Ram Girls’ School, now Lahore College. The teachers were trained in the training college attached to the school, the doctors were trained in the medical college attached to the hospital. For me living in Lahore as a child was living in the massive shadow of great grandfather.Of course, at that time I had no conception of what he had achieved. All I knew was that he had made a huge amount of money but had in turn given away equally huge amounts to all sorts of causes. My mother said that he always said “that the more I give the more I get.” All us children knew the legend that he had to study under the street lamp because his parents were too poor even to provide him with a lamp in the home. It is amazing to think how a young boy from such a beginning could reach the heights that Ganga Ram did. A true visionary, a man so ahead of his time.One of his great causes which has been mentioned in the Introduction of the book was the situation of Hindu Widows. He was deeply distressed by the way widows were treated in general but particularly about the cruel fate inflicted on little girls widowed after child marriages. Amongst numerous institutions such as widows homes, orphanages etc. he also set up two homes for unmarried mothers in the days when most people either killed the girls or threw them out, forcing them to go on the streets. These girls were taught to sew and embroider so that they could earn a decent living.Recently, I heard about a micro hydro project from someone from the department for International Development in UK as a new way to generate electricity in developing countries. Great grandfather had already set up his micro hydro project in Renala in the early part of the twentieth century to generate electricity which he gave free to everyone around! It seems to me that it would be worth revisiting his innovations to see how they suit the conditions of our countries today.As I have lived my life as a person of action and reached positions which would not be expected from an Asian woman in UK, my one desire would be to have an opportunity to have a dialogue with my great grandfather. This remarkable man cared deeply about people and his country and had the boundless energy to do so much in so many directions.The lady signs herself Shreela Flather. She is a baroness. I wish she had grown up in Lahore. Only then she could have some idea of what her great grandfather meant for the city of Lahore. As noted above, he got more than he gave. This is an understatement. Actually he gave much more to the city than he ever got. And then he could never even dream of 1947.
His shrine is at Lahore opposite the Badshahi Mosque.

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