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SC's intervention sought for preservation of NE’s oldest healthcare centre

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  24 Nov 2016 12:00 AM GMT

From a Correspondent

Dibrugarh, Nov 23: In the preservation and protection of the oldest healthcare centre of Northeast India, Dr. John Berry White Dispensary and Dr Berry White Medical College, now standing in a dilapidated condition, the mediation of the Supreme Court of India was sought by the founder secretary of Dehing Welfare Society, a non-profit organization, Ammamuddin Ahmed through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by him on November 2, 2016. The petition seeking intervention of the Apex Court, was submitted by the petitioner, praying to the Chief Justice of India, Justice TS Thakur, to retain and safeguard the heritage structure which is in its last leg from falling apart into the ruins of history.

The Dr John Berry White Dispensary is situated at Garhambazar while the Dr John Berry White Medical College building is situated within the campus premises of Assam Medical College and Hospital, the first healthcare centre which was set up during the British regime in Northeast India. Both the buildings were built by the British Philanthropist and retired Brigadier of British Army and a Civil Surgeon of erstwhile Lakhimpur district of Assam in 1870, Dr. John Berry White.

As informed by the petitioner Ammamuddin Ahmed, funds were allotted to AMCH for construction of the ramshackle building of Dr. John Berry White Medical College and Hospital, but for some unexplained reasons, the Archaeology Department of Assam, without initiating the construction work, refunded the said fund amount to AMCH. As stated in a RTI reply received from AMCH, the allotted amount was then returned back to the State Government because of non-utilization of funds.

The urgent construction of the decaying structure as pressed upon by the Archeology Department of Assam, as per the project and estimate report and other documents on the heritage hospital building, as well as by other organizations concerned, the petitioner had submitted a copy of the memorandum to former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and former Health Minister Dr. zrul Islam on December 9, 2015 and Dibrugarh Deputy Commissioner on December 11,2015, which yielded no result as the authorities concerned ignored to initiate the construction work. The petitioner had also sent a copy of the said memorandum to Prime Minister rendra Modi, calling for his special intervention in securing the historical monuments and on receiving the communication, the Prime Minister Office forwarded it to the Secretary, Ministry of Culture.

Recently, in a reply given to the petitioner, the Director of Monuments, ASI , New Delhi, had stated that the said building structure was not centrally protected as such they could not do anything to preserve the same as it falls under the protection of the State Government. Moreover, as per the project and estimate report and other related documents on Dr John Berry White Dispensary and Dr John Berry White Medical School Building, which the applicant had received through an RTI from the Archaeology Department of Assam, urgent step had to be taken to preserve the rare monument. Ahmed has further informed that the renovation and preservation of the aforesaid medical college was allotted to Indian tiol Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) which deals with the preservation and renovation of ancient monuments.

Regrettably, till date, no effective step has been taken by any quarter concerned to carry out the much delayed and awaited construction work irrespective of the memorandum copy being forwarded from the CM’s office to the Commissioner and Secretary, Cultural Affairs, to take appropriate action at the earliest.

Thus, in view of the unresponsive stance of the government and authorities to commence the construction work , the PIL was filed before the Apex Court, urging upon the court to do the needful for safeguarding the Dr. John Berry White Medical College and Hospital from breaking up.

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