Doctors see red over illegal 'govt' tag for Grant Medical college

It has been said that government is a necessary evil. Students and alumni of Grant Medical College (GMC) are now trying to unravel why it became necessary for the management to add ‘government’ to the institution’s name. Recently, a timetable notice put up in the establishment’s premises branded the institution as Grant Government Medical College. Incidentally, after similar changes, BJ Medical College in Pune is now BJ Government Medical College.

Lots in a name: A timetable notice put up in the establishment’s premises branded the institution as Grant Government Medical College

Critics say both GMC and BJ are well known as government institutions and have alleged that certain people with vested interests are trying to appease authorities through this designation. Some of the college’s alumni include eminent names in the medical field like late Dr Savita Ambedkar (second wife of Dr BR Ambedkar), Dr Noshir Wadia, Dr BS Singhal, Dr Bhau Daji Lad, Dr José Gerson da Cunha, Sir Temulji Bhicaji Nariman, Dr Ernest Borges, Dr Jerusha Jhirad, Dr Usha Saraiya etc.

Down memory lane: South wing of JJ hospital.

What’s the name?
The fact came to light when students and professors of Grant Medical College recently spotted the timetable for theory examination of postgraduate medical and surgical students. According to some of the alumni this paper spoke to, the land is a bequeathed property and hence no changes can be made to the original name. Insiders at GMC say the idea of adding ‘government’ to Grant Medical College was mooted to the state government by former deans of Grant and BJ Medical Colleges, and the government through a notification dated February 17, 2012, approved the same. “The college was always recognised as a government medical college. Then why do they have to add the word ‘government’ to it?” asked a postgraduate student.

The building of Grant Medical College and JJ hospital near Baboola Tank

‘For a good cause’
When asked the reason for proposing the idea, Dr Pravin Shingare, chief of directorate of medical education and research (DMER) acknowledged having played an important role in the name change. Justifying his stand, Shingare said, “The number of private medical colleges has gone up as compared to government ones. I was the dean of Grant Medical College and Sir JJ Group of Hospitals for four years, and when our students would apply to foreign universities, they were asked to get a letter from the college certifying whether it was government aided or private. We had to sign hundreds of such request letters, which was time consuming and would increase the workload. Similar was the experience of other deans from 13 different government-run medical colleges across Maharashtra. So, all of us came together and proposed that the word ‘government’ should be incorporated into the name of the institution in the larger interest of our students.” On being informed by MiD DAY that the property is on a bequeathed land and no modifications can be made, Dr Shingare said, “Whatever amendment has been made in the name is within the rules as per government resolutions.”

Dr Noshir Wadia, an alumni of the college and chairman of the Friends of the Grant Medical College and Sir JJ Group of Hospitals Trust. Pics/Satyajit Desai

Legal tangle
Goolam E Vahanvati, Attorney General of India, told MiD DAY, “No changes can be made if the land is bequeathed on certain conditions, and the same need to be followed.” Senior advocate Pranav Badhacha said, “Jeejeebhoy has bequeathed the entire land for hospital and institution on certain conditions and therefore it is impermissible to change the name contrary to the direction and wishes of Jeejeebhoy. Further, there is no public interest or cause for changing the said name; it seems to be on the basis of some bureaucratic wishes, which is uncalled for. It is illegal to make modifications to the bequeathed property without any public purpose.”

The timetable notice put up in the establishment’s premises branded the institution as Grant Government Medical College.

“The inclusion of the word ‘government’ in the name is unnecessary and unwarranted since it will not herald an improvement in the reputation of the college. Further, the Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas (GS) Medical College, Topiwala National Medical College and Nair Hospital, and Lokmanya Tilak Medical College (LTMC) have not found it necessary to include the word ‘municipal’ in their name, nor have we heard of any difficulties encountered by students of these municipal medical colleges when they apply abroad. Also, non-medical government institutions such as Elphinstone College, Sydenham College, Ismail Yusuf College have not been renamed by including the term ‘government’. So, the reason
advanced for changing the name of Grant Medical College does not appear convincing,” said Dr Noshir Wadia (87), one of the senior most alumni of the college and chairman of the Friends of the Grant Medical College and Sir JJ Group of Hospitals Trust.

When contacted, Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy (54), a descendant of the Jeejeebhoy family, said, “It is a unilateral, inexplicable act on part of the government, which amounts to complete breach of faith.” He added, “The government several years ago had a proposal to change the name of Sir JJ Hospital to Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, which was strongly objected to by our family. Finally they had to drop the idea. My great great great grandfather Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy bequeathed the entire 45 acres of land, where Sir JJ Hospital and Grant Medical College stand today.”

Jeejeebhoy added, “His ancestors had mooted the idea of bequeathing the land for hospital, which was accepted by the East India Company and accordingly in the third committee that was formed to frame the rules and regulations for the running of the hospital, it was agreed and approved by the then government that, firstly the hospital will be named after Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, special wards will be provided for those with letters of recommendation from Jamsetjee or his heirs, and finally the hospital management would have two representatives nominated by the government and Jeejeebhoy or his heirs. The then government accepted all three suggestions.”

‘Misplaced priorities’
When asked if he would now move a proposal for implementation of these suggestions, Jeejeebhoy replied in the negative stating that the institution is over 165 years old and it is too late to do so. “I am sad about the condition in which the hospital is today and the way it is presently run. There is a lot of room for improvement and a lot can be done for providing better treatment to the people. Instead of adding the word ‘government’ to the name of the institution, which is one of the oldest, efforts should be made to improve the quality of service,” he said. Minister for medical education Dr Vijay Gavit was out of Mumbai and was not reachable even after messages were left with his personal assistant.

According to Jeejeebhoy, in 1834 there was no hospital in Mumbai. A small rent-free room was allotted for treating patients near Esplanade, but no facility was available for emergency patients, On April 20, 1838, Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy wrote to JH Crawford, Esq, chairman of the committee of the Bombay Native Dispensary, wherein he expressed his desire to make an immediate donation of Rs 1 lakh in furtherance of the establishment of a native hospital and dispensary in Mumbai, provided the government would give an equal amount. And in response, the chairman and members of the committee of the Bombay Native Dispensary made a request in a letter dated 30/4/1938, addressed to LR Red, acting chief secretary to the Bengal Government, which was finally appreciated and accepted by the East India Company vide its letter dated October 23, 1839. 

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