LAND was acquired from 13 holders including the then Zamorin of Calicut to build the Women and Children’s Hospital

The diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II may not be much of an event for us. But the jubilee of one of her predecessors unfurled a series of celebrations in then colonial India. Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee was earmarked for festivities and they extended to the Malabar. One idea that emanated from those celebrations stands in the heart of Kozhikode, braving the test of time. Built over a century ago, the Women and Children’s Hospital in Kottaparamba bears the imprint of the past.

A letter from the Municipal Chairman in 1906, almost three years after the hospital came into existence, highlights the thoughts that led to it. The letter has not borne the passage of time well. Large portions of it, even parts bearing the name of the author and the recipient, are in shreds. The Women and Children’s Hospital, according to the letter, was intended to be “a permanent memorial of Her Majesty’s reign.” Attempts were also on to provide a ‘lady doctor’ for the hospital.

The Municipal Chairman also mentions that the “original idea of adding a new room to the Municipal Hospital was subsequently given up in favour of a separate building for treatment of women and children.” The hospital was envisioned as a space for “female patients of the better classes”, according to the letter.

The hospital was formally opened only in 1903, but the land acquisition for it dates back to 1900-01. The 1.164 acres of land lying between the Mananchira and Palayam of today was acquired from 13 holders, including Pudia Kovilakath Manavikrama Raja, the then Zamorin of Calicut. A 1901 document mentions the governor-in-council’s declaration that the land “is needed for a public purpose – the construction of Raja Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliar’s Women and Children Hospital”, and the Collector is appointed to acquire the land.

The land acquisition for the hospital remained largely smooth, except for minor hiccups. Archival documents show written statements from the land owners, most of them in Malayalam along with their English translations, stating their willingness to give up the land for adequate compensation. While the acquisition was on, the ownership of 82 cents of land became a bone of contention. A statement from Ottayil Avullakutti in 1900 states he has the “jenmam” rights over a piece of land called the Kalarikandi paramba. “All the buildings on the paramba belong to the tenants under me. The Ottapalli school belongs to me … I am not therefore willing to sell the paramba to the government. But in case the government intends to acquire the land compulsorily, I have no objections … the Zamorin’s kovilakom has no right whatever over the paramba.” He adds he purchased the jenmam rights on September 9, 1893.

The Zamorin, however, rebuts Avullakutti’s claims in his statement given in February 1901. On the Kalarikandi paramba, also known as Bhagavathi kandi, he says, “It appears from these that Bhagavathi kandi measuring 82 cents is the jenma of Ottayil Avullakutti.” He adds the land is a “portion of the Kottaparamba belonging to my kovilagam. Avullakutti has no jenmam right over it.” He goes on to say, “I have no objection to this land and Kottaparamba being taken up by Government.”

Acquiring land

All the other owners demanded adequate compensation for land given, but the Zamorin insisted on something else. The land, he says, “should be given back to the kovilagom when no longer required for the use of the hospital. I am not willing to accept the jenmam value of the land. The government may get possession of the lands on payment of value of improvement due to the tenants.”

Another owner, Valia veetil Ayyappa Kurup, in his statement, says his land, Kandiparamba, had “cocoanut trees [that] belong to me and the value of these trees would therefore be given to me.”

A couple of years after the hospital was built, the Municipal Council and the District Board were engaged in a question of who would maintain it. The Municipal Chairman in a letter to the Collector in 1906 “requests the Board to bear half the maintenance of the local hospital of Women and Children.” He further says the Council took up the management of the hospital “on the understanding that the half of the cost of its maintenance will be borne by the District Board.”

Apparently, the expenses for the construction and the equipment were met equally by the Council and the Board. Apart from the Rs 750 it usually gives, the Board says, its hands are tied. “No doubt if funds are available the District Board would be glad to show some generosity towards a very deserving institution but a time when the Board is unable to make adequate provision for its own pressing needs … generosity of this kind is not to be thought of,” writes the Board President to the Government.

The hospital, though, grew steadily, and 4851 patients visited it for treatment in the year 1905-06.

(A weekly column on the region’s past culled from historical documents)

Source: Regional Archives, Kozhikode

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