HOW Calicut was finally chosen to begin a veterinary hospital

(A weekly column on the region’s past culled from historical documents.)

The 100{+t}{+h}birthday of the city’s veterinary hospital is not far away. Though one of many hospitals in the region born during the British era, this one came about after much deliberation. Calicut was chosen for the hospital after an extensive search and letters that flew back and forth. The beginnings can be traced back to 1910, when a letter from the Tahsildar to the Deputy Collector of Malabar mentions the recommendation for a veterinary hospital in Calicut.

The Tahsildar writes that the superintendent of the veterinary department on a recent visit to Calicut had asked him to give “a sketch of the different sites” they had inspected for the construction of a veterinary hospital. Though the Collector doesn’t take offence to the suggestion, a letter from the Revenue Board, Madras, questions the superintendent’s proposal. The letter reminds the superintendent of protocol. The Superintendent of the Civil Veterinary Department is asked “to report on whose instance he proposed to start a veterinary hospital in Calicut, whether he has consulted the Collector on the subject and why Calicut has been thought of in preference to other places in the Malabar district.”

In a quick response, W.O. Dawson, Superintendent, Indian Civil Veterinary Department, Madras Presidency, asks the Collector of Malabar for suggestions on a suitable site. The Collector, in turn, despatches letters to the different administrative centres of the region—Waynad, Palghat, Tellicherry, Malappuram and even Cochin. While Malappuram offers Perinthalmanna and Manjeri as suitable options, the deputy Collector of Waynad wants to consult the powerful planters of the region before making a suggestion. A clause in the proposal that deters many is this: “What contributions, if any, can be expected from the local boards or municipalities for the construction or the upkeep of such hospitals.”

The Municipal Council, Cochin, concludes Cochin is not the suitable place for a veterinary hospital. The Palghat Sub-Collector cites the region’s proximity to Coimbatore, which already has a veterinary establishment. Though he suggests areas near the Coimbatore-Pollachi route, he doubts if “ordinary people would cheerfully bring their cattle to it for treatment.” He recommends Calicut, saying, “The prospect of bringing animals is bigger in a bigger municipality.” The Sub-Collector of Tellicherry suggests Cannanore Town, Kuttuparamba and Kuttiadi as ideal spots, while the Waynad Deputy Collector after consultation with the planters roots for Kalpetta. The dice finally fall for Calicut, after the Municipal Council also considers it “desirable” to have a hospital here.

The finance

A communication from the Revenue Board, Madras, follows: “The Board agrees with the Superintendent and Collector of Malabar that a veterinary hospital should be established at Calicut provided that the District Board or other local bodies agree to meet the whole cost of maintenance.”

This sets off another round of letters and the local bodies don’t appear willing to splurge for animals. The recurring cost of the hospital is estimated to be Rs 1050 a year. The Municipal Council has earlier offered Rs 200, while the taluk board says it is cash-strapped. The authorities ponder whether the District Board will pitch in for the rest.

The acting Collector voices these concerns to the Revenue Board in a letter dated June 1911. “I understand that Government will acquire a site in Calicut and construct a hospital there on provided that the Municipal Council and the District Board will agree to maintain it. The chairman thinks that the Council will be willing to pay half the cost of maintenance provided that the District Board will contribute the balance and I propose to move a resolution to this effect.” After a few meetings, the Municipal Council agrees to shell out Rs 525 annually. By September 1911, the District Board also writes, agreeing to contribute “half the cost of the proposed veterinary hospital.”

But that doesn’t bring closure. Doubts arise on who will manage the institution if the two bodies are going to jointly maintain it. The Municipal Chairman suggests forming a special body comprising himself, the President of the District Board and the Revenue Divisional Officer. However, the District Board considers it to be an “unworkable” idea. Board members say they are “prepared to leave the management to the Municipal Council” on the “understanding” that they will be allowed to offer remarks and suggestions.

The Municipal Council puts the ball right back in the District Board’s court, saying Council members also don’t mind leaving the management of the hospital to the Board on similar terms. Finally, the District Board takes up the management, agreeing to all the conditions.

About 1.25 acres of land is identified in Kalathinkunnu amsom and the estimated cost of the hospital is drawn at Rs 9300. By April 1913, the order comes from the Government of Madras accepting the proposed establishment of a veterinary hospital at Calicut and approving “the suggestion that its management should be in the hands of the District Board.”

The Government saves the best for last. Considering the “financial position of the local bodies”, it decides to lend a helping hand at least temporarily. “The government is pleased to limit for the present the contribution to be levied from the District Board, Malabar and the Municipal Council of Calicut to Rs 350 per annum and Rs 175 per annum respectively.”

Source: Regional Archives Kozhikode