Two beautiful stone archways lead to the angular path and the angular premises of Government Medical College Srinagar, the oldest and the most prestigious institute that has been giving J&K thoroughly trained medical professionals for 60 years now.
The college was established in 1959 in a makeshift arrangement in Hazuri Bagh. Soon, the present building came up and batch after batch started entering the dream premises of the medical college, long counted among the top ones in the country.
The facilities – classrooms, laboratories, the equipment, the number of associated hospitals, the library, the hostels, the gardens… Everything was extraordinary. The sheer structure was magnanimous and more than enough for the batch of 50 students, the intake capacity at that time. Years passed by, the intake capacity increased to 180 much to the delight of everyone.
The capacities and facilities started wearing out and running short. The classrooms were filled with more furniture, their number remained unchanged. The paved corridors sank in, the walls flaked off. The faculty was increased to cater to the increased number of students. Their rooms remained the same in number.
GMC Srinagar was inaugurated in August 1961. As I write this article, exactly 60 years later, the prestigious institute desperately needs expansion.
In the decades gone by, one lecture hall was added to the infrastructure, on the first floor, popularly known as Tableeg Gah in the College. This addition took place when Dr Ghulam Jeelani was the Principal of the Medical College, nearly 15 years ago.
The Medical Council of India, now National Medical Council, has been nudging the College about the deficit in capacity in classrooms, laboratories and hostels. The National Medical Council has raised the issue of libraries being smaller than required for the medical college of this size, it has also communicated that there must be demonstration rooms with 80-100 seating capacity in every department, the medical college grossly falling short of this. The laboratories are small, constructed for 50 students, the students forced to cram-up.
There needs to be an examination center in the medical college, yet to come up. The computerized examination center, as required by NMC is a far cry. A smart class has been constructed with central funding, yet to be operationalised. The existing classrooms are inadequate for the students enrolled, look dilapidated and have no facility for audio-visual demonstration.
There are no designated parking spaces in GMC Srinagar. The cars are parked on roads, which inevitably fail to accommodate the number of vehicles daily plying into the college. The little green lawn in the college mocks at the idea of green and open spaces.
Currently, construction is going on at the erstwhile Canteen site, where a common and multi-level, multi-facility center is coming up – canteen, store, recreation, parking. However, this is in way going to suffice for the mammoth needs of the Institution.
A senior faculty member at GMC Srinagar said that all heads of the institutions have been over-engrossed with improving hospitals and patient-care over the years. “The Medical College has become a casualty of this never-ending pursuit,” he said.
As per NMC, all the students, residents, and faculty must have accommodation in the vicinity of the medical college. This is especially crucial in our settings when in times of turmoil and crisis, it gets difficult for the faculty, doctors and students to make it to the hospitals and the college. However, the student hostels of GMC Srinagar, both boys and girls are similarly rundown and bursting at seams. There are only 30 faculty rooms in the hostel and the accommodation meant for just 300 students is now housing 2-3 students in every room. A dormitory is adding up beds for those who cannot find a space in the rooms. The facilities at the hostel are equally ramshackle.
The students living in the premises have raised the issue of upgrade, maintenance and upkeep with the authorities many times in the past. However, the site wears the look of a decrepit, ill-kept, overcrowded colony. A visiting faculty space was inaugurated a few years ago, but that space is not meant for the residential scholars.
The college needs urgent and sustained attention of the J&K Government. It needs a multi-storey building to accommodate new lecture halls, new labs, new facilities like libraries, computer labs with audio-visual library, indoor recreation center, faculty rooms, common rooms.
The hostels need expansion to accommodate students, scholars and faculty. It needs funds, approvals and constructions on the fast track. Sans this, the medical college will lose much of the sheen it has earned with its exemplary education and training sustaining numerous hospitals in J&K and other places.