Shimla's colonial era Indian natives faced racial discrimination at the early hospitals!

Shimla, Walker Hospital

The 200 year colonial rule in India was replete with  innumerable  dreadful  events that showcased the supremacy of the British  and their style of  administration, living, socializing  and their conspicuous discriminatory attitude toward the natives. The paradox is there was nothing but hatred and bitterness between England and India and in the midst of it depredation was going on  by the colonial Sahibs who hoodwinked the naive natives. The Nawabs and Maharajahs were looked upon as suckers by the wily Bobs. There  was a visible line drawn between  men of high social status  and persons of lesser social standing There were many social clubs (mostly based on social homogeneity) across India  where Indian (of course and dogs) were not allowed.  Good examples are oldest social clubs like  The Madras Club, Chennai,The Kolkata Club, etc. When social or racial disparity trickles down to hospitals where sick patients in pain come for medical treatment, then it is something quite obnoxious and nauseating. This is remorseless and disturbing.. 

The Walker Hospital of Shimla, whose history goes back to the British Raj, is a heritage site opened in 1902. The British era hospital in 1998 was very much damaged in the fire accident and  lost in the inferno were much of its valuable heritage aspects.  The army rebuilt it to cater to the needs of the army men and in 2019, it served the people Shila as well during the COVID -19 Pandemic and later in 2021 the facility was withdrawn   

Shimla, India, location map.

The  origin of  Shimla's second hospital is a painful one.  The origin of this hospital  brought to light  how the Indian natives were ill-treated by the medical eternity in the Raj. Racial discrimination was very much there in the summer resort of Shimla. There were clubs meant only for the Europeans. Many of us may not be aware that the Walker hospital was founded with a view to serving the  Europeans settlers in the hill station, then the Summer capital of the Raj. Lots of Europeans settled in Shimla for reasons of  comfortable climate and the proximity of  wooded areas for trail blazing and hunting. 

The Ripon hospital in Jakko, (now Deen Dayal Upadhyaya hospital), Shimla was serving both Indian and European patients, though  it was built for the natives. Surgeon-General Sir Benjamin Franklin in May 1899, on a routine visit to the Ripon hospital  found to his dismay,  that the Indian patients  were removed from  four wards  to make them available for the European patients. The hospital blatantly practised  preferential treatment for white people over the natives. Indians of this area stoically faced this insult on their own soil.

 Surgeon-General Franklin wanted to find a remedy for the unsavory incidents at the Ripon hospital. The hospital was carrying the name of Lord Ripon who was held in great esteem by the natives because he daringly introduced several reforms in favor of  natives, particularly, the peasants.  Racial disparity in an institution carrying his  name  was  certainly against the principles of lord Ripon and his lofty ideals and unbiased reign.  Incidentally, many Europeans did not  like Ripon's liberal policies and regarded him as renegade. 

General Franklin approached the Punjab government for a new hospital.  Accepting his request the government formed a Committee to find out a suitable site for the proposed hospital with sufficient beds for the whites.  The Committee evinced much interest in  'Gorton Castle', owned by Walker and wanted to purchase it or take it on lease.  James L Walker, being a rich banker  and  president of Shimla Municipality in 1873-74,  was ready to gift  'Gorton Castle'. He informed the government through telegram "I make a free gift to Simla of 'Gorton Castle' for a hospital for European and Eurasian patients."   There were objections  from a section of residents over the location of the building on the  Mall, so the government sold the gifted property and purchased another site on which Walker hospital stands now. 

Opened in 1902 as a self-supporting hospital with 20 beds for the Europeans, the hospital had  the reputation of catering to the medical needs  of the Europeans from the poor section.  the hospital charged nominal fees  for the poor patients.