‘Father of modern Lahore’ remembered on anniversary
By Anjum Gill
LAHORE: Philanthropist Sir Ganga Ram was paid rich tribute at a meeting held on Saturday to observe his 76th death anniversary at Shakir Ali Auditorium of the National College of Arts (NCA)
Fiction House and the NCA’s Research and Publication Centre organised the meeting to remember Sir Ram, the engineer of Lahore city. Speakers also eulogised him for his charitable works.
Sir Ram, a civil engineer by profession, supervised the construction of many classic buildings including the Lahore High Court and the Cathedral Church on The Mall.
Intellectual and journalist Khaled Ahmed called Sir Ganga Ram the ‘father of modern Lahore’. He said philanthropists should be remembered irrespective of cast, colour or creed.
Historian Dr Mubarik Ali said the social movement started by Sir Ram should be continued. “He did not do charity only for the sake of charity but his philosophy was to make independent charitable institutions,” said Dr Ali.
Academy of Letters Director Qazi Javed pointed out the urgent need for the repair of Sir Ram’s smaadhi (burial place). “We need to look after Sir Ganga Ram’s smaadhi and other historical places in the city. It is not just the responsibility of the government, but also of citizens to raise funds for these historical places,” he said.
Shafqat Tanveer Mirza, Rafey Shahzad, Nadeem Umar and Zubair Ghauri demanded that his smaadhi be revamped and his statue, which once stood in front of the Lahore Museum, be restored if still preserved somewhere.
Sir Ram’s great granddaughter Shreela Flather is still donating funds to Sir Ganga Hospital. Ganga Ram was born in Mangtanwala (now in Sheikhupura district) in 1851. He studied at Government College, Lahore and did his engineering from Thomsan Engineering College in Roorki (India) in 1871. He later studied engineering at Bradford in United Kingdom.
He started his career as an assistant engineer in 1873, building government offices at Faisalabad, Sargodha and Sheikhupura. He designed the Faisalabad district courts complex.
He also designed and constructed General Post Office, Lahore Museum, Aitchison College, Mayo School of Arts (now the NCA), Ganga Ram Hospital, Lady Mclagan Girls High School, the chemistry department of the Government College University, the Albert Victor wing of Mayo Hospital, the Hailey College of Commerce, Ravi Road House for the Disabled, the Ganga Ram Trust Building on The Mall and Lady Maynard Industrial School. He also designed and constructed Model Town, once the most posh locality of Lahore, the powerhouse at Renala Khurd and the railway track between Pathankot and Amritsar.
He was also a banker and built Ganga Ram Hospital, Lady Mclagan School and Renala Khurd Power House with his own money.
He was a promising agriculturist, too. He purchased thousands acres of barren land in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) on lease and by using engineering skills and modern irrigation methods, turned the arid lands into fertile fields. He retired in 1903. He died in London on July 10, 1927. His body was cremated and his ashes were brought back to India. A portion of the ashes were consigned to Ganga River and the rest buried in Lahore on the bank of the Ravi.