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(47) Native Hospital at Calcutta [[218-219]]

[[218]] The hospital now supported in Calcutta by voluntary contribution, for the reception of natives requiring surgical assistance, was founded about 1793; those unfortunate persons who met with accidents having before no asylum wherein they could find either solace or remedy.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((479)) The establishment is, as yet, rather limited; but, it is to be hoped, will in the course of a few years rise superior to the disadvantages under which it labors, in consequence of the great expence incurred in lodging the patients, many of whom labor under complaints purely clinical; contrary to the first intention, and indeed, to the first proposal for such a charity.

The first proposal for this charity appeared about 1791, in The World (a Calcutta weekly paper), and suggested the expediency of sending all those deformed persons who infested the streets of Calcutta in quest of eleemosynary aid, to some hospital, which should also accommodate natives injured by accidents within the city.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((480))  The proposal was founded on the peremptory necessity for conducting all upon the cheapest plan; and contained a calculation of the expences incident to the construction of thatched ranges of huts, similar to barracks, to be erected on a piece of ground to be granted by government for that purpose. The whole expence, it appeared, would not have amounted to more than £1,500 or £2,000 yearly, yet full accommodation, and subsistence, would have been afforded for three hundred patients.

The idea of permanence, which is usually supposed to carry with it cheapness, was, I understand, the plea for deviating from the proposed economical estimate: the consequence has been, that the number of patients is extremely limitted. That original expence will, in most countries, be found far cheaper than a flimsy beginning attended with constant demands for repair, cannot be doubted; but, where there is no capital, [or] at least a very small one, it is absurd to act upon the former scale; since it must, of necessity, counteract the whole intention.

Further, we should consider local circumstances: thus, in Calcutta, the same money that will cover in accommodations for a thousand persons, under a substantial thatch, laid over mud or mat walls, adequate to the ordinary purposes of the inhabitants at large, and similar to at least ninety-nine in the ((481)) hundred, of those habitations which shelter the bulk of the population, would not suffice to provide fifty of the same description, with apartments formed of masonry, timber, &c., according to the scale on which Europeans build houses for their own residence, within that city.

It is likewise a well-known fact, that what is called a puckah-house, that is, one built of bricks, lime, and timber, will, at the end of ten years, cost as much in repairs, as the thatched edifices built for an equal number of inhabitants. This being the case, it will forcibly strike the reader, that in departing from the original suggestion, the managers likewise departed from the best principle.

Many natives have vaingloriously asserted that though the institution in question was founded by Europeans, it has been principally upheld by the liberality of opulent natives. This may in some measure be correct; yet [[219]] allowing it to the fullest extent, what have the natives done more than an ordinary duty, in affording assistance to their own countrymen, and that too, after being urged or guided to the measure? On the other hand, the European inhabitants may certainly claim the palm, both as original founders of the institution, and subsequent benefactors, in a case where their own countrymen were not to be benefited.

Williamson 1810 vol. 1: ((482)) The present state of the funds is not the most flourishing; and its utility is too great to allow its falling from deficiency of means. Would it not be advisable to collect a very small assessment at every house inhabited by a native within the Maharrattah Ditch (which limits the jurisdiction of the police), either according to extent, or to its rent? This assessment should be paid into the hands of the magistrates, to be by them disbursed, according to proper regulations, through the medium of native agents, to be elected annually by all who should contribute either a certain gross sum, or by regular yearly donation, towards the support of the institution.

This would produce a stabile, and adequate, revenue; while it would likewise induce many natives, some from pride, others from hope, and a few from fear, to add their mites to such as should result from that spontaneous flow of genuine humanity, with which the Hindu code is replete; and of which the Hindus at large make so great a boast. Possibly the day is not far off when in lieu of building immense houses, richly endowed, for the maintenance of an idle, haughty, ignorant, and insolent gang of priests, some rich natives, reflecting on the wants of their more industrious, and more meritorious, poor, may bequeath liberally towards the formation of such establishments, as may rescue them from that ((483)) variety of sufferings to which they become subjected by the accumulation of years, the visitations of disease, and the pressure of misfortune!


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