British-era tunnel discovered under JJ Hospital

Published on Nov 05, 2022 12:03 AM IST

Dr Mohan Algotar, retired deputy dean and professor of surgery, at GMC and JJ Hospital, who was the first to have noticed the entrance to the underground passage in 1980, said the present nursing hostel was a Motlibai building dedicated to women’s healthcare (Obstetrics).

The tunnel is 200-metre long and the foundation stone mentions ‘1890’ on it. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT PHOTO)
The tunnel is 200-metre long and the foundation stone mentions ‘1890’ on it. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT PHOTO)
BySomita Pal

Mumbai: A 132-year-old tunnel built during the British era was dug up under the state-run JJ Hospital on Friday when authorities were inspecting water leakages in the premises. The tunnel is said to be 200-metre long and the foundation stone mentions ‘1890’ on it.

It is the oldest – 177 years – hospital in the city.

A resident medical officer (RMO) – Dr Arun Rathod – noticed a hole in the surface of the nursing college during the inspection and decided to explore the area.

“There have been talks about an underground tunnel below the building,” he said. “One of the air ventilators in the building had a tiny opening which we thought of exploring and it led to a 40x40 feet underground area.”

Dr Pallavi Saple, dean, who has been at the forefront in organising heritage walks, working on museum and restoration work along with representatives of Friends of GMC and Sir JJ Group of the hospital trust, said they have informed the archaeological department about the finding.

“It is like a chamber, probably a refuge area. We have informed the archaeological department as it is a heritage structure,” she said.

“We cannot explore it on their own from here on. We feel the chamber leads somewhere,” added Saple.

She said that the present nursing college was then a delivery ward and the construction started in 1890 and finished in 1892.

“It is said there is a tunnel beneath another building in the premises which was then a mother and child ward,” she said.

Dr Mohan Algotar, retired deputy dean and professor of surgery, at GMC and JJ Hospital, who was the first to have noticed the entrance to the underground passage in 1980, said the present nursing hostel was a Motlibai building dedicated to women’s healthcare (Obstetrics).

“It was originally the obstetrics department. In 1980, when I was a resident medical officer, I saw the main entrance to the underground passage which is below the staircase of the building,” he said.

Dr Sunil Pandya, who has written books on the heritage of Grant Medical College and Sir JJ Hospital and its contribution to Indian medicine, said the theory behind the underground tunnel is that it served as a safe passage to transfer patients from one building to the other.

“The present building was then an obstetric department and deliveries happened. The other building, which was 100 yards away, was for gynaecology and also had a children’s ward. We heard this passage connects these two buildings,” he said.

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