Rai Bahadur Sir Ganga Ram
Rai Bahadur Sir Ganga Ram (13 April 1851 – 10 July 1927) was an Indian civil engineer, architect, and leading philanthropist of his time, who established the Renala Hydral Power Station in Renala Khurd in 1925. His extensive contributions to the urban fabric of Lahore, in modern Pakistan, caused Khaled Ahmed to describe him as “the father of modern Lahore”.
In 1873, after a brief Service in Punjab P.W.D devoted himself to practical farming. He obtained on lease from the Government 50,000 acres (200 km²) of barren, unirrigated land in Montgomery district, and within three years converted that vast desert into smiling fields, irrigated by water lifted by a hydroelectric plant and running through a thousand miles of irrigation channels, all constructed at his own cost. This was the biggest private enterprise of the kind, unknown and unthought-of in the country before. Sir Ganga Ram earned millions most of which he gave to charity.
In the words of Sir Malcolm Hailey, the Governor of Punjab, “he won like a hero and gave like a Saint”. He was a great engineer and a great philanthropist.
He designed and built 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 constructed Model Town, once the best locality of Lahore, the powerhouse at Renala Khurd as well as the railway track between Pathankot and Amritsar.
He built Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Lady Mclagan School, and Renala Khurd Power House with his own money.
He was a promising agriculturist, too. He purchased thousands of 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 was consigned to Ganga River and the rest buried in Lahore on the bank of the Ravi.
A statue of Sir Ganga Ram once stood on Mall Road in Lahore. Saadat Hasan Manto, the famous Urdu writer, in one of his stories on the frenzy of religious riots of 1947 writes that an inflamed mob in Lahore, after attacking a Hindu residential area, ‘turned to attack the statue of Sir Ganga Ram, the Hindu philanthropist. They first pelted the statue with stones; then smothered its face with coal tar. Then a man made a garland of old shoes climbed up to put it around the neck of the statue. The police arrived and opened fire. Among the injured was the fellow with the garland of old shoes. As he fell, the mob shouted: “Let us rush him to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital”.