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Posted on April 3, 2013by flamingofeather
Sheth Chunilal Chinai (centre) and the Chinai clan at their residence in Ahmedabad.
A culture of philanthropy and human values guided Gujarati society. (Author: Rupa Chinai) A culture of philanthropy is deeply embedded in the Gujarati psyche. Every generation of children in many Ahmedabad families have grown up hearing the story of how Gujarati culture of self help and mutual support — without waiting for government grants – empowered many communities towards development and prosperity. This often cited story is about the man who started his entrepreneurial life with a small shop. As soon as he earned a little profit, he donated a bench in the park, with a marble plaque announcing his name as the donor. Then, in time, he moved on to establish a business and from the greater profits accrued, he built a marriage hall for his community. Here too, the donor family’s name was engraved above the entrance door and a painting of the family patriarch was hung in the gallery. When later his empire expanded and prosperity visited his family, he built a hospital to serve the poorest in the city, while commemorating the family name.
established in 1929. Ahmedabad’s leading families were institution builders. . It was stalwarts like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Dadasaheb Mavalankar who envisaged this unique collaboration between citizen and state in running public institutions meant for the poor. Following closure of the China trade the firm opened a branch in Bangalore in 1942 to handle Mysore silk and also had dealings with the Kashmir Government. where it still exists. which closed down only after the Communist Revolution. Beldanga. These donor built hospital buildings continue to remain sturdy even after 84 years and their families retain their link as watchdogs to protect the interests of the genuinely poor. Emboldened by their success. His two sons. Seth Maneklal and Seth Jeevanlal were outstanding salesman and social networker respectively and carried the firm to new heights. Understanding true religion – which is service to mankind — and the Gandhian vision of trusteeship of wealth.Long after individuals have gone and family ties with their birth place are loosened. The family firm thus had its major break. Seth Chunilal’s sons then ventured even further afield to trade with Japan in 1910 and in the following year establish an office in Shanghai. Seth Chunilal Nagindas Chinai and his forefathers were silk brokers and derived their surname from their silk trade with China. The hospital’s running costs come from public funds via the city’s Corporation. given by luck or chance. Jangepur and Malda. China. Trading in raw silk and subsequently in rayon yarn was the primary focus of the family firm Nagindas Fulchand Chinai. best known today for building the Chinai Maternity Hospital along with the Vadilal Sarabhai family’s General Hospital. The family’s business links were spread across India. when large quantities of silk were offered to the firm and sold in record time. A family story goes that once there has a huge storm and it was only those ships returning with the Chinai cargo of Chinese silk that were the first to make it back to safe harbour. One such was the Chinai family. in accruing profits and expanding their business. In 1891. This is a hallmark of Gujarat – cultural values cherished by its citizens across economic strata – a legacy rarely seen in other parts of India. Seth Chunilal opened branches in the silk producing districts of Rajshahi. Globalisation. from Mysore in the south to Kashmir in the North and across to undivided Bengal. long existed in Gujarat before the term came to be known across India. which was founded by Seth Chunilal and subsequently headquartered in Bombay. it is these gifts that have retained and created lasting institutions for the welfare of citizens.
Seth Chunilal’s charities for religious. Baroda Rayon and other industries. Sardar Patel reported Gandhiji’s message through . social or educational purposes were cosmopolitan in nature and even Muslim women used to gather at his residence in Ahmedabad and received monthly alms along with others. they too followed suit. he gave free scholarships to deserving students. His love for animals. it did not forget its roots. Seth Chunilal held a keen interest in the education of both boys and girls. prompted the family’s support to charities such as the Dakore Panjarapole (Gujarat). Educated in a rural Mehtaji’s school. writing and mathematics. Catalyst India and provide technical expertise for the establishment of National Art Silk Mills. When the Chinai family moved on to establish itself in Bombay. As these beneficiaries advanced and prospered. Even at an advanced age of 72 he not only donated but went around collecting funds for the building of the Vanita Vishram at Ahmedabad and personally supervised its construction from start to finish. Marriage alliances were forged between Chunilal’s grandsons and several daughters of Sheth Naranlal Jeevanlal. Afterwards. known as the Shri Ahmedabad Dasha Dishwal Vanik Gnati. the young Chunilal.Thus Seth Chunilal attained fame as ‘Resham na Raja’ (King of Silk). while the family firm continued its trading in raw silk and rayon yarn. In his time he was director of many a textile mills in Ahmedabad. through hard work and integrity brought security and comfort to his family. This contribution to the social cohesion of their community was further backed by the creation of an Education Society for higher education opportunity for promising youth. where weddings are performed. especially cows and horses. The community ‘wadi’ (hall). A story about Seth Chunilal goes that once Seth Kasturbhai Lalbhai and Sardar Patel came to him for a donation towards Gandhiji’s Harijan Welfare Fund and the former readily gave whatever amount they named. It was this spirit. situated at Astodia Chakla in Ahmedabad. He lost his father at the tender age of 17 and shouldered all family responsibility. The native spirit of Gujarati enterprise was backed by a determination to attain higher education and develop a knowledge and skills base. When during Queen Victoria’s reign vernacular schools were started in Ahmedabad. fostered by the Chinai family patriarchs that led their grandsons to then go on to establish industries like National Rayon. Rajasthan). Jadavma. He also contributed to the building of the Merta Sanskrit Pathshala in Merta City (Marwar. was founded by Seth Chunilal in 1907. gain new experiences in other cultures and build institutions for India. whose family had business dealings with Japan and brought technology innovation for India’s textile industry. Seth Chunilal knew how to earn money and spend it wisely. where pupils learnt the basics of reading. Supported by the blessings of his mother. a textile mill owner and one time President of the Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners Association.
we have diverted our charity in another direction. instead of feeding the Brahmins and /or our caste people. who died at the age of 92. the mother of Seth Chunilal. We hope to see a group of hospitals built here”. The VS and Chinai Hospitals have a record of 84 years of good will that has been earned by its dedicated staff and those who facilitated its establishment and growth. Sheth Kanaiyalal Motilal School of Post Graduate Medicine and Research. “No Sir. Initially land was offered near the Municipal House and as the Sarabhai donation had not been made at that time. quality health care to the city’s poorest. it was assumed that the smaller land was adequate for the purpose. ‘My jholi (cloth bag) has overflowed’. The Sardar roared with laughter and asked.” The Chinai Maternity Hospital. An ‘Out Patient Department’ was subsequently donated by Chinai family members and built in the name of Jadavben Nagindas Chinai.Seth Chunilal’s grandson: “Tell your Grandfather that Gandhiji said the old man’s hand was very lucky for him. It was built at an initial cost of Rs. Like Seth Chunilal they too held a vision of providing free or affordable. on a historic plot where the 36th session of the Indian National Congress was held in 1921. irrespective of caste or creed. All of these institutions represent the non-profit commitment of an earlier generation of Ahmedabad’s leading citizens towards its poorest brethren. It was through Sardar Patel that the Chinai Maternity Hospital and Vadilal Sarabhai General Hospital came to be built on its present site on the bank of the Sabarmati River. “What is the big idea? Do you intend rolling in this place the whole day?” To this the Chinai’s replied. Dissatisfied with the location. the Sheth Tulsidas Hargovindas Institute of Physical Medicine. presided over by the wellknown patriot Hakim Ajmalkhan of Delhi. Seth Chunilal and his grandson accompanied the Sardar to the river bank and asked for that plot of land where the historic Congress meeting was held and where the Indian tricolour was reportedly raised for the first time in Gujarat. Gandhiji said. one of the outstanding contributions of Seth Chunilal to the city of Ahmedabad. the Nathiba Hargovandas Lakhshmichand Medical College. was built in 1931 on the banks of the Sabarmati River. . Today where the Chinai Maternity Hospital stands at this historic spot and around the Congress Fountain is a cluster of other family donated institutions — the Sheth Vadilal General Hospital. he went on to do just that.one and a half lakhs. In Ahmedabad there are far richer citizens than us and one or more will come forward with big donations. Seth Dahyabhai Ranchhoddas Convalescent Home for Patients Under Observation or Waiting Admission. The Sardar liked the idea and as President of the Ahmedabad Municipality.
Today. . that legacy will continue. the present generation of family representatives say. through programmes of motivation. It is such internationally proven methods of public health initiatives that will impact Gujarat’s equitable economic growth and human development indices. The AMC is party to this commitment in the Trust Deeds it signed with the original donor families. The donor family Board members say they want VS and Chinai Hospitals to benefit from the presence of internationally known public health experts who are based right here in Ahmedabad. the poor of Ahmedabad have no choice but to quietly lie down at home and die. continuing education and training. The spirit and vision of Seth Chunilal Chinai and others of that generation is an inheritance we treasure and with the support of Ahmedabad public spirited citizens. then that proposal need outright rejection. they say. they emphasize. They emphasize independent research based studies that show what impact the hospital’s services have in meeting the needs of the genuinely poor amongst Ahmedabad’s most marginalised and poor communities. There is need to develop the hospitals human resources at every level. They seek to launch programmes for nutrition and health education as also training of community workers. the four donor family members. representing the Sarabhai and Chinai families. While there is much talk about ‘public-private partnerships’ and concepts of turning this sacred public land into a ‘medical tourism hub’. If these resources for public good are to be captured by the rich in the name of subsidising health care for the poor. the donor family trustees say such concepts need clear understanding. on the VS and Chinai Hospital Board of Management stress their belief that the AMC and the State of Gujarat have a responsibility to provide free health care to its genuinely poorest citizens. they say. If denied access to free services. The institution needs help in creating a culture of good governance with systems of transparency and accountability within the highest levels of hospital administration. These hospitals were not built for the rich who enjoy access to a vast array of alternatives.
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