A fund of goodwill

Print edition : October 11, 2002

Trusts established by industrial groups and families have played an important role in the evolution of institutions in the education and health sectors in Coimbatore.

THE entrepreneurs of Coimbatore have used reverse engineering also to do good to society. Veteran industrialist and Lakshmi Group chairman G.K. Sundaram puts it succinctly: ``We copy everything well. So we copied philanthropy also from the Tatas and Birlas.'' The result was that trusts set up by industrial groups and families proliferated. Coimbatore has the most number of trusts in any Indian city.

These trusts have set several educational institutions and hospitals. Chandrakanti Govindarajulu, managing trustee, GRG Trust, says: ``We have a tradition rooted in philanthropy. We all grew up learning that we have to do something for society.''

P.S. Govindaswamy Naidu, a pioneer industrialist and philanthropist, divided his fortune into five equal parts four went to his sons and the fifth to a trust. Formed with a corpus of Rs.2 lakhs, the PSG Trust is today best known for its role in higher education.

The PSG group had, even before the establishment of its trust, started the Sarva Jana Higher Secondary School in 1921. The Trust set up the PSG Industrial Institute, which grew out of a workshop that was merged with the PSG Polytechnic in 1939. The institute pioneered the idea of hands-on experience; students were provided training in group companies. In 1995, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) established a nodal centre for entrepreneurship, management development and skill-based training at the polytechnic. The PSG College of Arts and Sciences was given the highest, five star, rating by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council.

The PSG Trust's educational institutions, covering arts, science, technology, medicine, management, performing arts and computer technology, provided the foundation to Coimbatore's industrial development. Over 90 per cent of the present-day industrialists here are in one way or the other connected to the PSG institutions.

The PSG group also helped students venture out on their own. Sharp Tools managing director K.K. Ramaswamy and a former student of the PSG College, said: ``I started my business with a lathe provided by a PSG institution, with my gratuity as advance and the rest payable in instalments.''

The PSG Trust ventured into medical education in 1985. The PSG Institute of Medical Science and Research offers medical education and para-medical training. It runs a 700-bed multi-speciality hospital, established in 1989.

The GRG Trust, set up by an industrial group established by the late G.R. Govindarajulu, is now supported by the Pioneer group. Started with the objective of furthering women's education, it runs 13 institutions. It also runs a school for tribal people in Gudalur. The trust-run PSGR Krishnammal College functions strictly on the basis of charity. Another industrial group, G.D. Naidu and Sons, runs educational institutions under a trust.

The Avinasilingam Educational Trust was started by freedom fighter and Education Minister in the Madras Presidency Dr. T.S. Avinasilingam in 1952. It has its institutions under the umbrella of a deemed university today.

There are dozens of training institutes offering hands-on experience, capitalising on the large number of small-, medium- and large-scale industries in Coimbatore. One of them is the Ambal Training Institute. Offering four types of courses of varying durations, the institute provides training in the repair and maintenance of Maruti vehicles to diploma holders in mechanical and automobile engineering. The institute uses modern teaching aids such as computers. Maruti Udyog Limited has shown interest in developing this into a regional training centre to train people in repairing and maintaining its vehicles. According to Ambal Institute managing director M. Asokan, who is also the biggest dealer in Maruti vehicles in Coimbatore, the institute conducts workshops in automobile engineering in engineering colleges.

Until recently, the educational institutions, started mainly by trusts, worked on the basis of charity. However, the recent trend among some of them has been to charge capitation fees. PSG Institute of Management director Dr. R. Nandagopal says: ``With the government reducing its aid to educational institutions, we have to invest in infrastructure on equipment, salaries, library and so on. We invest Rs.4 crores to Rs.5 crores every year in the PSG medical college. From where do we get the money'' He says that the amount is accounted for and that receipts are given for the total amount of capitation fees collected.

THE Lakshmi group brought affordable health care to Coimbatore. Set up in 1952, the G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Trust for Education and Medical Relief has done much work. Says its trustee, G.K. Sundaram: ``Our aim is to see that medical care percolates to the weakest sections.'' Started with 50 beds, the hospital has grown to a 350-bed institution with modern equipment. It specialises in paediatrics and cancer treatment. One of the five centres in the country for the detection of, and education on, oncology, its doctors go to the rural areas to conduct cancer-detection camps. Another well-equipped trust hospital is the K.G. Hospital. Started in 1974 by Dr. K. Bhakthavatsalam, who was trained at the Mayo College of Medicine in the United States, the hospital has been serving the weaker sections well. It has set aside 10 per cent of the beds for poor people, who are treated free of cost or at subsidised rates. It offers free cataract surgeries, even bringing patients from the hinterland.

The Kovai Medical Centre and Hospital (KMCH) is a 350-bed facility with state-of-the-art technology and equipment. Although a corporate hospital the only one of its kind in Coimbatore it cross-subsidises patient costs in order to serve the poor. It specialises in asthma, diabetes, de-addiction, andrology and orthopaedic rehabilitation. It performs such specialised procedures as chemoembolisation, stenting, fallopian tube recanalisation, chemotherapy, blood component therapy and arthoscopic, laparoscopic and thoracoscopic surgical procedures. The hospital has a department for artificial limb manufacture. It has a good trauma-care network.

KMCH's interventional cardiology procedure involves the use of the drug-coated cypher stent. Its Interventional Radiology Department focusses on assessing and eliminating peripheral blocks. The embolisation process to remove uterine fibroids is a highlight.

KMCH's Nephrology Department is recognised by the government to perform kidney transplants, of which it has done over 200 in the last 10 years with a success rate of 96 per cent. It has performed over 30 cadaver-based kidney transplants in the last four years with a success rate of 97 per cent.

KMCH's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation has three units physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and prosthetic and orthopaedics (artificial limb division) and caters to over 100 patients every day. It also has comprehensive rehabilitation schemes. It is the only hospital in southern Tamil Nadu to make endo-skeletal prosthesis. This modular limb gives the natural gait and is flexible unlike the conventional ones, made from resin, that are fixed and heavy. The department's occupational therapy group deals with functional retraining of organs for those coping with cerebral palsy, burns, head injury, stroke and upper limb amputation. The department specialises in pain management, including providing long-term relief for patients with spinal chord injury, arthritis, osteoporosis and perianthretis.

Other multi- and super-speciality hospitals include PSG Hospital, Ramakrishna Hospital, Ganga Hospital (for micro-surgery), the Eye Foundation, the Sankara Eye Society, and the Rao Hospital for Assisted Reproduction and Endoscopy. There are about 15 small trust hospitals.

K.G. Hospital, which has one of the largest intensive care units (ICU) in the country, was the first in Tamil Nadu (and the fourth in the country) to get ISO 9002 certification. KMCH performed the first oesophagal (gullet) and rectal cancer surgery in Asia. The G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Memorial Hospital is one of the five hospitals in the country doing test research on the Sri Chitra heart valve, besides being the first in South India to provide a video link-up to help patients in the ICU to keep in touch with people outside. Ganga is a trend-setter in the treatment of compound injuries and a pioneer in hand- and micro- surgery. Sri Ramakrishna was the first in south India to start blast cyst micro manipulation for infertility treatment. Aravind Eye Hospital trains the staff from 55 hospitals across the country in community work.

For the first time in the State, a non-invasive endoscopy imaging of the gastrointestinal tract was tried using a capsule (M2A{+T}{+M}). Tried by Dr. V.G. Mohan Prasad at K.G. Hospital, where the facility is housed, the capsule moves smoothly through the gastrointestinal tract, transmitting video images. The procedure is ambulatory, allowing patients to continue their normal activity even as the capsule takes images.

The Vikram Hospital and Research Institute for the hearing impaired has several firsts to its credit. It performed South Asia's first minimally invasive surgery and Neural Response Telemetry. It is one of the few institutions in Asia to run a residential school for hearing impaired children. Bringing the latest Cochlear implant surgery within the reach of many people who could not afford it until a few years ago, the hospital focusses on early detection and cure. It conducts camps to screen infants in the rural areas. Says its director, Dr. P.G. Visvanathan: ``Deafness owing to middle ear problems, the most common among children, is curable. Only, adequate long-term rehabilitation is needed.''

Apart from these hospitals are institutions offering specialised support, care and training for the sick and the handicapped. The United Physically Handicapped School, run by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan and his wife, Panchavarnam, is home to 110 children between the ages of five and 16 with physical, mental and social disorders. Apart from rehabilitating and making them self- reliant, the school offers State Board education (it is an unaided institution) with eight teachers trained to handle the children. The efforts of Dr. Radhakrishnan has seen six students complete Standard X. The school's primary aim is to make the children self-reliant. Unlike other trusts, which are backed by an industrial group, it relies entirely on public contributions.

An important feature of Coimbatore's hospitals is their relative affordability. Their services are cheaper than in Mumbai by 60 per cent and than Chennai by 40 per cent. This is primarily because of subsidy provided by industrial houses as most hospitals are run as charitable institutions.

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