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Dr. Harchand Rai Lakhani, a Renowned Physician, and Social Worker

Featured cover image for biographical post on Dr. Harchand Rai Lakhani

Dr. Harchand Rai Lakhani (ڊاڪٽر هرچند راءِ لکاڻي – हरचंद राय लखानी) was a renowned Pakistani Physician, politician, social worker, humanitarian, and cultural activist of Tharparkar and Sindh. For his noble public service to the nation, Dr. Harchand Rai Lakhani was awarded the high Civil Award “Tamgha-i-Imtiaz” By the Government of Pakistan, on 23rd March 2007.

Full NameDr. Harchand Rai Lakhani
हरचंद राय लखानी
ڈاکٹر ھرچندراءِ لکھانی
ڊاڪٽر هرچند راءِ لکاڻي
Father’s NameShree Girdhari Lal Makar
Born on15th September 1915, in the small village of Taluka Chachro
Swargwas on4th March 2013, in Umkerkot (Aged 98)
ProfessionsPhysician, Social Worker, Humanitarian, Politician, Cultural Activist

Dr. Rai practiced as a physician for more than 75 years curing poor people with honesty and no greed till his last days. Dr. Rai had been a man of high moral standing and had lived a simple and pious life. He always used to stand up while meeting people, even when he had grown old.

Early Life

Dr. Harchand Rai Suthar was born on 15th September 1915 in the small village of Taluka Chhachro (district Tharparkar) in the house of his maternal uncle Shri Harnath. The Father of Dr. Harchand Rai was Shri Girdhari Lal who was a great school teacher of his time.

Early Education

Dr. Rai got his primary education from the government school of New Chhor a small town of district Umerkot. His father Shri Girdhari Lal wanted him to become a teacher but Doctor Jindaram a prominent doctor of that time created a dream in the mind of Harchand Rai to be a doctor. Dr. Jindaram advised Girdhari Lal to let his son continue further education and make him a doctor to serve the poor people. On the advice of Dr. Jindaram, Shri Girdhari Lal admitted his son to Sanskrit Vidyashala Umerkot to study secondary studies.

Front side black and white view of Medical College at Hyderabad in 1940s
Medical College Hyderabad during the 1940s, The current building is being used as Civil Hospital Hyderabad

In 1934, Dr. Harchand Rai passed matriculation education from Government High School Hyderabad. Then he was admitted to Medical College Hyderabad which was affiliated with the College of Physical Education Mumbai. There at Medical College, he studied day and night to make his dream come true and finally, he was awarded the Certificate of Medical on 14th July 1940.

Medical Practice

After passing the Medical examination, he started practicing Medical Officer (as an Anti-Malaria Doctor). In February 1941, he opened a private clinic in Umerkot to serve the people of his native area. At that, his younger brother Khet Lakhani cleared a medical examination and he also opened a clinic at Islamkot

Dr. Harchand Rai Lakhani had always taken Dr. Jindaram as his role model for practicing the medical profession. Dr. Rai neither asked poor patients for any fees nor he had given any bills to them during his career. During his medical practice, he cured all patients with honesty. He didn’t prescribe expensive medicines to the poor that they can’t afford. During the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Dr. Rai along with Dr. HMA Drago (a prominent physician of Mirpurkhas) and other medical teams cared for injured and ill refugees at medical camps at Mirpurkhas, khokrapar when the trains loaded with the refugees arrived from India.

In December 1948, Dr. Rai joined Talkula Government Hospital of Umerkot as a medical officer. He also performed his duties at Sanghar, Sakrand, Samaro, and Tando M. Khan at different times. Over certain conditions, he resigned from his government job in April 1959 when he was working at town Tando M. Khan Hospital. After retirement, he reopened his private clinic with the name “Thar Clinic” at Umerkot to serve people there. In the same year 1959, Dr. Rai opened a Hospital in Kunri town and served there till 1962.

Dr. Harchand Rai founded a TB center at Umerkot and donated some amount from the earnings of his private clinic. He became a member of different medical associations including the TB Association, the Family Planning Association, and others. He also became a lifetime member of Hilal Ahmer for district Umerkot. Also, he also offered his services to Rotary Club International at different times.

Contribution to Social Works

Dr. Harchand Rai used to take part actively in cultural programs, political gatherings, and fundraiser events. He took a special interest in extending the social works of Shree Nandlal Nandan (an educationalist and social worker of Tharparkar). Dr. Rai founded the Nandlal Nandan Charitable Foundation and under this platform, he gathered supporters and volunteers to help drought-affected people.

After shifting from New Chhor to Umerkot with his father, he donated land of the New Chhor house to the nearby New Chhor school, where Dr. Rai completed his primary education. He financially supported many poor people for education and inspired them to be professional citizens and serve other people.

Contribution to Traditional Culture

Dr Rai played a unique role in preserving ancient traditional culture and antiquities. In 1974, the Sindh government planned a program under the title “Sindh Sadiyan Khan سنڌ صدين کان”. DC Tharparkar and the President of the Local Board Tharparkar formed a central committee and sub-committees of talukas. In the Umerkot Committee, Dr. Harchand Rai was chosen as a member. Dr. Rai had become so excited to participate in the forthgoing culture exhibition.

Once upon a time, in the meeting of the sub-committee, Dr. Harchand Rai remained silent. And one member of the committee there told Dr. Harchand Rai, “Doctor, you are not talking, give your opinion.”. Dr. Rai replied, “You are there for the talks, leave me to show the work.” This defines how much more practical and curious was Dr. Harchand in his works than merely a thinker.

Shree Dr. Harchand Rai Lakhani sitting on chair and showing some cultural antique items and jewelry available on table in his house
Shree Dr. Harchand Rai Lakhani showing some cultural antique items and jewellery

He started gathering cultural articles including jewelry, camel Bactrian (پاکھڑا), old coins, different types of Thari embroidery (کڑھائی), Thari quilt (رلی), utensils, mod pots, etc. When the program of cultural exhibition was held in Mirpurkhas, Dr. Harchand also installed his stall which became attentive to the audience. Dr. Harchand Rai exhibited cultural things very brilliantly for what he was preparing before. Ghulam Mustafa Shah, the cultural minister of that time highly appreciated the works of Dr. Rai. In the same year, such type of cultural exhibition was also held in Karachi, where Dr. Rai installed his stall and exhibited even more cultural things there. At the cultural exhibition in Karachi, Maulana Kausar Niazi (ex-federal minister Department of Religious and Minority Affairs) visited Dr. Rai’s stall and credited his wonderful exhibition works.

Dr. Harcahnd Rai on his keen interest organized a number of different cultural events in Sindh. Due to his vast knowledge and interest in Culture, he was known as an Encyclopedia of Culture. In 1986, he established a Thari Model House at a cultural event held at the Police Lines ground of Mirpurkhas. He exhibited a range of different items in the Thari Model House which Thari people use in their daily life. During that event, Muhammad Khan Junejo (Ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan) invited ambassadors of different countries to visit and observe the Thari Model House.

Dr. Harchand Rai Akhani sitting on chair and reading a Sindhi book of author Dr. Pardhan
Dr. Harchand Rai Akhani is reading a book by author Dr. Pardhan Roopani Suthar

He was proficient in different languages including Sindhi, English, Hindi, Urdu, and Sanskrit. Dhatki language was his mother tongue language. He had written a dictionary of Dhatki language terms but unfortunately, that dictionary remained unpublished.

Dr. Rai had an interest in reading books on different subjects including literature, history, religion, biography, and others.

Entry in Politics

Dr. Rai actively participated in politics for the social cause and betterment of his people. He contested in elections of 1970 and 1985 for the seat of Provincial Assembly of Sindh. Dr. Harchand Rai contested in the elections of 1970 against Rana Chander Singh for the seat of Provincial Assembly of Sindh but unfortunately, he couldn’t win. However, he didn’t lose spirit or hope of serving his people so he held a rally along with politician Jam Saqi to thank his supporters in Chachro in 1970.

In the elections of 1993, his son Mahinder Dev contested on the ticket of Pakistan People’s Party for the seat of Provincial Assembly, and he was announced victorious on the first day of unofficial results but later he was declared as looser. So Mahinder Dev fought very hard for his case for more than two years in the Election Tribunal and he was confident of a positive decision on merit but unfortunately, at that end time all Assemblies got dissolved. Due to his honesty, dignity, respect, and trust earned from the people of Thar, no political opponent could dare to blame the personality of Dr. Harchand Rai in his lifetime.

Dr. Harchand Rai also became a member of the Town Committee of Umerkot in the years 1966, 1979, and 1983. In 1983, he became the chairman of the Town Committee of Umerkot. During his chairmanship, he completed many public development projects such as Public Parks, a Rural Bus Stand, a network of roads, and other works in the city.

Dr. Harchand Rai always tried to have good friendly relationships with social leaders, politicians, and community members during his lifetime. He had a deep friendly relationship with the Pir Pagara Shah Syed Mardan Shah Rashidi. In 1989, when the bandits had abducted Dr. Rai, Pir Pagara Shah took a special interest in the doctor’s recovery. The efforts taken by the then DC of Tharparkar Nisar Ahmad Siddiqui at the administrative level for the recovery of the doctor are also commendable.

Achievements and Awards

Dr. Harchand Rai Lakhani received a large number of awards and achievements for his noble services in many different fields. Some notable awards are listed below;

  • Pakistan Civil Award “Tamgha-e-Imtiaz”, by the Government of Pakistan – 2007
  • 1st Prize of Agriculture & Industrial Exhibition – 1985
  • Tharparkar District Fair Award – 1985
  • Quad-e-Azam Khidmat Khaliq Award – 1994
  • Nishan-e-Lateef Award by Fed. Minister Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah
  • Baan Beli Award by Gen. (Ret.) Moinuddin Haider Governor Sindh – 1998
  • International Voluntary Award – 2006, 2007 & 2008
  • Saami Award – 1994
  • PSA Gold Medal
  • Educational and Cultural Affairs Award – 1998
  • Rotatory Club SiAward
Dr. Harchand Rai receiving Award of Tamgha-e-Imtiaz from Governor Ishrat ul Ibad of Sindh in 2007, and in the right side imgae of Tamgha-e-Imtiaz is shown
Left Picture: Governor of Sindh awarding Tamgha-e-Imtiaz to Dr. Harchand Rai Lakhani. Right Pic.: Tamgha-e-Imtiaz received by Dr. Harchand Rai

The doctor wanted to take Sanyasa in the last part of his life like his father, but the people of the city stopped him from doing so and then he had taken his house as the place of Ren Basira.

चुन चुन माटी महल बनाया, मूरख कहे घर मेरा
नहीं घर मेरा नहीं घर तेरा, है जगत में भेरा

چن چن ماتی محل بنایا, مورکھ کہے گھر میرا
نہیں گھر میرا نہیں گھر تیرا, ہے جاگت میں بھرا

Laying brick upon brick
The fool says, “My house”!
Not my house, nor your house
This world’s a merry-go-round

People of Thar often used to call Dr. Rai in respect by name “Baa” which means “The Great Uncle” in the local language. A great writer of Sindh, Wali Ram Vallabh awarded him the title of “Bhishma Pitama” of modern times. Dr. Harchand Rai left this world on 4th March 2013 at the age of 98 in Umerkot.

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