‘The significance of the Kolkata port’

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    21st Jan, 2020

Context

In a recent development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi renamed the Kolkata Port Trust after Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) founder Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, at an event to mark its 150th anniversary.

About Kolkata Port:

  • Kolkata Port is the only riverine Major Port in India, situated 232 kilometers up-stream from the Sandheads, having arguably the longest navigational channel amongst Major Ports of India and its navigational channel is one of the longest in the world.
  • KoPT is India’s oldest operational port and the first among the 12 major ports (government-owned) of India. Kolkata Port System includes three ports:
    • Kolkata
    • Haldia
    • Sagar Island
  • The port facility has aided in industrialization, employment generation and major economic activity in the region while serving a vast hinterland as well as landlocked neighbouring countries such as Bhutan and Nepal.
  • The river Hooghly, on which it is located, has many sharp bends, and is considered a difficult navigational channel.
  • Throughout the year, dredging activities have to be carried out to keep the channel open.
  • The Farakka Barrage, built in 1975, reduced some of the port’s woes as Ganga waters were diverted into the Bhagirathi-Hooghly system.

Historical background:

  • In the early 16th century, the Portuguese first used the present location of the port to anchor their ships, since they found the upper reaches of the Hooghly river, beyond Kolkata, unsafe for navigation.
  • Job Charnock, an employee and administrator of the East India Company, is believed to have founded a trading post at the site in 1690. Since the area was situated on the river with jungle on three sides, it was considered safe from enemy invasion.
  • After the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833, this port was used to ship lakhs of Indians as ‘indentured labourers’ to far-flung territories throughout the Empire.
  • As Kolkata grew in size and importance, merchants in the city demanded the setting up of a port trust in 1863.
  • The colonial government formed a River Trust in 1866, but it soon failed, and administration was again taken up by the government.
  • Finally, in 1870, the Calcutta Port Act (Act V of 1870) was passed, creating the offices of Calcutta Port Commissioners.
  • In 1869 and 1870, eight jetties were built on the Strand. A wet dock was set up at Khidirpur in 1892. The Khidirpur Dock II was completed in 1902.
  • As cargo traffic at the port grew, so did the requirement of more kerosene, leading to the building of a petroleum wharf at Budge Budge in 1896.
  • In 1925, the Garden Reach jetty was added to accommodate greater cargo traffic. A new dock, named King George’s Dock, was commissioned in 1928 (it was renamed Netaji Subhash Dock in 1973).
  • During World War II, the port was bombed by Japanese forces.
  • After Independence, the Kolkata Port lost its preeminent position in cargo traffic to ports at Mumbai, Kandla, Chennai, and Visakhapatnam.
  • In 1975, the Commissioners of the port ceased to control it after the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963, came into force.

Who was Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee?

  • Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was born in Calcutta on 6th July, 1901. He was the youngest (33) ever Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University and Independent India’s first Minister of Industry and Supply.
  • After India’s independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Ministry for Industry and Supply in the interim Central Government.
  • However he resigned from the Cabinet in 1950 as he was against the ‘Nehru-Liaquat Ali Pact’.
  • After he formed Bhartiya Jana Sangh on 21st October, 1951 and became its first President

The Bhartiya Jana Sangh (BJS) or Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh was an Indian right wing political party that existed from 1951 to 1977. The BJS was ideologically close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and derived most of its political activist base and candidates from the RSS ranks. It was succeeded by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

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