Page 30 - Science India August 2022
P. 30

Swatantrata ka Amrut Mahotsava
Sindh and Sahib. The length covered by the train was 34 kilometres (approx. 21 miles) and the journey lasted for about 45 minutes.
The first rail lines in India were pushed through rivers and forests. Infection and mishaps killed many workers and engi- neers, as did wild animals. The animals of the forests, particularly tigers, battled against this weird intrusion into their turf. Assaults on rail route workers and staff during the development of the lines and thereafter, were exceptionally nor- mal. In 1889, a tigress that roamed the region around the rail line burrow near the recently developed Darekasa rail route station, presently in the Gondia district of Maharashtra, was recorded to have killed around 40 rail route workers.
When trains first came to the coun-
Above and facing page, above: Early try in the mid-19th century, they were a
images of railway construction at the Bombay port
wellspring of miracles and stunningness
for the commoners. Indians alluded to it
Image Courtesy: Mumbai Port Trust
    as the Great Rakasha or Rakas (phan- tom). No one was sure what it was — a devil, a machine, a magical animal or some wizard that would capture their land. People stayed away from it, saw glimpses of it and floated stories about it. They were terrified of the strong ma- chine — what were these colossal, dark evil spirits breathing fire and smoke? At Hooghly, a businessman even flogged his horse to achieve the speed of steam trains. Somewhere else, close to the Bom- bay rail route line, there were reports that lives needed to be sacrificed to run trains and the steam run required a ca- daver for each kilometre. People in Bom- bay called the train a ‘lokhandi rakshas’ (‘iron demon’ in Marathi).
The British created Indian Railways for their own benefit and it helped them to a degree. Indian fares, particularly passen- ger charges, were without a doubt high. The fares, which ought to have been 1/6th of the English fares, were 33% to two-thirds — far higher than what- ever an average Indian could manage.
While choosing the areas for growing the rail organisation, the public inter- ests were rarely thought of. The growth of the rail network was purely to serve economic benefits of the colonial rulers and therefore, it was laid accordingly in the regions that served this purpose. The railways were not intended for the benefit of the Indians and therefore, a large chunk of the population remained untouched by its advantages.
While the freight charges were di- minished from 1853 to 1919, they were expanded dramatically after the British Government assumed control over the railway organisations.
Post-1920 is the period where the economic exploitation of India through railroads reached its pinnacle. In the pre-1920 period, there were not many endeavours made to fill the public needs through railways, for instance, the development of rail organisation, the utilisation of trains to move necessities during famines, and so on. In any case, the counter view that the starvations were large because of the after effect of major export of food grains and strain on both land and human resources, in
Gaekwar’s Baroda State Railway Class A 4-6-0 steam locomotives (William Bagnall, Stafford 1933)

   28   29   30   31   32