This Day in History (28-Dec-1885) – The Indian National Congress was founded

At the close of the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, the British government established an imperial headquarters on the subcontinent at Kolkata. Over the next twenty-plus years, administrators set out to engage the natives in order to avoid the rebellions which forced the East India Company to relinquish control in the first place. By 1883, the responsibility for developing this coalition became the personal mission of a retired district officer named Allan Octavian Hume. Capitalizing on the simmering desire amongst Indians for independence, he composed an open letter for a carefully-chosen group of graduates from the University of Calcutta explaining they would have to “make a resolute struggle to secure greater freedom for yourselves and your country.”

The idea of the Congress took concrete shape during a meeting of the Theosophical Convention in Madras in December 1884. In March 1885 a notice was issued convening a meeting at Pune in December of the same year, but due to a severe plague outbreak there, the meeting was later shifted to Bombay. Granted permission by the governor, the Viceroy understood Hume’s intention — coupled with that of natives like Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee and others — to be the creation of a single point of contact for the varying concerns locals might bring to the colonial government.

On December 28, 1885, a group of 72 delegates gathered at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in Mumbai to form the Indian National Congress (INC) with W.C. Bannerjee in the chair and Hume assuming office as the General Secretary. Other important delegates included Dadabhai Naoroji, Justice Ranade, Pherozeshah Mehta, K.T. Telang and Dinshaw Wacha. Defining the objective of the Congress, the president spoke of the “promotion of personal intimacy and friendship among all the more earnest workers in our country’s cause in the parts of the empire and eradication of race, creed or provincial prejudice and fuller development of national unity”.

Subsequently, the Congress led India to Independence in 1947 after a long but remarkably peaceful struggle.


This Day in History (10-Dec-1907) – Rudyard Kipling, author of `The Jungle Book’ and `Kim’, received the Nobel prize for literature

Considered one of the great English writers, Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born 1865, in Bombay (Mumbai). For Kipling, India was a wondrous place. Along with his younger sister, Alice, he reveled in exploring the local markets with his nanny. He learned the language, and in this bustling city of multiple religions, Kipling fell in love with the country and its culture. However, at the age of six, he was sent to Southsea, England, to receive formal British education. He was severly illtreated by the foster family. He found solace in books to overcome grief.

In 1882, Kipling’s parents had him return to India, as they could not afford his college education. The sights and sounds, even the language, which he’d believed he’d forgotten, rushed back to him upon his arrival. Kipling made his home with his parents in Lahore and, with his father’s help, found a job with a local newspaper. The job offered Kipling a good excuse to discover his surroundings. Kipling’s experiences during this time formed the backbone for a series of stories he began to write and publish. They were eventually assembled into a collection of 40 short stories called Plain Tales from the Hills, which gained wide popularity in England.

In 1889 he returned to England and visited America. He published a second collection of short stories, Wee Willie Winkie and American Notes, which chronicled his early impressions of America. His poems include Mandalay & Gaunga Din. He also published his first major poetry success, Barrack-Room Ballads. He subsequently settled in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA where he built a house and named it as “The Naulahka”. His work during this time included The Jungle BookThe Naulahka: A Story of the West and East andThe Second Jungle Book, among others. His tales enchanted boys and girls all over the English-speaking world. By the age of 32, Kipling was the highest-paid writer in the world.

End of 19th century, Kipling settled in UK due to family dispute. Kipling’s books during these years included Kim, Just So, Puck of Pook’s HillActions and ReactionsDebts and CreditsThy Servant a Dog and Limits and Renewals. He is the youngest writer to win Nobel prize for literature at the age of 42.


This Day in History (4-Dec-1924) – Gateway of India was inagurated by Lord Riding

The objective behind the construction of the Gateway of India was to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay (Mumbai). In March 1911, Sir George Sydenham Clarke, who was then the Governor of Bombay, laid down the monument’s first foundation. Although, this plan was approved in 1914, the reclamations at Apollo Bunder were completed in 1919. The architectural design of Gateway of India was fashioned by architect, George Wittet. It took four years to complete this monument’s construction.

The structural design of the Gateway of India is constituted of a large arch, with a height of 26m. The monument is built in yellow basalt and indissoluble concrete. The structural plan of Gateway of India is designed in the Indo-Saracenic style. One can also find traces of Muslim architectural styles incorporated in the structure of the grandiose edifice. The central dome of the monument is about 48 feet in diameter, with a total height of 83 feet. Designed with intricate latticework, the 4 turrets are the prominent features of the entire structure of the Gateway of India. There are steps constructed behind the arch of the Gateway that leads to the Arabian Sea. The monument is structured in such a way that one can witness the large expanse of the ‘blue blanket’ right ahead, welcoming and sending off ships and visitors.

At one point of time, this monument represented the grandeur of the British Raj in India. The total construction cost of this monument was approximately 21 lakhs. The passing of the ‘First Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry’ was recorded as the first main event that took place at the Gateway of India. This ceremony was conducted on February 28, 1948, when the last set of British troops and divisions left India, post-independence.


This Day in History (25-Aug-1997) – Konkan Railway line in Goa, except for a short stretch between Pernem and Maharashtra border, becomes operational

The Konkan Railway, 741-kilometre line connects Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka States — a region of criss-crossing rivers, plunging valleys and mountains that soar into the clouds. Apart from setting a trend for other infrastructure projects in the country, the Konkan Railway provides concrete proof of the skills of Indian engineers, their discipline, team spirit and courage.  On July 19, 1990, the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) was incorporated as a public limited company and E. Sreedharan, a senior railway official, as its first Chairman and Managing Director. The company set itself a challenging target of five years to complete the work. With a total number of over 2,000 bridges and 91 tunnels to be built through this mountainous terrain containing many rivers, the project was the biggest and perhaps most difficult railway undertaking during this century, at least in this part of the world. There were challenges posed by the terrain and the elements. Flash floods, landslides and tunnel collapses affected work at many places on the project. The region was also thickly forested, and construction sites were often plagued by wild animals.

To enable quicker construction, several innovative practices were adopted. Piers for major bridges were cast on the riverbanks itself and launched using cranes mounted on pontoons. The technique of incremental launching of bridge spans was used for the first time in India.  The biggest challenge, however, came from the nine tunnels that had to be bored through soft soil. No technology existed anywhere in the world for this purpose and the work had to be carried out through a painstakingly slow manual process. Excavation was almost impossible due to the clayey soil that was saturated with water owing to a high water table in the region. Several times tunnels collapsed immediately after they had been dug, necessitating work to be redone. Nineteen lives and four years were lost while constructing the soft soil tunnels alone. In all, seventy-four people perished during the construction of the line. Trains carrying passengers started running along the full route between Mumbai and Mangalore from May 1998.



This Day in History (7-Aug-1947) – BEST services were started by Mumbai Mahanagarpalika

In 1873, the Bombay Tramway Company Limited was given the licence to operate trams in the city. The Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) was given the right to purchase the company after first twenty years or after every seven years thereafter. On 9 May 1874, the company started with horse-drawn tram of two kinds on road — those drawn by one horse and those drawn by two. In 1905, the Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company Limited (B.E.S. & T Co. Ltd.) bought the Bombay Tramway Company Limited. The first electrically operated tram-car appeared on Mumbai’s roads in 1907.  Unlike the horse-drawn tram, the electric tram drew praise from public for its comfort and low fare. To handle rush-hour traffic double-decker trams were introduced on Mumbai’s roads in September 1920.

In 1913 there was debate in the Mumbai municipality whether to introduce motor buses to supplement the tramway service in the city. The main factor against its introduction was the high accident rate for a similar service in London. On 15 July 1926, 24 single-deck buses started operating on three routes. Despite stiff opposition and protests by taxi-drivers, the service ran without a hitch, transporting six lakh (600,000) passengers by the end of that year.

One of the terms of the agreement of 7 August 1905 between the Bombay Municipal Corporation and the Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company Limited (B.E.S.&T. Company) gave the Bombay Municipality the right to buy the company at the end of forty-two years. It was also laid down that if the right was exercised on 7 August 1947, the municipality would have to pay forty lakh rupees as goodwill, in addition to the agreed price of the company’s assets. On 7 August 1947, the Municipal Corporation took over the B.E.S.&T. Company Ltd and it was municipalised to form the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking which was again renamed to Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (B.E.S.&T Undertaking) in 1995. BEST celebrates 7 August annually as “BEST Day”.


This Day in History (26-Jul-2005) – Mumbai receives 99.5cm of rain within 24 hours, bringing the city to a halt for over 2 days

On 26 July 2005, around 2:00 p.m. the Mumbai Metropolitan Region was struck with a heavy storm. The Indian Meteorological Department station in Santacruz had recorded a record 944 mm. of rain for the 24 hours ended at 08:30 a.m. on 27 July (eighth heaviest ever recorded 24-hour rainfall ).  Local train movement came to a halt by 2:30 p.m. due to the water logging on the tracks, due to which, vehicular traffic intensity on roads increased. Water logging and submergence of certain low lying pockets of the region such as Dharavi, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Chunabhatti, Chembur, Ghatkopar, Milan Subway and Sion either slowed down traffic, or brought it to a grinding halt.

The situation worsened when the cellphone networks went down around 5 p.m. Land-lines of M.T.N.L. were also only partially functional. Adding to the chaos was the lack of public information. Radio stations and many television stations did not receive any weather warnings or alerts by the civic agencies.  The Powai Lake had started overflowing at 4 p.m. and discharged 5.95 million cubic meters of water into the Mithi River. The rainfall hydrographs of 26 & 27 July later revealed that two flood waves were generated in the streams and river basins of Mumbai, one between 2:30 & 20.30 p.m.- coinciding with the high tide period and another between 8 and 10 p.m. Normally, the second wave would have harmlessly drained because of the prevalent low-tide. But that did not happen because the accumulated water from the first flood wave had yet not flushed out effectively during the ebb period because of a choked drainage system. The result was that the flood situation kept on aggravating throughout the night. There was some relief in sight only when the second ebb period commenced at 6 p.m. on 28 July.

Due to submergence of the power stations and substations, Suburban power supply was suspended from the evening of 26 July and it was restored only after the flood waters receded. As many as 5,000 people were killed in the floods across the state of Maharashtra, many of them in Mumbai



This Day in History (7-May-1907) – The First Electric Tramway service commenced in Bombay (Mumbai)

A contract for construction of Tramways was given to Stearns and Kitteredge in 1873. They were to run the lines for 21 years after which electric trams were introduced. The first trams, between Parel and Colaba were drawn by teams of six to eight horses. When the tramways started in 1874, Stearnes and Kitteredge had a stable of 900 horses.

In 1905, a newly formed concern, “The Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company Limited” bought the Bombay Tramway Company. The order for the first electric tram-car had been placed with the Brush Electrical Company of London. The vehicle arrived in Mumbai in January 1906 and the first electrically operated tram-car appeared on Mumbai’s roads in 1907. There used to be an Upper Class in the tram-cars; it was removed by September 1909. The passing years aggravated the problem of rush-hour traffic and to ease the situation, double decker trams were introduced in September, 1920.

The night of March 31, 1964 was highly sentimental for lakhs of Mumbaikars as they bid adieu to the trams which had ferried them for 90 years.