Sunday, October 31, 2010

Roorkee - An interesting read.

This was an article shared among us when we stepped into DoMS the very first week, compiled by Prof. Harsha Sinvhal.

Roorkee is a town situated in Haridwar district of Uttaranchal (Latitude: 29 degree 51' N, Longitude: 77 degree 53' East and Elevation: 274 m above sea level) with the distinction of having perhaps the maximum number of technically trained manpower anywhere in the country. It is a town with unique amalgamation of Religion, Science & Technology and valor. At the outskirts of the city is the famous pilgrim center of Kaliyar Shrif where thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay respects at the Mazar of Sabir Sahib and his uncle every year. It has the famous Indian Institute of Technology (formerly known as University of Roorkee (1949-2001), Thomason College of Civil Engineering (1854-1949) and the Roorkee College (1847-1954)). It is the headquarters of The Bengal Engineer Group and Center (BEG&C). In addition to this it also has other nationally renowned research institutions like the Central Building Research Institute, National Institute of Hydrology and the Irrigation Research Institute. The town is also known for surveying and drawing instruments manufacturing units including the famous 'Roorkee Hat', manufacture replicas of antique equipments and newly developed electronic equipments industry.

The citizens of Roorkee are proud of its history, culture and traditions of religious tolerance and harmony. It is said to have derived its name from Ruri, the wife of a Rajput Cheiftain. Roorkee was spelled as Rurki in 1887 edition of the Saharanpur Gazetteer. According to Ain-I-Akbari, Rurki or Roorkee was the capital of a pargana (mahal) in the time of Akbar, but was reduced in stature in the time or Zabita Khan with the formation of Sakrauda, the estate of Rao Qutb-ud-Din. From about the middle of 18th century, it was included in the estate of Gujars of Landhaura, and remained in their possession till Raja Ramdayal died in 1813.

The magnificient Ganga canal which runs through the city starts from Haridwar near Har-ki-Pauri and rejoins Ganga at Kanpur is largely responsible for the prosperity of this primarily agricultural area as it provides water for irrigating the fields and for making Roorkee famous. In 1830s the area had a major famine. To mitigate such disasters and reduce human suffering from draughts, Col P.T.Cautley (of the Royal Artillery), submitted the first proposal to take out a canal from Ganga near Haridwar and was later responsible for its construction. The then Lt.Governor of North Western Provinces, James Thomason, a great visionary and able administrator, fully supported Cautley's idea. It was his unflinching support which was largely responsible for the acceptance of the proposal and the canal was completed in 1854 at a cost of Rs.141 crores. This 10,500 cusecs (295 cu.m/sec) capacity 300 km long canal and its 6240 km long distribution channels irrigate nearly 9 lac hectares (23 lac acres) of fertile agricultural land in many districts of Uttar Pradesh and Haridwar district of Uttaranchal.

The construction of canal required services of trained technical manpower and a workshop for manufacturing tools and equipment that were needed for its construction. It was for this reason that Roorkee College was established in 1847 to produce civil engineers. As Roorkee was the site for Solani Aquiduct, the largest structure which was to be built on the canal a Government workshop also came up at Roorkee for manufacturing tools for construction.
After the death of James Thomason in 1853, the Roorkee College was named after him as he was primarily responsible for its establishment. From the beginning of the Roorkee College till 1930s the Royal Engineers were closely associated with its running. The Bengal Sappers and Miners were raised at Kanpur in 1803 as the Bengal Pioneers. After wandering around Kanpur, Allahabad, Delhi, Meerut and Ludhiana, the Bengal Sappers and Miners found their home in Roorkee in 1853. This shows how BEG&C and have not only been neighbors to the College but also have closely been associated with its running for a very long time.

It is worth mentioning that there were only two types of engineers when Roorkee College was established. The 'military engineers', who were serving in the armed forces and 'civil engineers' who were not in the armed forces but were practicing as engineers. At that time a civilian could get license to practice as engineer by working as an apprentice with an already practicing charted engineer and passing certain examinations for being declared qualified as a charted engineer, on lines similar to Chartered Accountants (CAs) today. Roorkee College was the pioneer college established for producing civil engineers in the British Empire.

There are several other interesting stories associated with the construction of the canal, From Mehwar to Roorkee, canal is entirely in filling. This part was, therefore, lined and distinguished by erection of lions on either side (it is said that the lions in Trafalgar Square in London are a copy of the Roorkee Lions). Furthermore, for the construction of this elevated part of the canal, the first railway lines were laid between Roorkee and Kaliyar Sharif for moving earth needed for canal construction and the first Railway engine named Thomason, which was brought in parts from England and re-assembled at Roorkee ran on indian Soil. Unfortunately, the boiler of the engine burst after some time and that was the end of "Roorkee Railways".