Indians steamrolled British on high seas in 1800s

Discussion in 'Military History' started by happy, Oct 7, 2013.

  1. happy

    happy Senior Member Senior Member

    Mar 12, 2013
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    Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
    CHENNAI: An unexplored chapter in Indian history has come to light with Paris-based academic J B P More's latest work about the early history of steam navigation in India from 1836 to 1910 — the story of the Indians who defied the British and operated their own fleets of steamships, which often sank due to pressure from the colonial rulers.

    It's an episode rarely touched upon by historians. Dwarkanath Tagore and Jyotirindranath Tagore of today's West Bengal, Dharmanathan Prouchandy of Puducherry, Jamsetji Tata of Maharashtra, and V O Chidambaram Pillai (aka VOC) of Tamil Nadu are among the businessmen who dared to run shipping fleets to oppose the British monopoly of sea routes.

    Dwarkanath Tagore, according to More, was the first Indian to launch steam navigation in the Hooghly in Bengal. "He couldn't withstand the cut-throat competition from the British. In 1891, Prouchandy of Pondicherry launched a steam navigation line in the Mekong delta of French Indochina. Due to continuous obstruction by the French colonial authorities, he soon wound up his business. Even though industrialist Jamsetji Tata started the Tata Line to transport goods in 1894, it was closed down in a year due to pressure from British," said More, whose book 'Indian Steamship Ventures, 1836-1910' explores hidden episodes in the history of Indian steam navigation.

    Steam navigation ventures were also started in south India at the same time. In 1906, two navigation companies were launched in Tamil Nadu. "Si. Va. Company was the first Indian and Tamil company to ply steamers between Tuticorin and Colombo. They had a steamer called 'Chusan', but unable to bear the competition from the British India Steam Navigation Company, they had to wind up. The failure of Si. Va prompted VOC to mobilise funds and launch the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company in 1906. Even this company came under attack from the British and was finally closed. The British literally shattered the dreams of Indians in steam navigation," said More, who teaches at INSEEC, Paris.

    Although Dwarkanath Tagore was the pioneer of Indian steam navigation, Prouchandy, a Tamilian from Puducherry, was the first to establish steam navigation on his own in 1891.

    "Prouchandy ran his first two steamers between Cambodia and Cochinchina [a region in Vietnam] in 1891. He is the first Indian and Tamilian who founded a successful steam navigation line that transported passengers, goods and postal items in French Indochina. He is also the first Indian to attempt to run a passenger steamer line in 1895 in the South China Sea," he said.

    Though Prouchandy succumbed to the British tactics, he ran his company for almost a decade. "He was the most successful in withstanding pressure from the British. Sadly, even poet and freedom fighter Subramania Bharati, who was involved in promoting VOC's steam navigation venture, was unaware of the exploits of Prouchandy," said More.

    Indians steamrolled British on high seas in 1800s - The Times of India

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