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5 - Economic Nationalism and the Railway Debate, circa 1880-1905

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2011

Roopa Srinivasan
Affiliation:
Indian Railways Accounts Service
Manish Tiwari
Affiliation:
Indian Railways Accounts Service
Sandeep Silas
Affiliation:
Indian Railways Accounts Service
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Summary

The development of the country by the construction of railways … is the method by which we can materially improve the condition of the vast population dependent upon agriculture most surely and most steadily.

Lord Elgin

The Indian people feel that this construction is undertaken principally in the interests of English commercial and moneyed classes, and that it assists in the further exploitation of our resources.

G.K. Gokhale

The construction of railways had a revolutionary impact on the life, culture, and economy of the Indian people. Not till their establishment could the British truly penetrate Indian life, link India with the growing world market, and set it on the path of capitalist development. As a matter of fact, railways began, in course of time, to be looked upon by the alien rulers of the country as a panacea for all its economic ills, and their development was pressed on with vigour and vehemence, getting priority over everything else.

The history of the construction of the Indian railways is, no doubt, ‘an oft-told tale’ nevertheless, we take the liberty of giving here a brief resume in order to better appreciate the approach of the early Indian national leadership towards the various issues emanating from railway construction in the country.

A Brief Historical Sketch

The earliest proposal to build a railway in India seems to have been made in Madras in 1831–1832. But this railway was to depend for its haulage-power on animals. Steam railways for India were for the first time projected in 1843, this time in England.

Type
Chapter
Information
Our Indian Railway
Themes in India's Railway History
, pp. 77 - 120
Publisher: Foundation Books
Print publication year: 2006

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