Khora Ramji Chawda

Khora Ramji Chawda (1860–1923), better known as Seth Khora Ramji, was a reputed railway contractor, coal mines owner, banker and philanthropist of the early 20th century in India, who worked from Dhanbad and Jharia.

Seth Khora Ramji Chawda
BornKhora Ramji Chawda
1860
Sinugra, Cutch
Died1923
Jharia, British India
NationalityIndian
Other namesKhoda Ramji
OccupationCoal miner, banker, railway contractor
Known forcoal mining pioneer, railway bridge constructions

Life-sketch

He was born in a small village called Sinugra in Cutch and belonged to small but enterprising Mestri community.[1][2][3] He was one the reputed Railway Contractors of his times and his exploits were mentioned by British authorities. He is also credited by them to be the first Indian to break monopoly of Europeans in Jharia coalfields. He established his first Colliery name Khas Jharia Colliery in 1895 and moved on to establish five more by 1910. He was also a financing partner in many coalfields of Jharia coal belt and additionally worked as a Private Banker.[2][4][5] With his half-brother, Jetha Lira Jethwa (1862-1932) he owned Khas Jinagora Colliery, which operated under name & style of J. & K. Ramji.[2][6][7][8]

As per British records – a few lines are quoted[1][2]

Seth Khora Ramji have done works of great magnitude :- Hundred Miles of Railway in Sindh & North west India. Twenty Miles of Railway lines on S.M. Railway. Twenty two miles of railway line on East Bengal Railway, loco quarters at Hubli including several bridges of great magnitude. His elder brothers were also carrying on at the same time railway works in Sothern India and they also won name as successful contractors. All them joined hands in business and formed themselves in syndicate and completed works in MSM Railway but later unfortunately he lost all brothers but one. So he was left almost single handed. Seth Khora Ramji deserved much credit for the satisfactory completion of the above works because they involve much skill and labour and many mathematical calculations. Though uneducated he grasped clearly all the principals underlying these constructions and worked all the contracts entrusted to him to the satisfaction of railway authorities. In 1900 there was a turn in his business life. Just a that time Jharia coal fields were being exploited by Europeans and Seth Khora Ramji was first Indian to seize the opportunity. He purchased two collieries to begin with. Gradually others from Kutch and Gujarat followed suite and now Jharia has been changed into a Gujarati settlement with about 50 Kutchi out of 92 Gujarati collieries proprietors with Seth Khora Ramji as head of them all. He is now sole proprietor of two collieries and a financing member of about eight colliries. Several District official have remarked him as "Multi-millionare, one of the first class parties in Jharia."

Some of the works done by Khora Ramji Chawda of Sinugra are : 1880 : Hubli Loco Shed & other Works, 100 Miles work in North Western Railway, 20 Miles Work in Southern Maratta Railway, 177 miles in 1182–84 Hotgi to Gadag with his brothers in SMR, 22 Miles Railway in East Bengal Railway, 1888 – 128 miles in Bilaspur to Jharsuguda with fellow Mistris section including Bridge over Champa River in BNR, in 1894 Jharia Branch line of EIR, 1895 : Railway line in East Coast Railway & Bridge over Ganjam. His last Railway work was in 1903 : Bridge over Ganges river in AllahbadLucknow section. While working for this bridge, he was harassed by Engineer I.L. Gail, so he decided to stop Railway Contracts. By this time since 1895 to 1901 he had already started two collieries in Jharia. I.E. Gail later realised his mistake and offered him contracts in other section. But Khora Ramji declined the offer and diverted all his energy to Coal Mining business, in which he was assisted by his & his brother's son. He also became a Private Banker. He rose to such a height by 1920 and became Seth Khora Ramji from Khora Ramji that British had to mention his name in Encyclopaedia of Bengal, Bihar & Orissa.[3] He had studied up to fourth standard in his native village school but still managed to erect & build Railway bridges requiring deep technical knowledge and mathematical calculations.[2][9]

Khora Ramji and Brothers established collieries at Khas Jharia, Jeenagora, Jamadoba, Balihari, Fatehpur, Gareria, Bansjora & Bagadih.[2][6][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17] In Pure Jharia Colliery Khora Ramji and brothers were partners with Diwan Bahadur D.D. Thacker.[2][3] Khora Ramji was also partner in Khimji Walji & Company's Indian Jharia Colliery located at Tisra.[2][4]

The credit of being first Indian to break the monopoly of British in Jharia Coalfields goes to Seth Khora Ramji Chawda of Sinugra. In the life sketch of Khora Ramji given in Encyclopedia of Bengal, Bihar & Orissa – the British have noted this fact in year 1920 – "In Jharia Coalfield he was first Indian to seize the opportunity and by his prompt entry into colliery business, he was able to remove the stigma that would otherwise be levelled against his community as backward class."[1][2][9] Further, details are given in the book Diary of Golden Days at Jharia – A Memoir & History of Gurjar Kashtriya Samaj of Kutch in Coalfields of Jharia – written by Natwarlal Devram Jethwa -Quote:

The East Indian Railway in 1894–95 extended its line from Barakar to Dhanbad via Katras and Jharia. Messrs. Khora Ramji in 1894 was working on railway lines contract of Jharia branch line and with his brother Jetha Lira. He was also building Jharia railway station. The Jharia coalfields was discovered while digging up the earth for laying this railway line. Khora Ramji while working near Jharia Railway station immediately realized the gold he had struck and purchased the lands from Raja of Jharia.

He similarly purchased about eight coal-fields from years 1895–1909. Further, he also encouraged fellow Mistri contractors to purchase the land and even financed them to do so. He later approached Raja of Jharia for lease of mining rights and laid foundation of his colliery business.[2] The location of his three collieries named Jeenagora, Khas Jherria, Gareria is mentioned also in 1917 Gazetteers of Bengal, Assam, Bihar & Orissa.:- Unquote[10][18] As per details given in Diary of Golden Days at Jharia – A Memoir & History of Gurjar Kashtriya Samaj of Kutch in Coalfields of Jharia – written by Natwarlal Devram Jethwa – Quote: "Seth Khora Ramji headed the first association as mentioned by British authorities in Encyclopaedia Bengal, Bihar & Orissa (1920).[1][2][3]

Chabutro Sinugra
A Chabutro built by Seth Khora Ramji standing at Sinugra Village built in 1900.

Khora Ramji died in year 1923.[2][9] Several after his death two of his collieries, Khas Jharia & Golden Jharia, which worked on maximum 260-foot-deep shafts,[19] collapsed due to now infamous underground fires, in which their house & bungalow also collapsed on 8 November 1930, causing 18 feet subsidence and widespread destruction.[20][10][21][22][23][24][25][19][2] The coal mines at that time were run by his sons Karamshi Khora, Ambalal Khora and others.[2] Ambalal Khora also carried on father's legacy as a railway contractor, who died in a railway accident.[2] The Khas Jeenagora mine was later on run solely by sons of Jetha Lira Jethwa, Karsanjee Jethabhai and later Devram Jethabhai till 1938–39 after which the mine was sold.[2]

However, business of some other coal mines of Seth Khora Ramji were carried on by his brothers and successors, which were finally taken over by government when the coal mines in India were nationalised in 1971–72.[2][24]

As a philanthropist, in his native village Sinugra, he had built and donated in year 1910 a Hindu temple, wells, welcome-gate, Chabutro and a primary school, which is now named Seth Khora Ramji Prathmik Shala.[2][9] He also donated major fund along with some other Mistri colliery owners to start a Gujarati school named the Jharia Anglo-Gujarati School at Jharia in 1905.[2] He also owned farm-lands, the produce of which was given away to poor and needy.[2] In the year 1920, when he held a large public charity event and a yagna at Sinugra, he was honoured by Maharao of Cutch, Khengarji III, who sent him a Paghdi.[9][2] Further, at Mathura he along with Jetha Lira Jethwa of Sinugra had built and donated a Dharamashala now named Kutch Kadia Dharamshala in the years 1889–1900, when they were stationed there for railway contract job.[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Encyclopaedia of Bengal, Bihar & Orissa (1920) by British Gazetteer.-Section : People from the region Life-sketch of Seth Khora Ramji Chawda.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Diary of Golden Days at Jharia – A Memoir & History of Gurjar Kashtriya Samaj of Kutch in Coalfields of Jharia – written by Natwarlal Devram Jethwa of Calcutta compiled by Raja Pawan Jethwa published in 1998 in English. ( The book gives detail and names of pioneers KGK Community as well other communities in Jharia coalfields also like NH Ojha & Amritlal Ojha, Chanchani & Worah, Kesabji Pitambar, Agarwalla brothers, Karamchand Thapar, Diwan Bahadur DD Thacker, Further, a brief life-sketch of Seth Khora Ramji Chawda of Sinugra, Govamal Jeewan Chauhan of Kumbharia, Gangjee Dossa & Khimjee Dossa of Nagalpar & many others.)
  3. ^ a b c d Kutch Gurjar Kshatriya Samaj : A brief History & Glory : by Raja Pawan Jethwa. (2007) Calcutta.
  4. ^ a b Khora Ramji Legal : Partner in Khimji Walji
  5. ^ Khora Ramji Khas Jharia Colliery : Legal Case The law reports. Indian appeals: being cases in the Privy council on appeal from the East Indies, Volume 72.
  6. ^ a b Indian coal statistics. India (Republic). Dept. of Mines. 1915. pp. 14, 16.
  7. ^ Jinagora Khas J.&K. Ramji. Jethabhai Lira
  8. ^ Jinagora J.&K. Ramji
  9. ^ a b c d e Nanji Bapa ni Nondh Pothi written by Nanji Govindji Taunk and compiled by Dharsi J. Taunk (1999) (Gujarati Book)
  10. ^ a b c [1] The Jharia underground fire still raging first came to notice in November 1930 with subsidence at Seth Khora Ramji's Khas Jharia Colliery(Page 159). He was told that Seth Khora Ramji, whose mines lay underneath Jharia, had chosen to live in his house, which also collapsed in subsidance(Page 160). The politics of labour under late colonialism:workers, unions, and the state in Chota Nagpur, 1928–1939 by Dilip Simeon.
  11. ^ Khora Ramji The Indian economic and social history review, Volume 13.
  12. ^ Report , Volume 18, Commonwealth Shipping Committee. H.M. Stationery Office. 1919. p. 265.
  13. ^ Khora Ramji Statistics of British India, Part 1 printed by Superintendent Government Printing, India, 1913.
  14. ^ Khora Ramji Indian coal statistics, Manager of Publications, 1915 – Technology & Engineering
  15. ^ India at a Glance: A comprehensive reference book on India by T.V. Rama Rao, G.D.Binani. Published by Orient Longmans in 1954 ( Coal Mines Section )
  16. ^ Indigenous Enterprise in the Indian Coal Mining Industry c.1835–1939 C.P. Simmons – Published in 1976.
  17. ^ Report of the Chief Inspector of Mines in India under the Indian Mines Act. India (Dominion). Dept. of Mines. 1912. p. 29.
  18. ^ Gazetteers of Bengal, Assam, Bihar & Orissa 1917 Khora Ramji Colliries
  19. ^ a b Peripheral Labour: Studies in the History of Partial Proletarianization edited by Shahid Amin, Marcel van der Linden. 1997. p. 83.
  20. ^ Peripheral Labour: Studies in the History of Partial Proletarianization edited by Shahid Amin, Marcel van der Linden. 1997. p. 83.
  21. ^ Khora Ramji Mines capsized in 1930
  22. ^ Jharia Coalfields: Khora Ramji, Narayan Chowra, etc
  23. ^ Ambalal Khora
  24. ^ a b Coking Coal Nationalisation Act of 1972 – Naming many collieries of Jharia : Khora Ramji, Gangji Dossa, Khimjee Dossa, Debram Ramji, Diamond Coal, Dhanji Devji, Chowra Construction owner of North Kujama, etc
  25. ^ [2] Economic geography of India, 1970 pp 291

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