MH 370: The saga STILL continues

I have written on this topic before. Here is a summary of what was known in December 2014:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/mh-370-the-saga-continues

and a later comment on the Indian angle:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/mh-370-the-indian-angle/

As mentioned earlier, one forum which attracts a fair number of well-informed comments is:

http://jeffwise.net/

Sometimes a single article attracts over 1200 comments, which are worth reading if you want to know about this deepest of mysteries.

Basically the old idea that the crash’s location was determined by the BFO transmissions is being given less credence now-so if the plane did not go to the southern Indian Ocean, where else could it have gone? This aspect is studied by Victor Iannello here:

http://jeffwise.net/2015/04/29/guest-post-northern-routes-for-mh370-ending-at-airports/#more-3915

Anyone a bit familiar with Indian aviation would see something wrong in his scenario. Look at the map and then see my comment (among the first few).

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A 1962 article on Indian Airlines

The now-defunct magazine Flight  now has most of its old issues (from 1909 to 2005) archived as pdf in this website:

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/index.html

You can find some interesting articles pertaining to Indian aviation here. The only irritant is that each page is stored as a separate pdf file.

For instance, here is a 6-page illustrated article from early 1962 on the Indian Airlines Corporation as it was then. It is particularly interesting to see a map showing all the routes being flown then and the average number of passengers daily. Even the famous Agartala/Khowai/Kamalpur/Kailashahr flight is there on the map and gets due mention.

This should be of interest to anyone interested in the history of civil aviation in India.

Please read the following pages in order:

1962 – 0202      1962 – 0203      1962 – 0204

1962 – 0241      1962 – 0242       1962 – 0243

Oddities in Indian history-Chandernagore/Chandan Nagar

The history of the French territories in India gets little or no mention in school history nowadays. Most of us vaguely know about the Union Territory of Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahe whose constituents have tenuously clung on to their “privileged” status despite several determined attempts to incorporate them into the adjoining states.

We will return to the Union Territories and their oddities later. For a quick overview see this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_India

Chandernagore (now Chandan Nagar) was an integral part of French India along with the southern territories mentioned above.It was a tiny pocket of 19 sq km surrounded by British India, though it did abut the Hooghly. The main railway line from Howrah to Barddhaman (Burdwan) did have a station named Chandernagore though it seems to have been just outside French territory. It still survives as Chandan Nagar and is served by many EMU locals and a handful of long-distance trains.

You may hear that the railway line runs outside the former territory because the British railway engineers did not want their line to pass through foreign territory. My friend Souroshankha Maji, who has studied the history of this area in detail, feels that this “diversion” was more because of the desire to create a straighter and more convenient alignment rather than to avoid the territory.

However, there were some other cases where alignments avoided certain territories because of some problems associated with their governments. A good example is Rampur in what is now Uttar Pradesh, where the rulers initially did not permit the main Lucknow-Amritsar line to pass through their territory. So the trains ran through another route via Chandausi which was built in the early 1870s. By the 1890s the rulers of Rampur relented and the line now runs through the town. It is even a junction now.

Once the British left in 1947, the new Government of India started making polite noises to the governments of France and Portugal stating that it would be a good idea to give independence to their colonies in India. Portugal, in line with its semi-fascist government’s policy,  told India to get lost and continued to do so until they lost some of their colonies in 1954 and all of them by 1961.

The French were more willing to listen.They probably felt that the Bengalis of Chandernagore were more likely to create trouble than their compatriots in Southern India so Chandernagore was the first to be given independence in 1948. This followed a referendum in which 97% of the population voted for independence.

The handover was in May 1950. Here is a contemporary report (from the Hindu’s “50 years ago” feature in 2000):

http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/2000/05/03/stories/10031045.htm

In due course Chandan Nagar became a subdivision of Hooghly district and thus an integral part of West Bengal. It does have many traces of its French heritage and there is some attempt by West Bengal’s government  to market it as a tourist spot. It is, after all, within easy reach of Kolkata by road and rail.

The population can be said to be a bit unlucky, since the more obscure places like Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu continue to enjoy their UT status. Among other things, this allowed a complete backwater like Silvassa (DNH) to become an industrial hub of sorts. Daman and Diu (particularly the latter) are relatively unspoiled and probably derive much of their revenue from alcohol-starved Gujaratis on weekends. Some tourist guides specifically warn unwary visitors against this.

For more details see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandannagar

Subsequent blogposts on this topic will cover Oman’s outpost in India, and answer the question why DNH is an Union Territory in the first place, and will reveal the hidden enclave of Diu in Gujarat which most atlases and even Google Maps do not know about.

The tortured past of metros in Kolkata

We begin with what appears to be the best map of the existing Kolkata Metro which one can find from regular websites:

http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/westbengal/kolkata-metro-map.html

Even this has some errors in station names, but at least it shows all the stations existing today and their connections with the regular railway system.

This is the corrected list of stations along with distances:

Kolkata Metro

The rate of progress was painfully slow even by the standards of infrastructure projects in India. This will be apparent from this table:

Extension date Terminals Length
24 October 1984 Esplanade Bhowanipore 3.40 kilometers (2.11 mi)
12 November 1984 Dum Dum Belgachhia 2.15 kilometers (1.34 mi)
29 April 1986 Bhowanipur (now Netaji Bhaban) Tollygunge (now Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) 4.24 kilometers (2.63 mi)
13 August 1994 Belgachhia Shyambazar 1.63 kilometers (1.01 mi)
2 October 1994 Esplanade Chandni Chowk 0.71 kilometers (0.44 mi)
19 February 1995 Shyambazar Girish Park 1.92 kilometers (1.19 mi)
19 February 1995 Chandni Chowk Central 0.60 kilometers (0.37 mi)
27 September 1995 Central Girish Park 1.80 kilometers (1.12 mi)
22 August 2009 Tollygunge (Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) Garia Bazar (now Kavi Nazrul) 5.85 kilometers (3.64 mi)
7 October 2010 Garia Bazar (now Kavi Nazrul) New Garia (now Kavi Subhash) 3.00 kilometers (1.86 mi)
10 July 2013 Dum Dum Noapara 2.09 kilometers (1.30 mi)
Total Noapara New Garia (now Kavi Subhash) 27.39 kilometers (17.02 mi)

Construction started in earnest in 1978 and the short section from Esplanade to Bhowanipore / Netaji Bhawan was opened in 1984. It was another 11 years before the familiar Dum Dum- Tollygunge route was fully opened. Extensions started again in the 2000s and the line extended downwards to Kavi Subhash (New Garia) and upwards to Noapara by 2013.

The line has the usual IR broad gauge and the 750 V third rail system which the suicidal may find convenient, while the Delhi Metro has overhead 25 KV lines (which become overhead third rails in tunnels). One famous victim was former tennis champion Premjit Lal who jumped before a train in 1992 and ended up a cripple who survived another 15 years or so.

Once the route was fully open in 1995, it did make a significant difference to the traffic jams and vehicular pollution on the main north-south axis in Central Kolkata, while not making a difference to the rest of the city. Much later air-conditioned rakes added to passenger comfort.

The Kolkata Metro was recently formally declared the 17th zone of the Indian Railways, while the Konkan Railway remains a corporation which is nominally not under IR but is part of it for operational purposes.

The story of Line 1 is not over yet. Construction of the northward extension to Baranagar and Dakhineswar is in full swing. As for Lines 2 to 6….well, that is another story.

A popular grouse is the mass renaming of stations in the Trinamool era. There had some renamings earlier such as Bhowanipore to Netaji Bhawan. The southward extension from Tollygunge (sorry, Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) had stations with logical names such as Kudghat, Bansdroni etc. which corresponded to the actual names of the localities. Now see what happened in Kolkata Metro . The station now known as Shahid Khudiram was initially planned as Pranab Nagar and became Birji before getting its present name. All the stations south of Tollygunge now have names which have no obvious connection with the names of the localities. That is why announcements and display boards have to clearly specify “Netaji station serving Kudghat”. Locals and visitors alike will get confused with two stations named after Netaji and two more after Rabindranath Tagore.

The terminus of Kavi Subhash is adjacent to the New Garia station on the regular railway. There is a similar arrangement at Dum Dum (which has thankfully not been renamed). A sort of connection exists between Rabindra Sarovar metro station and the obscure station of Tollygunge on the railway, which is a few hundred metres away, though that station is itself not as well connected as the other two.

So much for Line 1. There are now big plans for lines 2 to 6, which deserve a post by themselves.

The other Goswamis

Today when one hears the name Goswami one immediately thinks of Arnab. He, like our Prime Minister, probably has fan clubs as well as hate clubs. But there is more to the Goswami clan than Arnab. Not all of them are from Assam and Bengal. Anyway, we can start with extracts from a rather badly-written and over-long Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goswami

You probably do not need to go through all of it, but this would serve as an starting point:

Goswami is an Indian Hindu, Brahmin title and surname, which also takes the form Gosai and Gussai.In Sanskrit “go” is a word with many meanings, including Earth and Cow and Swami means Lord. “Go” signifies either five senses, a ray of light, or cow. Goswami means, Master of the five senses (Panchendriya), a ray of light or master of cow. The surname Goswami  primarily occurs in  West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Punjab states.

(end of edited part of Wikipedia article)

The Goswamis are well known as priests in several temples in Northern India (though the Namboodris from Kerala monopolize some of the bigger shrines).

Apart from TV journalism, many Goswamis have achieved prominence in different fields-even as sportsmen and sportswomen. A few of the better known persons with this surname are listed below, along with links.

  • Goswami Tulsidas, Hindu poet-saint
  • Arnab Goswami, television journalist from Assam
  • Bindiya Goswami, actress who became famous because of a supposed resemblance to Hema Malini
  • Chuni Goswami, footballer from Calcutta. Played in India’s 4th-placed team in the 1956 Olympics, besides a long stretch in Ranji Trophy cricket.
  • Jhulan Goswami, ICC Women’s Player of the Year 2007. Has captained India and was at one time considered to be the world’s fastest female bowler.
  • Manoj Kumar (born Harikrishna Giri Goswami), Bollywood actor who is sadly remembered more in recent years for being spoofed in a SRK film.
  • Rajiv Goswami, student leader famous for his self-immolation attempt in the anti-Mandal agitation in 1990.
  • Anil Goswami, Union Home Secretary of India whose career came to an abrupt end earlier this year.
  • Madhumita Goswami, badminton player.

The sporting Goswamis were all born in Bengal, while the actor Manoj Kumar was born in the then little-known town of Abbottabad in the former NWFP.

Travels through the unseen railways of Kolkata

The Kolkata circular railway is one of the least known suburban rail systems of the country. It has little coverage in timetables and elsewhere. It was hastily patched together from existing suburban lines, disused dock lines and freight lines besides a new link to the airport which is little used. To begin with, here is a 2010 map which may give the general orientation:

Kolkata Rail (ER Suburban)

If you were to start your journey at Ballygunge and proceeded west (anticlockwise), this is what it would look like. Note the comments along each station (including a few PJs and historical notes):

Save1

No Sealdah? There is a reason.

Capture3

For variety, you can divert from the “circle” at Dum Dum and travel on the still more obscure line to the airport:

airport line

Here are some pictures along the route, taken on 8 Apr 2015:

20150408_113320

The starting point of Ballygunge. Note the crow perched on the loudspeaker.

20150408_122115

While changing trains at Majerhat.

20150408_131114

Along the Hooghly.

20150408_124955

Further along the Hooghly. Below there are various stations along the way:

20150408_123957 20150408_124310 20150408_125039 20150408_125407 20150408_125745 20150408_131618

Tala is where many of the rakes for trains from Kolkata Terminus are stabled.

20150408_131920

(This is at Kolkata terminus, where the trip to Bangladesh begins.)

20150408_134958 20150408_135524

A few short videos along the way can be seen here: Apart from the trip along the Hooghly we also cover the large rust belt towards the airport.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpnX2Gw1sU-H9aMWhNlnP1rv3wVvKcBCW

Several longer clips of this route by others can be found on Youtube.

Jessore Road has its place in history with this piece of poetry by American poet Allen Ginsberg written during the tragic events of 1971, though I suppose he was referring to a place in Bangladesh rather than this suburb of Kolkata:

http://www.everyday-beat.org/ginsberg/poems/jessore.txt

Hope that has inspired you to travel along the little known byways of your city.