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Cossipore Gun and Shell Factory – the oldest surviving factory in the Indian subcontinent

Author – Jayanta Baksi

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Cossipore Gun and Shell Factory – The oldest surviving factory in the Indian subcontinent

                                            Pointed up by: Jayanta Baksi

কাশিপুর গান এ্যন্ড শেল ফ্যাক্টরী

জয়ন্ত বক্সী

03rd October, 2011

The Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory generate immense socio-economic impact surrounded by it own factory, i.e. Cossipore, in which Baranagar was one of the most crucial neighborhood affected by the factory’s ups & downs.

In the year of 1717, The British East India Company procured 38 villages and added these countryside areas to their property in Calcutta. Later they reconstituted them as 55 villages or Mouzas (Panchannogram). Cossipore was one of those villages. H. E. A. Cotton writes – “The Cossipore Reach was one of the finest on the river, and is lined by a number of villa residences.” From those days Cossipore had a number of industrial units. The Government Gun Foundry, the Snider and Rifle Shell factories (originally constructed by Colonel Hutchinson), Sugar mills and Jute screw houses. [2]

Cossipore (Bengali) (also spelt Cossipur, Kashipur) is a region of north Kolkata, previously famous as Calcutta, in the Indian state of West Bengal. One of the old localities of the metropolis, it has a police station [1] and is an assembly constituency. Entally, Manicktala, Beliaghata, Ultadanga, Chitpur, Cossipore, parts of Beniapukur, Ballygunge, Watganj and Ekbalpur, and parts of Garden Reach and Tollygunj were added to Kolkata Municipal Corporation in 1888. [3]

Ward No. 1 of Kolkata Municipal Corporation covering Cossipore has Baranagore on the north, Sinthee on the east, Paikpara on the south-east, Chitpur on the south and the Hooghly River on the west. Cossipore has three ghats on the Hooghly – Pramanick Ghat [Whether Pramanick Ghat is situated within the jurisdiction of Baranagar or under KMC is a controversial issue, though I will discuss it in later phase], Ramakrishna Mahasashan and Ratan Babu Ghat. [4].

Cossipore police station area spread over ward nos. 1 (Cossipore) and 2 (Sinthee) of Kolkata Municipal Corporation had a total population of 96,043 in the 2001 census, of which 51,401 were males and 44,642 were females. The area recorded a negative decadal growth. Part of ward no. 6 (Chitpur) is under Cossipore police station. [5]

Gun and Shell Factory was set up in the year of 1802 A.D. The more than two centuries old Gun and Shell Factory at Cossipore is the oldest surviving factory in the Indian subcontinent, then known as “GUN CARRIAGE AGENCY, COSSIPORE”.

Land was purchased in 1801 from one Mr.Thorn Hill measuring about 200 Bighas, on the bank of river Ganges. Constructed in the form of tile shed at the centre and surrounded by some thatched sheds was completed in 1802 and production of Wooden Gun Carriage, started on 18th March, 1802. This day is the auspicious day for the entire Organization and celebrated as Ordnance Factory Day every year [20].

Presently, it is functioning under the direct control of the Ordnance Factory Board, Ministry of Defense, Government of India. Along with technological evolution, the plant / factory have successfully altered its product mix to suit the requirements in accordance with the changing times. The plant has recently undergone large scale modernization. Its product-mix ranges from different varieties of shells and fuses to big barrel guns & small barrel pistols to civil trade items. [6][7]

Hence, in the year of 1802, it started off as “Gun Carriage Agency, Cossipore”, however after shifting of the agency first to Allahabad in 1814, and then to Fatehgarh in 1816, its importance & significance was reduced. Finally in 1829, all the machineries, tools & tackles were shifted to Fatehgarh. Nevertheless, it had the strength of springing back to life again and again. The vacant space was utilized for the much-needed expansion and renovation of the Gun Factory of Fort William. Apart from casting of brass guns, it also took up manufacture of iron shot and shells [6] [7].

The name was changed to “GUN FOUNDRY, COSSIPORE” in 1830. Manufacture was switched over to Brass and Iron Guns. The tile shed at the centre was replaced by a newly constructed building, and then known as ‘Turning and Boring Room’.

  • The chief attraction of the novel construction was a “specious hall of 169-1/4 feet long by 50 feet clear span in breadth and 40 feet in height from the floor to the vertex of the roof;…..the superficial area of the hall is 8462 square feet; to from and idea of this magnitude, it may be mentioned that the noble edifice of the new Town Hall in Birmingham is said to contain a larger space than any room in Europe, and will accommodate between three and four thousand persons sitting or ten thousand standing; that room is 140 feet long by 65 feet broad, making a superficial area of 9,100 feet which is only 638 feet more that the Kasipur apartment”. This structure exist even to-day and is known as GUN “B” Section [20].

Around 1855, breech-loading steel rifled guns had got its way to the British arsenal, but the Cossipore plant was not properly equipped to undertake manufacturing of such guns. The mini-bullet factory was transferred to Dumdum [At that time Cossipore area was under the direct administrative control of Baranagar Police Station, which was situated at Kuthi Ghat (western side of Baranagar, beside Ganga & apparently opposite of Belur Math), in the later phase it was shifted on B.T.Road, closer to Tobin Road & B.T.Road (eastern side of Baranagar) Crossing].

It had little work and there were proposals for its closure but it survived. The rifled guns, imported from England, required new elongated shells. It was decided that Cossipore would be utilized for manufacturing of the new shells. It underwent some expansion and the name ‘Gun Foundry’ was changed to ‘Foundry and Shell Factory’ in 1872. Along with the manufacturing of new elongated shell, there was requirement of undertaking manufacturing of modern fuses and cartridges to match the newly introduced breech-loading guns. As a result, supplementary growth, development & expansion took place in 1887 and 1890 [6] [7].

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 1

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 1

In 1872, Army required elongated Shells and necessity had arisen to expand. More land was purchased and a new workshop was constructed for Shell manufacture. The factory was thereafter known as “FOUNDRY AND SHELL FACTORY COSSIPORE” [20].

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 2

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 2

In 1890, a shop was erected for the manufacture and repair of fittings of imported breech-loading guns. In 1892, steel was for the first time casted in India [In modern era] at Cossipore by a Siemens’s Martin Open Hearth Plant. In 1896, a rolling mill was erected at this time.

However, the metallurgical units were shifted to Ishapore [District of 24Pgs-North] in 1903 as no additional space for expansion was available at Cossipore.

Olden News

The plant undertook the manufacture of quick-firing guns in 1905. With the return of the manufacturing of guns, the name of Cossipore unit got the recent name of “Gun and Shell Factory, Cossipore” in 1905 [6] [7].

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 3

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 3

Metallurgical Units were shifted to Ishapore in 1905. The unit was called “GUN & SHELL FACTORY, ISHAPORE”. In 1925 this unit became Independent and was named “METAL & SHELL FACTORY, ISHAPORE”. GSF Cossipore undertook manufacture of Gun, Shell, Fuzes and Primers in a big way.

Electric Power was introduced in 1910 and the factory was further modernized in the period of 1916 to 1920, as per Black’s Scheme. In 1958, Tractor Project started. This was first ever attempting to manufacture Tractor in Public Sector in India. The Tractor manufacture was subsequent transferred to B.E.M.L. Early sixties witnessed more expansion with the addition with the addition of Works –II and present GUN “D” building, for manufacture of L-70 Ordnance [20].

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 4

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 4

During all these periods, structures and buildings sporadically came up to meet the necessity of production. In its Third Century of existence, the factory prepared itself to meet the challenges of contest. State-of-the-art technologies were established. CNC machines were installed, man power was optimized. The factory gave itself the flexibility to establish newer products for not only Armed forces but also for civil marketplace.

The factory has embarked upon on an on-going process of not only modernizing it’s plant and machinery but also demolishing old structures giving more breathing space (!) in the factory and greenery to suit.

Gun & Shell Factory in its two centuries of existence had thrice gone to the brink of closure and came out successfully each time. With its strength gained through adversities, the factory will go on forever serving the nation with glory.

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 5

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 5

Ordnance Factory Board is the nerve Centre, planning and controlling the activities of 40 Ordnance Factories and projects spread all over the country, engaged in production and supply of Weapons, Ammunition and Equipments, required by Army, Navy, Airforce and also Para Military Forces, besides Civil Market and Export.

This picturesque structure is situated on the bank of Ganges, opposite to Netaji Indoor Stadium, Kolkata. Ordnance Factory Head Quarters started its journey from 6, Sidhu Kanhu Dahar, another gorgeous building and some Departments of Ordnance Factory Board function from that building even to day [20].

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 6

Cossipore Gun & Shell Factory 6

  • Cossipore assembly constituency is part of Calcutta North West (Lok Sabha constituency) [16]. As per orders of Delimitation Commission, Belgachia east, Belgachia west and Cossipore assembly constituencies were abolished and a new constituency formed – Kashipur Belgachia. It covers ward nos. 1-6 of Kolkata Municipal Corporation. [17].

Tarak Bandopadhyay representing AITC defeated Salil Chatterjee of CPI (M) in the 2006 state assembly elections, and Bijoy Bhattacharjee of CPI(M) in the 2001 elections.

In 1996, Tarak Bandopadhyay representing INC defeated Anup Das of CPI (M). Dipak Chanda of CPI (M) defeated Prafulla Kanti Ghosh of INC in 1991 and 1987.

In 1982, Prafulla Kanti Ghosh of INC defeated Buddhadeb Bhattacharya [Ex Chief Minister of West Bengal, till 13th May, 2011] of CPI (M).

In 1977, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya of CPI (M) defeated Prafulla Kanti Ghosh of INC. [8]. The Cossipore seat was won by Prafulla Kanti Ghosh of INC in 1972[9] and 1971,[10] Vishnu Gopal Basu of CPI(M) in 1969, [11] S.K.Paul of INC in 1967, [12] Sunil Kumar Dasgupta of INC in 1962,[13] Deben Sen of PSP in 1957, [14] and Biswanath Roy of INC in independent India’s first general election in 1951. [15]

The branch of the Ramakrishna Math at Cossipore is popular as “Cossipore Udyanbati”. This garden house was sacred by Ramakrishna Paramhansha’s stay with his disciples during the last few months of his life, as also by his “Mahasamadhi”. It was made a branch of Ramakrishna Math in 1946. [18]. “Kalpataru Utsab” is also organized every year in the month of January. [19]

Statutory Warning: Jayanta Baksi, Author will not be responsible for any special, indirect, incidental or consequential damages that may arise from the use of or the inability to use, the aforementioned data/s and / or the materials contained herein irrespective of whether the materials / articles contained here are provided by Jayanta Baksi.

Author / Compilor disclaim any and all responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, completeness, legality, reliability, or operability or availability of information or User Content mentioned here. Author / Compilor is not responsible for the conduct, whether online or offline, printed, verbal or non-verbal or of any user of this compilation.

Author / Compilor expressly disclaims any and all responsibility and liability for the conduct of any other Member (if any) and expressly disclaims that the Content prepared as ‘Compilation from Memory’ of this assemblage input by any other Members (if any) is correct or accurate. YOU AGREE THAT YOUR USE OF THIS CONTENT IS ENTIRELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

  • Commercial use of any of the contents of this compilation in any manner is prohibited without prior written permission from an authorised person.

Further Detail: Contact Jayanta Baksi (jayanta.baksi@rediffmail.com)

References

1. “Cossipore Police Station”. Kolkata Police.

http://www.kolkatapolice.org/section.asp?PSID=18&Typ=PS. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

2. Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, p. 221, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

3. Bagchi, Amiya Kumar, Wealth and Work in Calcutta, 1860-1921, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol. I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, p. 213, Oxford University Press.

4. Detail Maps of 141 Wards of Kolkata, D.R.Publication and Sales Concern, 66 College Street, Kolkata – 700073

5. “Provisional Population Totals, Table 4”. Population, Decadal Growth Rate, Density and General Sex Ratio by Residence and Sex, West Bengal/ District/ Sub District, 1991 and 2001. Census Commission of India. Retrieved 2007-10-10.

6. a b c d “Cossipore Gun and Shell Factory”. Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

7. a b c d “Two Centuries of Guns and Shells”. Sainik Samachar.

http://mod.nic.in/Samachar/april15-02/html/ch1.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

8. “140 – Cossipur Assembly Constituency”. Party wise comparison since 1977. Election Commission of India.; http://www.eci.gov.in/electionanalysis/AE/S25/partycomp140.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

9. “Key Highlights of the General Elections, 1972, to the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal”. Election Commission of India.

http://www.eci.gov.in/SR_KeyHighLights/SE_1972/StatReport_WB_72.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

10. “Key Highlights of the General Elections, 1971, to the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal”. Election Commission of India.

http://www.eci.gov.in/SR_KeyHighLights/SE_1971/StatReport_WB_71.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

11. “Key Highlights of the General Elections, 1969, to the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal”. Election Commission of India.

http://eci.gov.in/SR_KeyHighLights/SE_1969/StatReport_WB_69.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

12. “Key Highlights of the General Elections, 1967, to the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal”. Election Commission of India.

http://www.eci.gov.in/SR_KeyHighLights/SE_1967/Statistical_report_WB1967.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

13. “Key Highlights of the General Elections, 1962, to the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal”. Election Commission of India.

http://www.eci.gov.in/SR_KeyHighLights/SE_1962/StatRep_WB_1962.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

14. “Key Highlights of the General Elections, 1957, to the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal”. Election Commission of India.

http://www.eci.gov.in/SR_KeyHighLights/SE_1957/StatRep_WB_1957.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

15. “Key Highlights of the General Elections, 1951, to the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal”. Election Commission of India.

http://www.eci.gov.in/StatisticalReports/SE_1951/STATISTICALREPORTS_51_WestBengal.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

16. “General election to the Legislative Assembly, 2001 – List of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies”. West Bengal. Election Commission of India.

http://archive.eci.gov.in/se2001/background/S25/WB_ACPC.pdf. Retrieved 2007-10-08.

17. “Delimitation Commission Order No. 18”. Table A – Assembly Constituencies and their extent. Government of West Bengal. http://ceowestbengal.nic.in/news_pdf/gazette123.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-27.

18. “Ramakrishna Math and Mission”. Belurmath.org.

http://www.belurmath.org/centres/csp.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

19. “Kalpataru Utsab at Udyanbati, Cossipore”. The Telegraph, 2 January 2007.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070102/asp/calcutta/story_7208021.asp.Retrieved.2008-01-16.

20. “Gun & Shell Factory Cossipore”; Bicentenary Calendar 1802 – 2002.

Drop a line to: jayanta.baksi@rediffmail.com


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