Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata:The man behind the success story of Tata Steel


Jamshedpur: India is fast emerging as a major steel producer and the signature of Tata Steel, and its founder and visionary Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata is solidly etched in the history of India’s industrialization. However, not many still know of a person who braved the tigers, elephants and wild animals of the Central Provinces in the late 1800s and really found the ore. That is why Tata group themselves holds him in high esteem and held a commemorative meeting on his 150 anniversary in 2005 in Jamshedpur. His statue is prominently displayed before the Tata Steel Factory in Jamshedpur.

He was Pramatha Natha Bose, the first Indian graded officer of the Geological Survey of India. The Romance of Tata Steel (Penguin, 2007) by R M Lala captures the mood of the times: “A thin line of travelers move its way through the jungles. In front, on the horseback, was a sharp-featured bearded young man, behind him on another horse sat a remarkably beautiful woman in a sari, riding side-saddle. Another pony followed with two babies on it in the charge of a competent care taker. Following at a respectable distance behind was a camel loaded with tents and chattels. Atop the camel were perched the servants of the party. Every ten or fifteen miles the travelers would stop for the man at the head to spend four or five days on a field survey, searching for iron ore, mica, coal and other minerals.”

The protagonist in the above narrative searching for the ore is Pramatha Natha Bose and the beautiful lady, his wife accompanied by their children. For six months of the year from October to March, the family was on a continuous safari during which time they would mix freely with the local tribals, the Kolis, the Bhils and Bose would invite them to speak about their manners and customs.

They enjoyed the trip immensely. At the same time as Bose was braving the jungles, a successful textile entrepreneur was reading Ritter Von Schwartz’s work ‘The Financial Aspects of Iron-making in the Chanda District’. When many thought Jamsetji would continue expanding his textile business, but he had other plans after listening to many steel experts talk in England and elsewhere. Although he did not live to see the establishment of Tata Steel in Jamshedpur, the visionary in him had directed his next generations how to run a steel company.

“Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens. Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks. Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques and Christian churches,” Jamsetji wrote to son Dorab in 1902. It was PN Bose who discovered the iron ore in the Chanda and Durg districts in central provinces. On retirement from service in 1903, he was requested by the far sighted Maharaja of Maybhanj to explore mineral deposits in the state in Northern Orissa, where he did it successfully.

Dorabji Tata had gone to Nagpur to meet Sir Benjamin Robertson, chief secretary of state to inform him that the Chanda project cannot be carried out as various iron deposits situated at some distance from each other were not continuous but mere pockets and that there was not enough ore in the Lohara Hills. The chief secretary happened to be out so Mr Tata drifted aimlessly into the museum opposite the secretariat

There he chanced upon a geographical map of the Central Provinces, printed in colour. He noticed that the Durg area was coloured very darkly, in a hue which was meant to indicate large deposits of iron ore. Later Sir Benjamin produced the records of Geological Survey, and it was found that 15 years earlier Mr P N Bose had gone through the district looking for iron. In a report of 1887 he had mentioned that the neighbourhood was rich in iron ore, but his investigation seemed to be cursory, and his report had long been forgotten.

Had Bose pushed his inquiries a little farther, he would have stumbled upon one of the richest deposits of iron ore in the world. Even though the investigating reports for the Dhalli and Rajhara Hills were highly satisfactory, Bose wrote a letter to the Tata firm and explained that he had retired from his post in the Geological Survey, and was now in the employment of the Maharaja of Mourbhanj. Bose, with the concurrence of the Maharaja, informed Tata Sons & Co that he had found very rich deposits of iron, and invited them to send representatives to inspect the ore fields. His inquiries were the prelude to the discoveries of C M Weld in Durg area. Afterwards, the iron and steel plant was indeed established at Sakchi in Mourbhanj state.

Pramatha Nath Bose (1855-1934) was educated at Krishnagar College and later at St Xavier’s in Calcutta he obtained a Gilchrist scholarship to study in London in 1874. During his study in Cambridge he became a friend of Rabindranath Tagore. May be because of this association, Tagore has written a beautiful poem on steel:

“Hard (Strong) Iron was lying unconscious in the realm of deep slumber.
O, We (I) awakened it.
It was hidden within the darkness of millions of years.
So we have awakened it.
It has been tamed and is under control
It speaks the way we want it to
To we have broken its silence.
It was static but now that it has gained motion
It is running on to conquer the world
Fearlessly now, we take hold of its reins with both hands.”

As a graded officer in Geological Survey his initial work was on the Siwalik fossils. Bose has several firsts to his credit. Bose was the first Indian graduate in science from a British University, first to discover petroleum in Assam, first to set up a soap factory in India and also the first to introduce micro sections as an aid to petrological work.

Bose was the first Indian to hold a graded position in the Geological Survey of India where he served with distinction. Bose was very much involved in the Swadeshi movement. He also authored several books on the freedom movement and history of India, including The Centenary Review of the searches of Asiatic Society of Bengal in National Scene, a History of Hindu Civilisation during British Rule (3 volumes) which is an objective assessment of British rule in India.

Tata Group held a commemorative meeting in 2005 in connection with the 150th birth anniversary of P N Bose. Dr T Mukherjee, deputy managing director of Tata Steel recalled that Bose paved the way for the Indian iron and steel industry. He had constantly taken up the cause of technical education in the country. His resolute pursuit of the issue resulted in the first All-India Industrial Conference in 1905, which was followed up in 1906 by the second conference. This also resulted in formation of the Indian Industrial Association.

His efforts also catalysed the foundation of the Bengal Technical Institute which is better known as the Jadavpur University today. Bose was the first honourary principal of this institute. A staunch supporter of industrialisation in India, Bose wrote extensively about the steady depletion of our raw materials to fuel industrial growth in the West. He specially referred to the output of mineral resources and industrial ventures of the country for ten years 1894-1903 and showed that the production of manganese ore increased 15 times, petroleum more than seven fold, mica nearly quadrupled, gold trebled coal more than doubled.

Bose estimated that not even a fiftieth part of the capital of the joint stock companies engaged in mining was contributed by the countrymen. No wonder all the material was being shipped abroad, said Dr Mukherjee. He further added that Tata Steel would always owe to this luminary for the historic letter he wrote to J N Tata on February 24, 1904, which changed the course of industrialisation in the country and wished that we had many more P N Boses in India in all fields, be it science, be it culture, politics or education.

Milestones of his life:
12th of May 1855: Pramatha Nath Bose was born on in Gaipur, a village in the district of Nadia, West Bengal. Recalling his early childhood in Gaipur, P.N. Bose has mentioned “we had five best physicians- sunshine, air, water, exercise and diet”. Clearly a person who grew up in the lap of nature, this stood him in good stead during his long and tedious survey trips.
1864: At the start of his education, Pramatha Nath came under the influence of the famous Brahmo reformer Keshab Chandra Sen from whom he conceived the idea of going to England for higher education.
1871: A booklet title Abkash Kusum, containing 6 poems were published from Calcutta.
1874 : He appeared for the competitive examination and won the coveted Gilchrist Scholarship which was tenable for 5 years.
October 1874 to May 1880: Pramatha Nath stayed in London for six years and pursued the study of Chemistry, botany, zoology, geology, physical geography and logic. He secured the 3rd position in geology while graduating from the London University.

May 13, 1880: He joined the Geological Survey of India.
June 24, 1882: P.N. Bose married Kamala Dutt
1884: P.N. Bose emphasized the need of writing scientific books in Bengali for the rapid diffusion of scientific knowledge among the masses and thus wrote Prakritik Itihas in Bengali.
1892: He wrote shishupath.
1886 Pramatha Nath in a pamphlet suggested that a ‘Society for the Development of Indian Industries’ should immediately be formed.
1891. Through his efforts an Industrial Conference was organized for the first time in Calcutta
1894 and 1896 During his tenure at the Geological Survey, Pramatha Nath also took time to write his monumental book- “A history of Hindu Civilization under British Rule”.It was published in three separate volumes.
1903: The discriminatory policies of the British Government forced Pramatha Nath to retire from the Geological Survey of India .During the period of his service;
He carried out surveys of the Narmada Valley,of Rewa State, Central India. He was the first person to report occurrenceof trachyte from the Narmada region. He reported the presence of Lameta and Bagh beds for correlating similar sequences in other parts of India. He was the first to identify distinct volcanic centres around Mandaleshwar in the Narmada Valley.

He also reported the manganese deposits in Jabbalpur district, coal in Darjeeling, copper in Sikkim and Petroleum in Assam.

He was the first person to introduce into the Geological survey of India the study of micro-sections as an aid to petrological work, and to give accounts of micro-sections in Progress Reports. He contributed one memoir and thirteen papers to the publications of the Geological Survey.

1904: After leaving the Geological Survey of India he joined the service of Mayurbhanj State and informed J.N. Tata through a letter of the large deposits of iron ore he had discovered.

1906: His efforts for technical and commercial education led to the establishment of Bengal Technical Institute. It proudly stands today as the Jadavpur University, at Calcutta. P.N. Bose was the first honorary principal of the Institute.

1934: P.N. Bose passed into the annals of our history at the age of 79.

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