December 17, 2017 3:59:46 am
Nagpur paid rich tributes to one of its architects, also one of India’s foremost industrialists and banker, Sir Kasturchand Daga (1855-1917), on the occasion of his 100th death anniversary Saturday. The function, jointly organised by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) and Daga’s descendants, was held at Kasturchand Park grounds, one of the symbols of his philanthropy as it was donated by him.
The event brought alive memories of Sir Daga, a pioneer who had conceptualised and implement the hub-and-spoke model of trade, beginning his entrepreneurial and banking journey from Nagpur. Daga’s father Rai Bahadur Abirchand Bansilal Daga had migrated to Kamptee near Nagpur from his native Bikaner in Rajasthan in 1840, having inherited a prosperous hundi (banking) business run by six generations of the family. Kasturchand took it to its highest glory and spread the banking business from Lahore, now in Pakistan, to Yangon in the then Burma, with transactions extending up to Europe.
Kasturchand was the first to tap the mineral wealth of Vidarbha through coal mines in Chandrapur and manganese mines in Nagpur and Balaghat districts. He also set up several textile mills in the then Central Provinces including the now-defunct Model Mills of Nagpur, and Daga mills at Hinganghat and Badnera. The total worth of his business empire known as Rai Bahadur Bansilal Abirchand (RBBA) Company, was worth several hundred crores in those times. It included over 22 ventures in different sectors, some of them in partnership, in regions like Vidarbha, areas ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad and other parts of the Central Provinces. Recognising his contribution to society, the then British government had knighted Daga, giving him the title of Sir.
He was a philanthropist and one of his contributions was the Daga hospital, now under the NMC, that served poor women and children from central India. Lady Amritbai Daga College, one of the oldest women’s college, named after his wife, was one of his contributions at the time when women’s education was the last of priorities. The sprawling Kasturchand Park, which can accommodate 1 lakh people, was also donated by him. The ground has witnessed major political rallies addressed by India’s political elites, has housed several industrial and other expos and hosted several sports tournaments. Daga also donated generously to construct dharmshalas all over India. One of his biggest contributions was to Bikaner where he donated Rs 3.7 lakh, facilitating the construction of the first railway line connecting the town.
Govind Daga, a leading industrialist and a direct descendant of Sir Daga, said, “In the times when there no communication facilities like we have today, Daga’s banking business facilitated depositing money at one end of the country and withdrawal from the other end, similar to what we now witness in the form of ATMs. Sir Daga not just led the foundation for central India’s development but also handsomely donated for social causes and education.”
Chief guest at the function, Union Minister for Road Transport and Shipping Nitin Gadkari, said, “Kasturchand Daga’s real vision lay in his entrepreneurial genius. No development is possible without entrepreneurship. The city of Nagpur is permanently indebted to the visionary contribution of Daga, which will inspire generations to come.” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, in his speech, said, “Many people prosper in trade and business but not all have the kind of philanthropic disposition towards the society like Daga had. It was his contribution that led to development of Nagpur as one of the country’s leading trade centres.” The CM announced an aid of Rs 5 crore for the development of KP grounds.
Also present on the occasion was the grand-niece of the British Governor of the then Central Provinces Sir Frank George Sly, who read out a speech given by her grand-uncle in 1925 when Daga’s statue was unveiled.
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