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Postal services

From the archives of The Times of India

Prayag, a pioneer in postal services

Mrigank Tiwari

Allahabad is credited with many firsts in the world of postal services. The first air mail, railway mail and other postal services all started from Allahabad. Sharing the details with The Times of India, director Postal Services, Allahabad region Krishna Kumar Yadav said being strategically important, British emphasised development of postal services in Allahabad. World's first air mail was started in Allahabad on 18 February, 1911 in Allahabad. The plane carrying about 6,500 letters took-off from the Polo Ground of Allahabad and after a flight of 13 minutes landed on a ground near Naini Railway Station. These postal articles were then dispatched further using other modes of transport. Yadav said as per records, Colonel Windham contacted postal officer sent some articles through Air Mail for the first time, and the then chief of posts gladly accorded his permission for it.

On the mail bag carrying first Air Mail, 'First Aerial Mail' and 'Uttar Pradesh Exhibition, Allahabad' was written. There was a restriction on weight of letters and only 6,500 carefully sorted letters were allowed for transport. The flight which lasted for only 13 minutes created a history. Letters carried through the first Air Mail were addressed to people across the world, out of which one letter was sent to Jawaharlal Nehru by his father Motilal Nehru. Many British officers wrote letters to King George V. A special postage stamp was also created for that day.

Yadav claimed that Railway Mail Service (RMS) is also said to be started in Allahabad. After the beginning of Railways in 1853, a Railway Sorting Section was started between Allahabad Kanpur route, for the first time in India on May 1, 1864, which eventually emerged as Railway Mail Service.

Yadav, who has also authored a research-based book on India Post named "India Post: 150 Glorious Years" said right after the release of World's first postage stamp in Britain on May 6, 1840, next year in 1841 a horse-cart mail service was started between Allahabad and Kanpur. A rich merchant of Allahabad Lala Thanthimal, whose business was spread up to Kanpur, is credited with launch of this horse-cart mail service, Britishers also used to trust him. After construction of Grand Trunk Road, mail was carried by this road through palanquin and horse cart, in which a horse used to travel 7 kilometers. Freight was to be paid immediately at the rate of one paisa per half tola. From Allahabad to Bithoor, 'daak' was transported through Ganga river. 'Daak Harakkaras' used to travel through forests, so as a measure of their security, they used to carry a bell with a spear for protection. In 1850, Lala Thanthimal founded Inland Transit Company in association with some British nationals, and after Allahabad, he started horse-cart service between Kanpur and Kolkata. In coming years, the service was extended to cities like Meerut, Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Banaras etc. Being situated at the center of all these cities, role of Allahabad was very important. As such, Lala Thanthimal is credited with starting the first company of postal system in India. In 1854, with integration of postal services as a department, Inland Transit Company too merged with it.


November 12, 2018: The Times of India

Different reasons to change name

In Uttar Pradesh, Allahabad is to become Prayagraj while Faizabad district will be Ayodhya district. Haryana decided Gurgaon should be Gurugram. While renaming for political purposes was not uncommon even in the past, this scale of ‘religious’ renaming is been unprecedented. For instance, Ismail Khurd village in Rajasthan is now Pichanwa Khurd while the new name for Miyon ka Bara is Mahesh Nagar.

My name is better than yours

Uttar Pradesh is not unacquainted to name changes with change in political regimes. In 2012, the Samajwadi Party government under Akhilesh Yadav renamed eight districts earlier named by Mayawati. Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Nagar became Amethi, while Ramabai Nagar was rechristened as Kanpur Dehat. Similarly Bheem Nagar, Prabuddha Nagar and Panchseel Nagar were renamed as Sambhal, Shamli and Hapur respectively. Kanshiram Nagar was renamed as Kasganj while Jyotiba Phule Nagar became Amroha. The most interesting is the case of Hathras

The curious case of Hathras

How can you tell who is in power in UP? Look at what a certain district in Western UP is officially called. If it’s Hathras, it must be the SP or BJP in power, if it’s Mahamaya Nagar, behenji is in the saddle. In 1997, Mayawati’s government created a new district by carving out areas around Hathras town from Aligarh and Mathura districts. She named it Mahamaya Nagar after Gautam Buddha's mother. Kalyan Singh’s government changed it to Hathras only for it to become Mahamaya Nagar again in 2002 when Mayawati returned to power. Mulayam Singh in 2006 said sorry, it’s back to being Hathras. A year later, Mayawati stormed to power and we saw the return of Mahamaya Nagar. Five years later, Akhilesh Yadav returned the favour and it’s back to Hathras. Watch out for what happens if an SP-BSP alliance wins.

Getting the pronunciation right

In 2014, the central government approved the renaming of 12 cities in Karnataka. Many of these were in effect respelling of existing names to match the pronunciations based on local scripts. Bangalore became Bengaluru; Mangalore-Mangaluru; Mysore-Mysuru; Bellary-Ballari; Bijapur-Vijayapura; Belgaum- Belagavi; Chikmagalur-Chikkamagaluru; Gulbarga-Kalaburagi; Hospet-Hosapete; Shimoga-Shivamogga; Hubli-Hubballi and Tumkur-Tumkuru. Calcutta to Kolkata, Bombay to Mumbai or Trivandrum to Thiruvananthapuram would arguably fall into this category too.

In track changes mode

Recently, Mughalsarai station was renamed as Deen Dayal Upadhayay Junction. The renaming of railway stations is also an old phenomenon. Built in 1887, Mumbai’s iconic Victoria Terminus was renamed Chhatrapati Shiva-ji Terminus in March 1996. Eleven years later, it acquired a further honorific to become Chhatrapati Shiva-ji Maharaaj Terminus. Ahead of Janmashtami celebrations this year, the railways approved the renaming of Jharkhand’s Nagar Utari town and railway station to Banshidhar Nagar, after the Banshidhar Temple located in the state’s Garhwa district.

We aren’t alone

Name changes are not a peculiarly Indian phenomenon. Several international cities have also been renamed. For instance what used to be Canton is Guangzhou, Saigon is Ho Chi Minh City, Leningrad was and is back to being St Petersburg, Constantinople is Istanbul and Stalingrad, where one of the most famous battles of Second World War was fought, was and is now Volgograd. Even countries can get renamed. For instance, before 1935, Iran was Persia. Similarly, Myanmar was Burma and Sri Lanka was Ceylon.

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