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A BRIEF HISTORICAL SKETCH OF KANCHRAPARA MUNICIPAL TOWN

Kanchrapara is a small Municipal Town, 48 km. from Kolkata and located at the Northern most tip of North 24 Parganas District in West Bengal, between Latitude 88.42` E to 88.47`E and longitude 22.92`N to 22.96`N with an area of 9.06 Sq. Km and a population of 1, 26, 191. It is butted and bounded by Gayeshpur Municipality to the East, Kampa-Chakla Gram Panchayet to the East and South East, Bager Khal to the North & Halisahar Municipality to the West. It comprises of Mouzas, Bizpur, parts of Halishar, Mallicker Bag, Bahirbag, Jonepur, Pallada Kampa & Jethia.

From early historical period, this area had been full of a swamps, natural riverine lake, low land, water bodies sparse village-settlements surrounded by deep jungle. Barring a few pockets the area was considered unfit for human habitation. However, around this area there were more than 50 villages more or less prosperous, of which Mallickerbag, Kanchanpalli or Kanchrapara, Bhabanipur, Ghoshpara Chandua & Kampa need special mention.

A great change came about in this area. The Railway Locomotive shop was built with an area of 1,32,000 sq. mtr. In 1914 a carriage and wagon shop also came up. Subsequently a planned Railway Township was laid and built to the East & South West of the Workshops with a wide range of infrastructure - Roads, Drains, Bridges, Street lights, Internal Railway lines, Parks, Institutes, etc. soon population began growing up and huts and pucca buildings began to sprout up rapidly, necessitating laying out Municipal infrastructure beyond the Railway area.

The town thus grew up was named Kanchrapara, since the Rly. Station at Bijpur was named after the then village Kanchanpalli or Kanchrapara, prosperous economically and culturally, being the seat of many stalwarts of Baishnab literature and early Bengali literature, as well as famous Vaidyas. The origin of the name of Kanchrapara has been traced to “ KANCHRA”, an edible plant which then grew in abundance, but now extinct. The original Kanchrapara, still retains its name and is situated 5 km. North West of Kanchrapara Station, near the bank of Bhagirathi.

Since 1869 Kanchrapara was within Naihati Municipality. On the 1st July of 1903 Halisahar Municipality was established with Halisahar & Kanchrapara. Kanchrapara Municipality became a separate Municipality on 1st October, 1917 with an area of 3.5 sq. miles and a population of about 30,000. At that time Municipal infrastructure was practically non-existent beyond the Rly. area. There were only three brick roads. But there were no drains, street lights, running water, health facilities and other services. It was rural in nature with scattered bustees, a few, dilipidated buildings here and there, ponds, swamps, dobas, a few agricultural plots, punctuated by some new brick buildings erected in an unplanned way. The credit of bringing about the establishment of Kanchrapara Municipality as an independent Municipality goes to Mr. H. H. Spalding, the then Chairman of Halisahar Municipality.

The first meeting of the Board of commissioners of Kanchrapara Municipality comprising of 8 members was held at Hindmarsh Institute under the Presidentship of Mr. Spalding & the first B.O.C. elected Mr. W.H. Harnett the Chairman & Rai Sahib Krishna Chandra Ghatak the Vice-chairman. A spacious room in front of Railway. Indoor Hospital began to be used as Municipal Office. In subsequent years the new Board set on to the task of building Municipal infrastructure – laying, aligning new roads, connective roads, lanes, by lanes, drains, municipal buildings, street light, water supply, maternity center, bazar, transport, primary school, immunization, carriage and disposal of solid waste and selection of site for trenching ground and building roads & drains with parallel alignments etc.

Till partition of Bengal in 15th Aug. 1947, Loco & Carriage Superintendents of E.B.R. or Chief Mechanical Engineer, became the Chairpersons of Kanchrapara Municipality. Vice-chairpersons and other members were mostly railway men. The contribution of Railway officers & their associates in developing the infrastructure at that time had been great indeed.

Post partition scenario of Kanchrapara Municipal Town was fraught with socio-political struggle among different political parties & interest groups. The elected commissioners faced a hard task to tackle influx of refugees from East Pakistan, who squatted at every available piece of Govt. land or vacant land or private land left by Muslims, forming colonies, clearing jungles, and occupying abandoned or vacant houses & Rly. Quarters.

Population suddenly swelled up & reached to 56,668 (according to 1951 census). As more refugees came in subsequent years, in 1961, it reached up to 68,966 . Public demand for new roads drains, streetlight, health care, garbage disposal facility and other services rose. But Municipality was too economically weak to meet those demands. All these left the Municipality in a sorry state. However, development works went on, but in a slow pace within the Municipality too limited means, only source of Revenue being property tax.

Railway area constitute 2/3 rd of total Municipal area of 9.06 sq. km and 5 Wards are within Rly. area and all the adult people send elected representatives in the Board of councillors and the Municipality has to provide health, education & other facilities even to the unauthorized occupiers purely on humanitarian ground. On the other hand, in 6 decades non-railway area with 19 wards, have developed to a thickly populated thriving Trade & Business center and cottage industries like wood craft, shoe chappal making etc. Now 3.02 square km. of non-railway area have to bear the burnt of about 86,000 population, population in the Rly. area being about 40,000.

The glory, the sheen & shine of the Rly. area, of which people felt pride, gradually faded. Beautiful, environmentally sound Rly. colonies are struggling in vain to regain their old status and glory. The old glory of this Railway Municipal town, though never officially recognized as one, can only be regained and developed through Joint Participatory Approach of the Railway administration & Municipal Administration.