History of Bhilai
The city of Bhilai apart from the mammoth sized steel plant is also known for its scenic beauty, chain of temples and a plethora of tourist attractions. All these play a big role in attracting huge crowds from far and wide. The setting up of Bhilai Steel Plant played a crucial role in the upliftment of this city, making it one of the most well- planned and developed cities in India. The city which today is one of the most prospered regions of Chhattisgarh has witnessed many phases of history. Once a part of Maratha empire it stands today as one of the most industrialized zones in India.
Origin of the name 'Bhilai'
According to one theory, the name Bhilai originated from the Bhilai gaon, located north of Raipur and Durg township. According to another story, the Bhils, a great majority of scheduled tribes used to live here. Hence the name 'Bhilai' from Bhils. Another popular theory states that the aim of the government in setting up the industrial plant was to uplift the economy of this backward region. Thus the main purpose was to eliminate poverty and help the local people, or doing good .i.e. 'Bhalai' of the people. Hence the name 'Bhilai' can be attributed to the term 'Bhalai'.
History of Bhilai before Indian IndependenceThere is not much information about the city’s ancient past. It was ruled by the Haihaivansi Rajput Kingdom from the 12th century to the later part of the 18th century. The Haihaivansi Dynasty was brought to an end by the Bhonsle Marathas in 1740. It then became a part of the Maratha Kingdom. The region of Bhilai was under the British Rule from 1853 and remained so till India got its independence on August 15, 1947.
History of Bhilai - Post Independence Period
The state of Madhya Pradesh was formed in the year 1950, while the Bhilai Steel Plant- the second of its kind in India was established in 1959. The combination of these two factors transformed Bhilai from a remote isolated cluster of villages to a famous industrial and commercial hub. Bhilai later became a part of the independent state of Chhattisgarh, which was carved out on 1st November 2000. This city today, enjoys the status of being the 7th fastest growing city in the world.
Making of Bhilai Steel Plant
The history of Bhilai city is inevitably linked to the history of the Bhilai Steel Plant. The Steel Plant was established during India’s Second Five-Year Plan (1956–61) with the assistance of the Russian Government. The main aim of setting up this Plant was to provide employment opportunities to the rural population, however the locals failed to understand this and did not participate in the proceedings. This led to the need to recruit skilful and experienced people from outside.
Bhilai Steel Plant, with a capacity of 1 million tonne was inaugurated in 1959 by the President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, a Public Sector Undertaking being conceived under the support of Indo-USSR Treaty. Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of USSR was impressed by the plant and considered its establishment to be a symbol of friendship between Russia and India. This employment opportunity facilitated a need for the growth and development of the steel city with residential quarters, educational institutes, medical facilities, market complex, parks and gardens and other amenities to ensure a comfortable stay close to the industrial complex.
After the setting up of plant slowly but steadily, Bhilai started emerging as one of the most profitable steel plants of India. However, the war between the locals and the outsiders continued and the steel plant had become a major cause of friction between the unemployed locals and the outsiders employed in the plant. This scenario gradually underwent a change with the establishment of new companies and industries that created employment opportunities in large numbers for the locals of that area, thus reducing the tension between the locals and outsiders.
The then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru showed a keen interest in the development of Bhilai Steel Plant. Inspite of his busy schedule, he used to visit the site of construction of the plant several times to enquire how the things were going on and also to take timely measures to deal with problems. He was very happy with the way things were progressing and this is evident from his note in the visitor’s book, which describes his extreme satisfaction.
Today seeing Bhilai’s drastic transformation into one of the most planned and developing cities of the world, one can only realize the truth in Pandit Nehru’s words, ‘Bhilai is one of those plans, which have become imbedded in the national consciousness as significant symbols of a new age in India. Long before one comes to Bhilai, one is forcefully conscious of it. Still, the impact is great, and what was once a dream begins to take shape and comes true-a symbol and portent of the India of future.’