Platform for Architectural Transfers in the Indian Ocean rim
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11th July 2024
5 pm IST
Respondent:  Dhiraj Kumar Nite  (Ambedkar University and Centre for Social Change, University of Johannesburg)
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The Birth of Economization in the Public Works Department of Colonial India 
A study of the economic dimensions of provincial civil works in the late nineteenth century

Kairavi Maniar
(CEPT University)

This study investigates the financial collapse within the colonial administration of nineteenth century India, revealing a significant deficit in revenue versus expenditure, which prompted decentralization reforms. These reforms, initiated under Lord Mayo in 1871-72, aimed to transfer financial control and responsibility for essential services to provincial governments. This shift granted provinces autonomy over revenue and expenditure management, necessitating economization strategies for 'non-productive' building sites within the Public Works Department (P.W.D.). The subsequent microhistory focuses on a late nineteenth century civic project in Poona, a provincial district to the Bombay Presidency. The study highlights a specific incident involving the use of Gokak Stone during water tower construction, which led to unforeseen economic constraints and procedural delays. Drawing from primary sources, such as correspondence files and P.W.D. codes, the analysis reveals the role of Executive Engineer in decision-making processes, revealing oversight in cost estimation and material procurement. This examination shows the complexities of colonial construction practices and administrative challenges, offering insights into the interplay between fiscal management reforms and localized project dynamics in colonial India.

Documenting the agency of Native civil workers in the dynamics of the colonial construction industry
Building Bombay City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Esa Shaikh
(NMIMS Balwant Seth School of Architecture)

This study aims to shed light on the marginalized role of Civil workers, native engineers, and contractors in the development of colonial Bombay. Through archival research and historical analysis, it seeks to explore the contributions of these overlooked individuals to the city's infrastructure and urban landscape. By examining primary sources such as newspapers, official records, and architectural documentation, the research intends to challenge prevailing narratives and highlight the agency of native professionals in shaping Bombay's built environment. Ultimately, the study seeks to provide a more inclusive understanding of colonial urban development and its impact on marginalized communities.