Official Resistance to Railways in India, 1853

Made available by the National Library of Australia. Edited by R Sivaramakrishnan. Posted to IRFCA on: January 17, 2010.

Charles Dickens published Household Words, a weekly magazine over which he exercised total control, between 1850 and 1859. Household Words covered a wide diversity of topics: in addition to fiction it contained poetry, popular science, travel stories as well as much social comment, written by him and contributed by others as well, but everything that appeared conforming to his own views:

I am yet to verify whether this piece was written by a retired civil servant or by Dickens himself, but I am left suspecting strongly that the instructions in the "private and confidential" communication mentioned therein continue to remain in force, though not actually accompanying, every directive issued to our present day civil servants.

This piece is an extract from a reproduced article that appeared in The Courier of Hobart, Tas., on Wednesday, 19 October, 1853, p.3.


... whilst I was in the Muzzypoor district ... some wild speculative interlopers had formed the insane idea of introducing railways into the east, and had bored the [East India] company for all sorts of indulgences and assistance - as though we were not busy enough with our land tax, and our opium monopoly, and our wars. These railway fellows were kept at bay as long as possible, one letter having remained two years unanswered; but at length something had to be done. Assistance was promised in a variety of ways, and official letters were addressed to the several Collectors of districts, directing them to afford every facility and information in their power to those undertakings. I received one of these circulars, and with it a "private and confidential" communication, informing me that I was only to act with the most official formality and to throw every impediment in my power in the way of the railway. Fifteen years have elapsed since the first efforts were made: and last month the first fifteen miles of Indian railway were opened, being at the rate of a mile a year. People in England are amazed at this snail's progress, and set it all down to the natural difficulties of the country: for the ignorant know nothing of the natural difficulties of a "private and confidential." A significant and instructive volume might be formed of these confidential communications ...

- Dickens's 'Household Words'

The original source material used on this page is believed to be out of copyright, and/or these extracts are believed to be fall within the scope of fair use under copyright law. Material selection and editing by R Sivaramakrishnan, 2010.