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Ganga Ram

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Sir Ganga Ram (1851-1927)

1927 Obituary [1]

Sir GANGA RAM, C.I.E., M.V.O., was an engineer of the highest distinction whose training and career belonged entirely to India.

He was born in 1851 in the Punjab, and upon leaving the Thomason College, Roorkee, in 1873, entered the engineering profession in the Punjab Public Works Department.

In 1875 he was in charge of the works at Lahore for the reception of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. and later was entrusted with important responsibilities in each of the Delhi Durbars. He held charge of the Lahore division of the Public Works Department for eleven years, and constructed several of the principal buildings, including the Lahore Museum. At this time he also invented a slide rule for the calculations of beams, girders, and retaining walls, and patented designs for an antithermal roof for buildings and for interlocking bricks for wells.

In 1903 he was appointed in charge of works of the Patiala, State, and during his seven years' service in this position carried out many other important constructional and drainage schemes.

His great achievements, however, were the successful experiments he made in the application of scientific methods of cultivation to Indian agriculture. These he commenced in 1903 when he was granted twenty squares of land in the Crown waste area of the Lower Chenab canal. He was subsequently granted further large areas of high land on condition that he should irrigate them by steam-power and electricity.

The success of his farms resulted in a proposal in 1917 by the Punjab Government that he should accept the lease of 23,000 acres of high-level land for three years, the stipulation being that he should return the land, fully equipped and irrigated, at the end of that period for its colonization by ex-soldiers of the Indian Army. His resources and talent were such that he successfully fulfilled this daring contract, and Sir Gangs Ram was given a further lease of a very much more extensive area of land in the Lower Bari Doab Canal tract, to develop for the same purpose within a period of seven years. In this case provision had to be made for the cultivation of the land by hydro-electric machinery, and at the site of the power house a head of only two feet was available. By regrading the canal this was converted to a fall of six feet. Five special turbines of horizontal type were designed, each giving 220 horse-power, and commanding in all about 125 square miles.

The work included the construction of 72 miles of irrigating channels, 626 miles of watercourses, 45 bridges, 565 miles of village roads, 121 miles of boundary roads, 129 outlets and 640 culverts. The whole of this great scheme was completed before April 1925 as agreed. These works made Sir Gangs Ram one of the wealthiest men in India, but the noble use to which he put his riches was referred to in the tribute which the Governor of the Punjab paid to him on the completion of his last great work: "If he wins like a hero, he spends like a saint." Throughout his career Sir Gangs Ram retained his grip of the details of engineering science and was the author of a Pocket Book of Engineering published in Lahore.

His death occurred during a visit to London as a member of the Royal Agricultural Commission, on 10th July 1927.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1884.

1927 Obituary[2]


We regret to record the death of Sir Ganga Ram, C.I.E., M.V.O., which occurred in London, on Sunday, July 10, while he was visiting this country with the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India. Of this body he was the senior Indian member. Though in his earlier years he had been connected with many engineering projects, he had lately been mainly concerned with agriculture, and may not incorrectly be described as one of the pioneers in the application of scientific methods and equipment to that industry in the Punjab. In thia work, the necessity for irrigation is, of course, an important factor, and here his engineering experience stood him in good stead.

Rai Bahadur Ganga Ram was born in 1851, and received his early technical training at the Thomason Engineering College, Dehra Dun. At the age of 22 he entered the Public Works Department, and ten years later was appointed assistant engineer, in which capacity he served in the Buildings and Roads Branch in the Punjab, and was in executive charge of the Amritsar Provincial Division for two years. During this time also he surveyed and assisted in the preparation of the plans of the Amritsar and Pathan-kote Railway, under the superintendence of the late Mr. F. Kirby, M.Inst.C.E.

In 1883, he was promoted to the rank of executive engineer, and visited England to undergo a course of pupilage with the late Sir Alexander Binnie, M.Inst.C.E. On his return to India, he was employed on special duties in connection with the Gujranwalla drainage scheme, and subsequently on the Peshawar water supply. In 1899, he received further promotion, and was superintendent of the many works required for the Coronation Durbar, held by Lord Curzon in 1903 at Delhi. For his services on this occasion he was made C.I.E. After a period as superintendent engineer to the Patiala State, he retired in 1909, but remained at Patiala until 1911, where he was responsible for the construction of some fine new buildings. When the Delhi Durbar was held by their Majesties in 1911, he was consulted on various engineering questions and was made an M.V.O.

Probably, however, Sir Ganga Ram has deserved the greatest thanks of his country for the work which he did after his nominal retirement. As we have said, he interested himself in agriculture, and took the practical, if somewhat courageous, step of acquiring large estates, upon which he could try out his ideas. In particular, he led the way in irrigating lands by means of electrical pumping, and in various forms of commercialising agricultural production. He also played a large part in promoting schemes of hydro-electric development in the Punjab, and as most of these turned out to be a financial success, he stimulated, not only interest, but imitation, among the neighbouring agricultural communities. His characteristic enterprise was also of great advantage in connection with the work of the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India.

Sir Ganga Ram was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and also of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and was the author of a useful “ Pocket Book of Engineering.” He gave much assistance to the Hindu University at Benares, both financially and in the form of advice about the buildings.

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