While the BJP has announced that it will be marking Netaji’s birthday as Parakram Diwas every year, Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal has announced that the more than 150-years-old Howrah-Kalka Mail will be renamed as Netaji Express.
The iconic freedom fighter was born on 23rd January, 1897 and was known for his courage, leadership skills and extraordinary oration that inspired many to join the Indian National Army and fight for India’s freedom.
Originally numbered “1 Up/ 2 Dn”, denoting its significance in railway connectivity during the pre-independence era, Kalka Mail was run by the East Indian Railway Company, beginning operations between Calcutta (now Kolkata), then capital of British India, and Delhi in 1866 as the route was extended from Delhi to Kalka, in the foothills of Shimla in 1891, and finally a rail link which was built from Ambala to Kalka.
The train was an important asset to the EIC as it helped the British move their people and government machinery to the summer capital, Simla (presently Shimla) and back.
The train also played a pivotal role in the life of Netaji. When he was jailed, following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he was put under house arrest in 1941 and it was then that Netaji escaped from his home on January 17th, using a car to get to Jharkhand and boarded the Kalka Mail on his journey headed to Peshawar. Following his arrival at Peshawar, he went to Afghanistan, the Soviet Union, Germany, Japan and finally led the Indian National Army in the battle with the British forces on the Burma border, scoring early victories against the imperialist army.
Both the Central as well as the Bengal government will begin celebrations on the day to mark the 125th birthday of the Netaji. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected in Kolkata on Saturday, while Mamata Banerjee will hold a march in the city.