Rourkela Knowledge Guide


The twin towns of Rourkela and Fertilizer Township (Sector-22), as well as their developed periphery, are located in areas that were once covered by dense forests. These forests were once a favourite hunting ground for the kings in the past. According to the census report of 2011, Rourkela has a population of 483,038 (Rourkela Industrial Township is 273,217 and Rourkela Town is 210,412) and the urban metropolitan area population is 536,450. The then railway station of Rourkela was within the revenue village of Mahulpali. India's first public sector steel plant facility was established in Rourkela with the help of German businesses Krupp and Demag. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the town was the largest German colony outside Germany. Some merchants started settling in and around the village of Rourkela, with business objectives, and the Railway station was named after the village of Rourkela. The erstwhile revenue village of Rourkela is now popularly known as old Rourkela. The B.N.R. Company (Bengal-Nagpur Railway Company) constructed the Howrah Nagpur railways, which ran through Rourkela. The inhabited area around the railway station of Rourkela was declared an urban town in the year 1931. The census report of 1931 reveals that the number of population was 493. By the time a primary school, an office of the forester, a sub-post office, a handful of liquor shops, tea shops, a small health center and restaurants were found around the outlying area of the railway station. Gradually a train line was connected to Birmitrapur and Rourkela and it could avail a status of a junction allowing the settlement of more railway employees. Soon another station at the village Panposh was built 10 km away. The population of Panposh by 1931 was 2,252 almost five times that of Rourkela. There was a village called Durgapur in between Rourkela and Panposh stations. The construction of the sub-divisional court building was started in 1945 at the village Durgapur. Hence the nearby hills were also known as Durgapur Pahada (Durgapur Hills), today it is known as Uditnagar. As a result, the two railway stations of Panposh and Rourkela came into recognition. Following India's independence, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, wanted to make India an industrialised state in Soviet model of social development; giving wings to his dreams, Sri Biju Pattanaik convinced Pandit Nehru to consider the location of Rourkela for setting up a steel plant. The mineral-rich zone of Rourkela intersected by the rivers Brahmani, Koel and Sankha from two sides was aptly chosen for the same. The preliminary survey for the steel plant at Rourkela was started in 1952 and the Government of Odisha issued a gazette notification on 16 February 1954. In accordance with the notification, the Government of Odisha acquired an area of about 80 square miles around Rourkela for the purpose of Steel Plant. The German private companies Krupp and Demag came forward to provide financial and technical help for the proposed steel plant at Rourkela. Krupp built Rourkela Steel Plant drawing from experience from its own works in Essen, Germany. The technical experts of the company advised the Government of India as well as the Government of Odisha for acquiring more land. As a result, a further area of 32 square kilometres was acquired out of 31 revenue villages. Almost 13,000 people in 2,424 families lost their dwelling. Later further 11,000 acres (4,500 ha) of land were acquired out of 31 revenue villages for the construction of Mandira Dam, a water embankment. Moreland was requisitioned for the purpose of constructing railway lines to Hatia and Barsuan. The construction of Bondamunda Railway junction required the further acquisition of land which resulted in 20,000 people's displacement from their habitat. Though there was initial discontentment among the tribals about the land acquisition the authority largely resolved the land dispute, as many of the tribals were provided employment and accommodation. The displaced tribals were relocated in places such as Jalda, Jhirpani, Bisra and Bondamunda. Their new settlement even extended beyond the river Koel. A string of industrial units and townships such as Rourkela Steel Plant, Fertilizer Plant, Fertilizer Township, Steel Township and for water facility Mandira Dam in Ushra sprung up and for the establishment of these townships and Steel plant government has to take land from the residents of more than 50 revenue villages who got displaced and were resettled in different colonies like Jhirpani Re-settlement Colony and Bondamunda Re-settlement Colony. A marshalling yard and a railway junction were established at Bondamunda. Thousands of technical personnel from West Germany came to Rourkela to extend their technical assistance. Some of these Germans came with their family and their small diaspora created 'Indo-German Club' to socialise. The club exists today with a well-stocked library known as Max Muller library. There are a plethora of local stories of Germans social encounters with tribals (local Adivasis) and people from other parts of India who had relocated themselves to Rourkela for employment. A large part of this population was from coastal and western Odisha who were trained by the German workforce to adopt to the steel plant's technology rigour. The steel plant, which was hugely surrounded by forest, many times witnessed wild animals straying into the plant area. A royal Bengal tiger's lugubrious death in the steel plant's massive blast furnace is a part of the city's folklore. There were also tales about the disappearance of Germans in the nearby Vedvyas cave and dread whirlpool of river Koel. The river still accounts for human casualty as some day trippers wade into the water unaware of the maelstrom.Since 2015 Rourkela has seen many modernization as well as infrastructural developments. In 2017 the Railway ministry announced the operations of a new Rajdhani train that would go via Rourkela.