Durgapur is situated on the bank of river Damodar, just before it enters the alluvial plains of Bengal. The topography is undulating. The coal-bearing area of the Ranigunj coalfields lies just beyond Durgapur, although some parts intrude in to the area. The area was deeply forested till recent times, and some forests are still there, standing witness to its wild past.
Two mighty rivers border it on the north and south. The Ajay River flows past unhindered in the north but the Damodar River on the south has two obstacles in its path – an earlier anicut at Rondia and a more recent barrage at Durgapur. Two rivulets, Singaran and Tamla, flow through the area and join the Damodar. Two other rivulets in the area, Kunur and Tumuni, join the Ajay.
Durgapur subdivision is surrounded by Asansol subdivision on the west, Bardhaman sadar subdivision on the east, Bankura district across the Damodar in the south, and Birbhum district across the Ajay to the north.
The Grand Trunk Road (NH2) virtually bifurcates the area. It has now been widened as part of the Golden Quadrilateral project. Another wide road takes off from Darjeeling Morh near Panagarh for North Bengal. It also links Santiniketan to the Grand Trunk Road. The Durgapur Expressway, linking Dankuni with Memari on Grand Trunk Road, now allows fast communication between Kolkata and Durgapur. A road over the Durgapur barrage links Durgapur with Bankura and beyond in South Bengal.
The Kolkata-Delhi railway track passes through Durgapur. Andal has a link with Sainthia on the Sahibgunj loop line.
There are airstrips at Panagarh and Durgapur, the former with the Indian Air Force and latter with SAIL. A full fledged domestic airport is coming up near Durgapur. The airport is expected to be operational by 2010.
Mighty emperors reigned in this region over the centuries but it is difficult to pinpoint as to who exactly held sway over the area at different points of time. Historians talk of this region being a part of the Maurya and Gupta empires, the empire of Harsha Vardhan and the Mughals. Being a geographical border region, it could have been on either side of the virtually unmarked and flexible borders of the mighty empires. Moreover, the infertile soil with deep impenetrable forests and wild animals was probably not a very inviting proposal for any emperor on the look out for wealth and treasures. Even when coal mining made forays into the adjoining Asansol-Ranigunj area from the late eighteenth century, and factory chimneys reared their heads in the sky somewhat later, Durgapur remained an impenetrable jungle that few dared to trespass into.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the railway track traversed the Durgapur area but even fairly recent pre-independence travellers describe Durgapur as a small station, with dim kerosene lanterns burning at night, where only a few passenger trains stopped. It was local chieftains such as Bhabani Pathak and Ichhai Ghosh, who were the heroes of the jungle-territory, and probably held many a great emperor at bay. Many of them must have passed through the area on the look out for wealth in the famed granaries of Bengal further east but probably never found the place attractive enough to show their prowess.
It is unlikely that Bhabani Pathak of Durgapur was the same person linked with Devi Choudhurani, made famous by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Their area of activity was around Rangpur, now in Bangladesh. Although barges used to carry coal down the Damodar in those days and the river was more navigable than now, the area was never a watery haven as some areas of east or north Bengal were. However, legends have more impact on people than the hard realities of history.
The area was part of the Bardhaman Raj, who ruled on the basis of a firman from the Mughal emperor. Mir Kassem, then Nawab of Sube Bangala, ceded Bardhaman along with Medinipur and Chittagong to the East India Company in 1760 (three years after the Battle of Plassey), and the Bardhaman Raj continued to function under British tutelage.
However, there are some interesting historical points. Archeological excavations at Birbhanpur, on the bank of the Damodar, have revealed a number of stone implements. These are dated to be around 5,000 BC. Many of these are hunting implements used by pre-historic hunters. Earlier, some of the excavations at Pandu Rajar Dhibi, on the banks of the Ajay, just beyond Durgapur but in Bardhaman district, revealed traces of a civilisation possibly linked with the Indus Valley Civilisation. These are important historical finds and are yet to be fully explored.
Prior to independence, only one small refractory plant of the Martin Burn group was located at Durgapur, the abandoned chimney of which is still visible near the station. Damodar Valley Corporation constructed Durgapur Barrage in 1955 and shortly followed with the Durgapur Thermal Power Station. There was a massive follow up – Durgapur Steel Plant (commissioned 1960), Alloy Steels Plant (commissioned 1965), Durgapur Projects Ltd. (established 1961), Mining and Allied Machinery Corporation, ACC-Vickers Babcock (later ACC-Babcock and now Alstom Power Boilers), Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation, Philips Carbon Black Ltd., Sankey Wheels (a unit of GKW), Bharat Ophathalmic Glass Ltd, Durgapur Cement Ltd. (now Birla Cement) (established 1975), Graphite India Ltd. (established 1967), Durgapur Chemicals and many others. A great new industrial city was bubbling with enthusiasm.
Durgapur Steel Plant was a showpiece of Indo-British cooperation in independent India. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India, came for the inauguration of the first blast furnace. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was a regular visitor. He called these plants temples of new India. Many senior leaders and important foreign leaders visited Durgapur to see and to cheer. Displaying a rare gesture of solidarity, Queen Elizabeth came on a state visit.
As the numerous chimneys merrily belched out smoke – black, white and reddish brown – as pollution control norms were still some way off (for the past few years all the 65 chimneys of Durgapur Steel Plant are pollution free), the townships grew and prospered. Regional Engineering College (established 1960) (now renamed National Institute of Technology) and Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (established 1958) added to the stature of the new township. Schools, hospitals, parks, and playgrounds – all came up. It was new life in new India.
As the British industrialists left India after independence many of the industrial empires they left behind were taken over by the Indian business community, who were mainly traders. With technological obsolescence the industries fell on bad times, labour unrest started and finally engulfed the state of West Bengal in the late sixties. Even the new industries in Durgapur were affected by the militancy and in no time, most of the industries in Durgapur were in shambles.
That continued for some years but the result was that many of the sick industries were on the verge of closure. It was evident that some of the industries were technically unsound; as for example, Durgapur Steel Plant was technologically obsolete and needed huge investment for modernization. The political chaos submerged all such concerns and no investor considered the region safe for any major investment. When unemployment started pinching, the left was settled comfortably in power. There was rethinking about revival of industries in West Bengal.
The late eighties witnessed a turn around in the fortunes of SAIL, with Durgapur Steel Plant being one of the plants to be modernized at a cost of Rs. 5,000 crore. However, The plant continued to make huge operating losses and by mid-nineties even rumours of a slow death of the plant along with the city was making the rounds. Fortunately, DSP management with public support of the trade unions was able to turn around the dire situation with thousands of job cuts through voluntary retirement schemes and modernizing efforts. Now Durgapur Steel Plant is operating at above its rated capacity and earning profits after deduction of substantial amount of interest and depreciation resulting from the massive investment in modernisation. The plant is undergoing further expansion and is all set for a momentous future. A number of other industries, as for example Alstom Power Boilers (erstwhile ACC-Babcock Ltd), Philips Carbon Black Ltd. and Graphite India Ltd., had been doing well. Alloy Steels Plant has also turned the corner. Therefore, Durgapur presents a dual picture of growth and hope on one side and collapse on the other. The darker side covers such units as MAMC, Bharat Ophthalmic and Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation.
2002 onwards, Durgapur has been witnessing radical changes, with rapid development in different segments. The changes are with respect to infrastructure as well as industrial growth for steel (direct reduced iron), metal, cement industries & knowledge based industries.
Durgapur during the last five years got more than 8 engineering and technology, management as well as professional study colleges (under graduate level).Housing co-operatives and flats, shopping malls, multiplex, science and energy park, Software Technology park (STPI), Hotels and stadiums have also come up. In 2007, a shopping mall by ADDA, named Suhatta is opened by Chief Minister Budhadeb Bhattacharya. He inaugurated 7 institutes that day including a Polytechnic college and Hotel GINGER.Currently Durgapur consists of 3 departmental stores and a multiplex.
During the years 2001-2007 Durgapur saw the setting up of 10 to 15 middle/ large scale industrial investment in iron and steel manufacturing sector including value added products like sponge iron,Wire Rod, TMT bar (Thermo Mechanical Treatment) for construction, Iron Casting powder etc. The prominent investors are MB Group, Balaji Group, SPS group, Adhunik Group of Industries, Neo Metaic, Stolberg India, Super Smelters Ltd, Shyam Steel, Ultratec Cement etc.
Some other important changes are Regional Engineering College being upgraded to National Institute of Technology - the first Deemed University in Durgapur, 'SRIJONI'- a public hall equipped with technically advanced systems (audio & video).
City Centre has now grown to be the most happenning place in Durgapur and most people desire to reside here.
In the recent future, a new modern Aerotropolis (an integrated city with all modern amenities built in & around an airport) will be constructed by Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited in Andal near Durgapur. The Airport, as part of this Aerotropolis, is reported to be designed & operated by the world-renowned Changi Airports of Singapore. The total turnover of the project is estimated to be around 10,000 crores.
Software giants like Wipro, TCS are moving towards Durgapur.DLF and Shapoorji Pallonji are investing millions for integrated townships and IT Park.
Soon, Durgapur will be having a 12 storied building called JUNCTION .
Durgapur is a new industrial city. The administrative setup for the city came up in stages. Once the British settled down to ruling the country in the nineteenth century, they started effecting administrative changes. In 1837, when Bankura district was formed, Durgapur area was part of it. In 1847, Ranigunj subdivision was formed with three police stations – Ranigunj, Kanksa and Neamatpur - and it was made a part of Bardhaman district. In 1906, the subdivisional headquarters was shifted to Asansol and the subdivision renamed accordingly. In 1910, the police stations in Asansol subdivision were Asansol, Ranigunj, Kanksa, Faridpur and Barakar. On 14 April 1968, Durgapur subdivision was carved out of Asansol subdivision.
Durgapur being an industrial city, the civic amenities of different company/ plant townships are taken care by the respective company/ plant authorities. However, there are civil localities such as the area around the railway station (what was the original Durgapur), the City Centre, Bidhannagar, Benachitty, Muchipara and so on, which need civic facilities. In 1962, Durgapur Notified Area Authority was formed for the purpose. It was upgraded to a municipal corporation on 7 October 1996 and the company/ plant townships included in it, although civic amenities continue to be provided by the respective companies/ plants.
Mrinal Banerjee of CPI (M) won the Durgapur I seat in 2006, 2001, and 1996 defeating INC candidates Banshi Badan Karmakar, Chandra Sekhar Banerjee and Mrigendranath Pal respectively. Dilip Mazumdar of CPI (M) won the seat in 1991, 1987, 1982 and 1977.
In 2006 assembly elections, Biprendu Kumar Chakraborty of CPI (M) won the Durgapur II seat defeating his nearest rival Apurba Mukherjee of AITC. Apurba Mukherjee had won the seat in 2001 defeating Debabrata Banerjee of CPI (M). In 1996, Debabrata Banerjee had won the seat defeating Malay Kanti Dutta of INC. In 1991, Tarun Chatterjee of CPI (M) had won the seat defeating Asit Chattaraj of INC. Tarun Chatterjee won it in 1987 defeating Narayan Hazara Chowdhury of INC. In 1982, Tarun Chaterjee defeated Baren Roy of INC. Tarun Chatterjee defeated Ajit Banerjee of INC in 1977.
During the period 1962 and 1967, there was a single Durgapur seat. Additionally, there was a Faridpur seat from 1967 to 1972.
Ananda Gopal Mukherjee of INC won the Durgapur seat in 1972. Dilip Mazumdar of CPI (M) in 1971, 1969 and 1967. Ananda Gopal Mukherjee of INC won the seat in 1962. Prior to that there was no constituency named Durgapur. In 1957, there was the Andal constituency with two members and in 1952 Ausgram constituency had two members.
Sunil Khan won in the Durgapur (Lok Sabha constituency) (reserved for SC) in the 2004 general elections.
Hem Sheela Model School is the brainchild of Dr. N K Mukherjee, B D Mazumder Distinguished Research Professor of Bengali at Calcutta University. The goal set beforehand entails nurturing students for global vision, seeking truth, peace, freedom of thought and expression, as well as accepting the diversity of human culture. It also affirms the apartheid policy and hence have been suspected for Skin head movement in India. Hem Sheela for the last decade has not only established itself as a premier business institution in terms of profitability, but has also scaled great heights of success in terms of collecting free funds from different charitable organisation. Academic success and the recent results at the state and India-wide competitive examinations have proved the worth of our hard-working students and not so devoted teachers.
Sister School Relationship: Since 1996, a faculty/student exchange program has been promised to be established between the Hem Sheela Model School and Calcutta University, for the enrichment of both institutions. Rich Hem Sheela students have been studying at Calcutta since 2006. In spite of all the efforts it still comes as a distant competitor to schools like DAV Model, St. Xavier's, St. Peter's, Carmel (Steel) and Carmel (MAMC), Pranavananda Vidya Mandir, AG Church, St. Michael's school,and Bidhan Chandra Institution in terms of quality of eduction.
Situated in one of the poshest areas of the city, Mirabai Road, St. Peter's, formerly known as Benachity High, is the oldest city private school run by the Protestant denominated Church of North India. St. Peter's is known for decades for being progressive educational institution of excellence with strong academics and extra-curricular activities.
NIT, Durgapur, previously an RE College is a premier institution. Dr. B. C. Roy Engineering, Durgapur is a newer college. Another notable college is Institute Of Advanced Technology And Management, which is better known as DIATM, Bengal Engineering. NSHM College, Durgapur Government College are under the University of Burdwan. Durgapur Government College is the only NAAC-accredited college in the region, and received a grade of B++.