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Fitting tribute to VOC

Sacrifices and services rendered by V.O. Chidambaram, one of the greatest freedom fighters, were matchless.

In recognition of his significant contribution, the Central Government has decided to rechristen the port here V.O. Chidambaranar Port.

G.K. Vasan, Union Minister for Shipping, is expected to formally launch the programme in this connection in Tuticorin on Saturday.

Born on September 5, 1872 at Ottapidaram in Tuticorin district, Tamil Nadu, Chidambaram, called as “Vandematram Pillai” or “Swadeshi Pillai,” was also known as “Kappalotiya Tamizhan.”

With dynamic leadership, courage and integrity, Chidambaram utilised all avenues to arouse people against the mighty British Raj in India.

He formed the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company (SSNC) and launched Swadeshi ships during the last century against the British Navigation Company.

The voyage of Swadeshi Steam vessels kindled the national spirit and awakened the minds of the people.

He established Swadeshi stores for sale of Indian-made goods.

Prior to formation of SSNC, merchants of Tuticorin got engaged in passenger shipping and cargo service with British India Steam Navigation Company (BISNC).

The merchants were subjected to various difficulties following unfair treatment meted out by the BISNC, which favoured the British traders.

To mitigate the problems faced by merchants and traders, Chidambaram formed the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company on October 16, 1906.

To establish a cheap and reliable steamer service between Tuticorin and Ceylon and popularise the art of navigation among Indians, Ceylonese and other Asians, the SSNC was formed.

It was formed not for profit making entity but to cherish the ideals of nationalism.

The SSNC, which floated with a capital of Rs.10 lakh, divided its shares into 40, 000 with a share value of Rs.25 each.

Shares were made open only to Indians, Ceylonese and other Asians.

Meanwhile, Chidambaram met commercial merchants and traders in Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Madurai and toured all over Tamil Nadu to sell the shares.

At the initial stage, merchants of Calcutta and Bombay bought sizable shares.

Days later, agents of the SSNC were actively engaged in selling the shares. Though Ulaganathan, Chidambaram's first son, was seriously ill, he went to Bombay to purchase two ships for the SSNC.

The first ship “Gallia” reached Tuticorin during May, 1907 and another one called “Lowoe” in June 1907.

Each ship had a capacity to accommodate 42 first class, 24 second class and 1300 ordinary class passengers apart from 4, 000 gunny bags of load.

In spite of repressive measures adopted by the BISNC, the number of passengers and traders in the SSNC witnessed an uptrend.

Praveen Paul Joseph

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