On the east coast of India, the foundation stone was laid for a new artificial, deep-water port at the municipality of Paradip in the state of Odisha. The area for this planned port — situated at the confluence of the river Mahanadi and the Bay of Bengal – had once been a swamp formed and dominated by mangrove trees. The swamp was heavily used by local villagers for collecting wood, hunting, and fishing.
India achieved independence from British rule in 1947, and the following year the Port (Technical) Committee of the Government of India decided that the new nation needed an additional port between the major ports of Calcutta (present-day Kolkata) and Visakhapatnam.
The need for a new port along that section of east India’s coast had grown all the more urgent in the wake of the partition of British India in 1947 when the Port of Dhaka was separated from the new nation of India and instead became part of the provincial state of Pakistan known as East Pakistan. (Ultimately, East Pakistan was established as the independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh in 1971.)
India’s efforts to build this new port began in earnest in 1950. It was Biju Patnaik, serving at the time as a member of the Odisha Legislative Assembly, who strongly pushed for creating this port in Paradip. This Odisha municipality is located 210 nautical miles (389 kilometers) south of Kolkata and 260 nautical miles (482 kilometers) north of Visakhapatnam.
Patnaik was anything but a retiring wallflower. He was without question a major force to be reckoned with and in particular a fierce advocate for his region of India. His close friend and political ally Jawaharlal Nehru (who served as India’s prime minister from 1947 to 1964) readily acknowledged all this when he once asserted, “Biju Patnaik has the courage, dynamism, and zeal to work.” Patnaik brought this same blend of passion and will to his efforts to have Paradip Port developed out of a swamp.
By the time the foundation stone was laid for the port, Patnaik was serving Odisha as its chief minister. It was Nehru himself who laid this black granite stone, which featured the following inscription in the Oriya, English, and Hindi languages: “Willed by the people, I commend you, to this another National Adventure.” Construction on Paradip Port began in March 1964. Just over two years later, the Indian Navy ship INS Investigator became the first vessel to dock at the new port.
Paradip Port was the first major port to be opened on India’s east coast after India achieved independence. In addition, Paradip Port is now one of the leading ports in all of India.