GUWAHATI, March 22: Today’s Guwahati is quite a different place compared to what it was till Independence as far as its petrol pump and automobile business was concerned, said noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika.
Speaking to this correspondent, Hazarika said till the 1940s, there were only three petrol depots, or, manually-operated petrol pumps in Guwahati. The first of them was located near the Guwahati (then Gauhati) Railway Station, just behind today’s Institution of Engineers building. Earlier, the Institution of Engineers building campus was a cemetery of the European Christians.
At that time, a road connecting the Guwahati Railway Station with the Motilal Nehru Road (then Shillong Road) was running parallel to the railway track in an east-west direction. In the early 1920s, there were four to five motor cars in Guwahati. Therefore, the depot used to fill the fuel tanks of the vehicles manually using metal beakers.
When the number of vehicles in Guwahati increased in the 1930s with the introduction of some buses, the petrol depot was converted into a petrol pump with acquisition of a manually-operated pump to fill the fuel tanks of the vehicles. Two other petrol pumps also came up with such devices. One of the new petrol pumps was located at Kamarpatty, opposite the Kamarpatty Masjid and the other at Chatribari. The latter was, and is still owned by the Himatsingkas, a prominent Marwari business family.
The petrol pump near the Guwahati Railway Station was owned by Saligram Rai Chunilal Bahadur and Company, one of the pioneer partnership business organisations of Assam. The SRCB Road in Fancy Bazar area still bears memories of this company, which does not exist today. It was a monopoly firm engaged in the distribution of Burma Oil Company products. The Burma Oil Company was later rechristened as the Assam Oil Company.
The Kamarpatty petrol pump was owned by KK Sen (Assam) Ltd, an East Bengal (now Bangladesh)-based company. The partition of India struck the death blow to it and by the 1950s, this petrol pump was closed down. Today, Guwahati city’s AT Road is the hub of business in automobile parts, catering to the entire NE India. On the other hand, automobile dealers’ attractive showrooms have come up in Adabari, Noonmati, Khanapara, GS Road, GNB Road and NH-37 areas of the city.
Till the 1950s, automobile business was confined to Fancy Bazar area, particularly to Sir Sadulla Road and Hem Barua Road Kamarpatty areas. Most prominent among them were – KK Sen (Assam) Ltd in Kamarpatty area, Eastern Motors on the Sir Sadulla Road and P Sen & Co. While the KK Sen (Assam) Ltd was dealing in Morris cars, Eastern Motors, which was located in front of today’s LIC office, dealt in Ford Motors cars and hence it was called the Ford Company. It was owned by the Maharani of Mayurbhanj in Odissa and some Dutta, a Bengali businessman. It was later shifted to the AT Road Kumarpara area. P Sen and Co dealt in Austin cars. The petrol pump of the Himatsingkas, along with their automobile workshop and dealers’ showroom, came up in the later part of the 1930s. Their firm was known as Himatsingka Motor Works Ltd, said Hazarika.