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Deccan Herald » Open Sesame » Detailed Story
GLIMPSES OF INDIA
A rags to riches to rags story
The newly formed state of Jharkhand in the Chotanagpur plateau and once a part of Bihar consists of eighteen districts.
 
Ever heard of a place called Jhumri Tilaiya? Perhaps not. For most of us born in the last few decades, it is as remote as Timbuktu or Hamlin. In reality, the story of the town of Jhumri Tilaiya and its people, from the early 1900’s until the end of World Wars, a span of nearly fifty years, is as incredulous as any blockbuster movie that Bollywood could produce.

The newly formed state of Jharkhand in the Chotanagpur plateau and once a part of Bihar consists of eighteen districts. This region accounts for 35.5% of India's known coal reserves, 90% of its cooking coal deposits, 40% of its copper, 22% of its iron ore, and 90% of its mica and huge deposits of bauxite and quartz. It was the wealth from its natural resources that catapulted Jhumri Tilaiya, a small mining town in Koderma district of Jharkhand, into prosperity and world fame.

While laying a railroad through Koderma in 1890’s, the British first discovered vast slabs of silvery mica deposits in this region. There was no turning back for Jhumri Tilaiya after that. Mining activities started immediately and big business houses were set up. The biggest player of them all was the CH Private Ltd, started by two young men – Chattu Ram Bhadani and Horil Ram Bhadani.

At one time, these “Mica Kings” controlled most of mining, export and trading markets of mica in the world! Prosperous businessmen, with pounds, dollars and rubles jingling in their pockets, made Jhumri Tilaiya their home. They built huge white marble mansions, parked their Mercedes and Porches in wide driveways and filled their stables with thoroughbreds from Arabia. Visitors came from all over the world and the town boasted of maximum number of phone connections and phone calls made in the country. It was not just a monopoly in mining mica but also in requests to Vividh Bharathi for playing Hindi movie songs! Every other song played was for someone from Jhumri Tilaiya!

Today, this boomtown is just another village in rural India. Its ‘rags to riches to rags’ story began with the worldwide demand for mica for space and military equipment and ended with the invention of a synthetic substitute for mica and the collapse of USSR, the largest importer of this mineral. For someone who has lived through those times might be tempted to believe that it was all a dream – but for the marble mansions standing even today, most in a state of neglect and disuse.
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