Indian Industrial Association

Indian Industrial Association (1891) was an outcome of the swadeshi movement in Bengal. It was set up at the initiative of Pramathanath Bose who, being influenced by the idea that one of the essential steps to bring about the development of national industries was the dissemination of technical education, wrote several articles advocating the necessity of launching industrial enterprises on modern scientific lines. In a pamphlet published in 1886, Bose argued that technical education was the prerequisite for the starting of 'science-industries' in the list of which he included such industries as textiles, dyeing, tannery, sugar-refining, soap, glass, mining, metallurgy etc. It was through his initiative that an Industrial Conference was organised in India for the first time in 1891. In the Conference, held at the office of the british indian association and presided over by Bose himself, the Indian Industrial Association was formed. Pramathanath became its first honorary secretary.

The IIA had three main objectives: (a) to adopt measures for the spread of technical education; (b) to collect information about India's products and manufacture; and (c) to point out new openings for industrial enterprises and to facilitate their settlements. The members of the IIA consisted of middle-class intellectuals, zamindars, and government employees as also some Europeans. The principal members were Pramathanath Bose, a geologist of repute and son-in-law of romesh chunder dutt, Parbatisankar Chaudhuri, the zamindar of Teota (Manikganj), and Trilokyanath Mukhopadhyay, an official of the Indian Museum and author of several monographs on indigenous crafts of Bengal. Sir alexander mackenzie, the Lt Governor of Bengal, became its patron in 1897.

Lectures were arranged on industrial subjects, exhibitions were organised to familiarise the people with the extant Swadeshi goods along with indigenous industrial and agricultural implements, and awaken them to the need of resuscitating and improving cottage and other industries. Pramathanath talked on coal industry and Trailokyanath on the need and feasibility for the preparation of fibres from certain plants. The members of the IIA also made experiments with raw materials for the manufacture of various products. As for example, Parbaticharan experimented with peat deposits in his zamidari to manufacture tar and ink. prafulla chandra ray and many others continued such experiments during the heyday of the Swadeshi Movement when much attention was given to original research and the policy of self-reliance.

During the days of the Swadeshi Movement, the Association was revitalised. In 1909, Bose issued a 'Note on the future work of the Indian Industrial Association', where he suggested that it would convene a conference every year, which would formulate plans for the industrial welfare of the country. Bose called for the creation of a great central organisation with branches in all-important towns which would promote the interests of indigenous manufacture.

The first industrial exhibition held under the auspices of the IIA was in 1893. At the fourth exhibition held in January 1897, there were as many as 380 exhibitors of whom 76 got gold medals and many received certificates. The importance of the work done by the Association was recognised by the indian national congress. In 1901, the Congress decided to hold an industrial exhibition in connection with its session in Calcutta. As it was not deemed desirable to organize a rival exhibition, this item was dropped altogether from the programme of the IIA. These exhibitions no doubt gave a fillip to the cause of the swadeshi.

The IIA contributed much to the setting up of a number of swadeshi shops which sold out indigenous goods. Some of such stores were Indian Stores Ltd, Laxmir Bhandar, the United Bengal Stores and the United Bengal Co. In 1904, the government declared scholarships for technical education abroad.

The IIA gave incentive to the industrial movement in Bengal. Seven or eight joint stock concerns were started. Bose wrote later that the time was not yet ripe for starting such enterprises. In fact, out of these concerns only one or two survived upto 1906. Although there were some references to its annual meetings in some newspapers, it appears that the Association lost its importance by 1905. The Indian Industrial Conference took over its role as a forum later. [Amit Bhattacharyya]