Howrah Sainik Aramgah goes swanky to handle large scale Military movements by Rail

Transient defence personnel to have better comforts at Howrah Station – the biggest railway terminus in the country, will shortly have a spanking new ‘Sainik Aramgah’ or rest rooms for transient defence personnel and their dependents that will make their rail journey more pleasant and comfortable

हावड़ा Howrah (HWH): From tanks, armoured personnel carriers and trucks to artillery pieces, the military moves nearly all its equipment by rail. The Indian Railways also moves soldiers and their dependents by the lakhs every year. No wonder special attention is paid to the Sainik Aramgahs at important stations. Those under the Movement Control Office (MCO) at Howrah station have reason to be pleased. The Sainik Aramgah — where soldiers and their dependents put up during transit — at Howrah is going to get swanky in the next couple of months.

Station Commander, Kolkata Garrison, Maj Gen Harsha Kakar reviewed the facilities of  Movement Control Office (MCO) during an inspection at Howrah Railway Station
Station Commander, Kolkata Garrison, Maj Gen Harsha Kakar reviewed the facilities of Movement Control Office (MCO) during an inspection at Howrah Railway Station

This, officers believe, will make the rail journeys for defence personnel and their families much more comfortable. On Tuesday, Maj Gen Harsha Kakar, station commander, Kolkata Garrison, inspected the MCO at Howrah and expressed satisfaction at the upcoming project being readied by the railways. The relationship between the military and the railways goes back several decades. Today, there is a separate department known as Mil-Rail to look after military movement by the railways.

“The new facility replete with modern amenities at platform number 17, is expected to be ready in the next two months,” said Col Bhaskaran SKM, Commanding Officer, 413 MC/MF Detachment, who is responsible for overseeing the movement control and forwarding of troops. MCO Howrah raised on April 29, 1957, is among the three MCOs located in the area. While MCO at Sealdah railway station also caters to the needs of armed forces who are passengers, the one located at Dum Dum caters to the air transportation needs of troops and senior dignitaries.

“The new facility replete with modern amenities at platform number 17, is expected to be ready in the next two months,” Col Bhaskaran SKM, Commanding Officer, 413 MC/MF Detachment responsible for overseeing the movement control and forwarding of troops said.

MCO Howrah raised on April 29, 1957, is among the three MCOs located in Kolkata city. While MCO at Sealdah railway station also caters to the needs of the passengers of the Armed Forces, the one located at Dum Dum caters to the air transportation needs of troops and senior Armed Forces dignitaries.

Through the 23 platforms at Howrah, a number of trains originate, terminate or connect all parts of the country taking troops to their destinations, home or op locations.

Nearly a lakh troops are directly dependent on this MCO, which also supervises a large number of move of critical military stores, additional coaches, military compartment and goods. The number of troops in the coming years is only set to grow as newer military garrisons come up in the Eastern theatre.

MCO Howrah has been nominated as a centre of excellence in 2007, 2008 and 2009 in the Annual Best MCO competition on an all India basis. In the year 2011, this MCO stood 3rd in the Annual Best MCO competition.

Currently MCO Howrah is fully automated, air conditioned and functions 24X7. An indigenous software package which has been linked to a touch screen for Defence Department Quota (DDQ) for all defence passengers has been provided here.

The PNR status of every defence rail commuter can be checked on the information kiosks (touch screen) placed at the MCO counter along with relevant information of accommodation, seat availability and Indian Railways website.

Nearly a lakh troops are directly dependent on this MCO, which also supervises a large number of move of critical military stores, additional coaches, military compartment and goods. The number of troops in the coming years is only set to grow as newer military garrisons come up in the Eastern theatre, an officer said.

Genesis of Military Rail at Howrah

Eastern Bengal Railway Battalion Bengal Army

The Eastern Bengal Railway Battalion was an auxiliary military regiment of the Volunteer Corps under the British Indian Army. The unit was a part of the Bengal command. It was also under the Bengal Army which was the armed forces of Bengal Presidency. The battalion was formed on 1st March 1873 as the Eastern Bengal State Railway Volunteer Rifle Corps. The regiment included personnel from the Eastern Bengal Railway and Northern Bengal State Railway. Later, the military unit was re-named as the Eastern Bengal Railway Battalion on 1st October 1920.

The headquarters of the Railway Battalion regiment was situated in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The uniform of the troops was Khaki drill. Later the uniform was modified in the year 1940 and included a formal Khaki dress with white facings and a military badge with a Tiger`s head surrounded by a laurel wreath and surmounted by a crown. The motto of the British Indian regiment was “Semper Paratus”. The detached companies of the Eastern Bengal Railway Battalion in 1901 were stationed at Saidpur, Katihar, Parbatipur, Sara, Goalundo, Rajbari, Kanchrapara, Chitpore and a reserve company at Serajgunge.

Designations of Eastern Bengal Railway Battalion

The Eastern Bengal Railway Battalion held a number of designations throughout its existence in the British Indian Army. These are mentioned as follows-

  • Eastern Bengal State Railway Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1873
  • Eastern Bengal Railway Volunteer Rifle Corps (merged with Northern Bengal State Railway Volunteer Rifle Corps) in 1882
  • Eastern Bengal State Railway Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1884
  • 12th Eastern Bengal Railway Battalion in 1917
  • Eastern Bengal Railway Battalion in 1920
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