Nanji Kalidas Mehta

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Nanji Kalidas Mehta, MBE, Rajratna, (17 November 1887 – 25 August 1969) was an Industrialist and Philanthropist from Gujarat. He founded the Mehta Group of Industries in British East Africa, now having its head office in India.

Lifesketch[edit]

Mehta was born on 17 November 1887 in Gorana village, near Porbandar in the Princely State of Porbandar, British India. He was born in a Gujarati Hindu family of Lohana caste. He left for East Africa at the age of thirteen in 1900.[1][2]

He married Santokben Mehta. Shekhar Mehta, the sports car driver, and Jai Mehta, the businessman, are his grandsons.[3][4][5]

He started his career as a trader and ventured into growing vegetable, cotton and then sugarcane in swamps of Africa. He then turned in sugar manufacturing and tea and coffee plantations in East Africa. He in his later life also started Cement plant, ginneries, textile unit and oil mills in India. He thus founded the Mehta Group on conglomerate, which is now spread across the globe.[1]

He was contemporary of some other Gujarati businessman and philanthropist of East Africa like Meghji Pethraj Shah, Muljibhai Madhvani and others.[6] On the original building of Muljibhai Maghvani's office in Jinja, Nanjibhai's name still appears as DUKA YA KALIDASI, a mark of their friendship.[7]

He established the present day Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited under the name Uganda Sugar Factory in 1924 at Lugazi. He was one of the first exporters of Uganda’s cotton to Japan and other places which greatly helped in the establishment of the cotton industry in Uganda.[8]

In 1932 he established cotton mill named Maharana Mills in Porbandar, the land for which was given at measly sum by Maharana Natwarsinhji of Porbandar, which employed 2500 workers at time of independence. Nanjibhai was an Arya Samaji and was instrumental in giving Dalits the job in spite of protests by Brahmins.[9] Again it was for breaking the strike in this Maharana Mills, Nanjibhai is said to have employed services of Devu and Karsan Vagher in late 1960s.[10][11] In 1956 he established Saurashtra Cement Limited in Gujarat.[12]

The happy girls working in Maharana Mills at Probandar used to sing in his praise:

 Nanji's lamp burns in Japan
Nanji Seth is lamp of our heart

[9]

In 1966, he published his Autobiography named Dreams half expressed,[13] where he mentions

“The way to success is a hard road to travel. Disappointments and failures dishearten us in the midst of struggle but a man of enterprise has to pass through the period with patience and cheerfulness till he gets his well deserved returns.”[8]

He died on 25 August 1969 at Porbandar in India.[14]

Honors[edit]

Mehta was awarded an M.B.E. by Britain for his work in Uganda. He was also given the title of Raj Ratna of Porbandar State by H.H. Maharana Sri Natwarsinhji and a title of Dhrama Ratna (defender of faith) by the poet, Kaka Kalelkar.[14]

In Uganda, upon his death, the flag flew at half mast.[14]

Philanthropist[edit]

India[edit]

  • Kirti Mandir at Porbandar, which houses the ancestral house of Mahatma Gandhi and a memorial/temple built in memory of Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba, was mainly built due to efforts and money donated by Nanji Kalidas Mehta. He convinced Gandhiji to sale his ancestral house to a trust created by him, so that they can preserve it as a memorial.[9][15]
  • In 1954, he donated a plot of land at Haridwar for Gujarati Dharamshala of which he also was a trustee.[16]
  • Arya Samaj Girls School and Collage / Gurukul Women's College of Arts and Commerce was started by him in 1956 at Porbandar.[15]
  • He built the Maharshi Dayanand Science College and donated it to the Education Society of Porbandar and named it after Swami Dayanand Saraswati, to keep people alive of memory of great saint of India.[6]
  • Jawahralal Nehru Planetarium also called Tara Mandir was started by him in Porbandar, being the first in Western India. The planetarium has a gallery dedicated to Quit India Movement.[6][15][17]
  • The Bharat Mandir at Porbandar is a unique edifice housing the cultural history and heritage of the country in paintings and in quotes on the surrounding walls and pillars and with a relief map of India in the centre.[6]
  • In 2006 the Shri Santokba Vidyamandir was inaugurated in memory of Santokba, the wife of Nanjibhai, under the auspices of the Arya Kanya Vidyalaya Trust at Porbandar.[6]
  • N.K. Mehta Hospital in Probandar.[15]
  • N.K. Mehta Science Collage in Probandar.[15]
  • Rokadiya Hanuman Temple at Probandar, which is now a tourist attraction of town.[15]
  • At Bombay, the N. K. Mehta International House, a building built by Brihad Bharatiya Samaj, a non-political society designed for educational, social and economical interest of Indians abroad was built with a major donation from Nanji Kalidas Mehta. The building houses a library, research wing, auditorium and hostel.[15]

After his demise, the following institutions have been named as his memorials:-

  • Nanji Kalidas DAV Public School at Junagadh is named after him.[18]
  • Nanji Kalidas DAV Public School at Veraval is also named after him.[19]

Uganda[edit]

  • The Mehta Group founded by him runs a hospital at Lugazi and various dispensaries and runs 2 Nursery Schools, 13 Primary Schools and 1 Secondary School to provide education for more than 6,000 children in various cities like Kampala, Jinja, Lugazi, etc.[6][15]

Kenya[edit]

  • He started the very first nursery school in East Africa at Mombasa, which was founded in 1934. The school was named Santokben Nanji Kalidas Mehta Nursery School. In 2006 the Mehta Group completely renovated, refurbished the school.[6]
  • Town Hall, Mehta Library and Jubilee Park at Kampala.[1][22]
  • The opening of The Desai Memorial Hall built with donations dedicated to Manilal Ambalal Desai was done by Nanji Kalidas Mehta in 1934. The foundation stone of it was laid with hands of Sarojini Naidu in 1929.[23]

Tanzania[edit]

  • Women's Association Hall at Dar-es-Salaam.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Shri Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta, the founder of the Mehta Group
  2. ^ Bennett, Charles Joseph (1976). Persistence Amid Adversity: The Growth and Spatial Distribution of the Asian Population of Kenya, 1902-1963. Syracuse University Press. p. 182. "Probably the success of the most prominent Lohana families in Uganda, Nanji Kalidas Mehta and Sons, M. P. Madhvani and D. K. Hindocha had much influence on Lohana migration from Porbandar and Jamnagar" 
  3. ^ Shree Shekharbhai Khimjibhai Nanji Kalidas Mehta (formerly of Lugazi) died in London on Wednesday 12th April at the age of 61years.
  4. ^ "Jay Mehta – We have Shah Rukh, a magnet for sponsors". Live Mint. 10 March 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2010. 
  5. ^ "Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and Jai Mehta". Times of India. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h [1]
  7. ^ [2] Entrepreneurship in Africa: a study of successes By David S. Fick.
  8. ^ a b Uganda’s Legendary Millionaires Revealed : Mehtas
  9. ^ a b c [3] Journeys to freedom: Dalit narratives By Fernando Franco, Jyotsna Macwan, Suguna Ramanathan.
  10. ^ Bapu's children swear by guns
  11. ^ Life of a God Mother comes to an end.
  12. ^ [4]
  13. ^ [5]
  14. ^ a b c Founder of Kirti Mandir - Shri Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i [6] The rise and fall of philanthropy in East Africa: the Asian contribution By Robert G. Gregory.
  16. ^ [7]
  17. ^ [8]
  18. ^ Nanji Kalidas DAV Public School, Junagadh
  19. ^ [9]
  20. ^ [10]
  21. ^ [11]
  22. ^ [12] The Crown colonist, Volume 19, 1949.
  23. ^ Desai Memorial