The subject of establishing a sanatorium in Darjeeling was addressed by the Governor General William Bentinck thrice-1830, 1833 and 1835.[1] It was only in 1835 that measures were taken to put the proposal for establishing a sanatorium in Darjeeling into effect. Soon, Darjeeling became a sanatorium for the whole of the Bengal Presidency. However, its establishment was “neither an easy nor a cheap undertaking.”[2] Despite tremendous efforts exercised and all the measures taken by the British government jointly with independent bodies and individuals, the whole operation suffered from drawbacks. The construction of houses and roads were incomplete. The bazaar failed miserably. Workers were short. The rules for making land grants to settlers were not without confusion and unclarity.

What this paper highlights are the key roles played by various actors and the nuances in the establishment of the sanatorium-Darjeeling. The government worked alongside with bodies like Darjeeling Committee and individuals. Hence, on one hand the Darjeeling Committee intervened with suggestions/ recommendations and applied enough pressure when required. The nature of reliability was such that the Committee was recognised by the government as the body to depend upon on matters relating to the building of sanatorium in Darjeeling. On the other hand, the print media, in tune with the other stakeholders, communicated the hopes, the needs, the apprehensions, the disappointments and the problems of the remaining people from Calcutta. The collaborativeness of the three served their respective interests, both collective and individual.

Populating Darjeeling was essential for the success of the establishment of the sanatorium. The attempts made for settlement of both native and European or non-European visitors and settlers comprised of “invitation” and “inducement” or sometimes both. The nature of invitation and inducement applied on native and non-native-mainly Europeans-varied. While “capabilities” of the hills of Darjeeling became central to the inducement of Europeans and non-Europeans, “conditions” to bring in large group of people who could provide service when needed became central to that of the native settlers. Similarly, the workers including shopkeepers and merchants/ traders were enticed to locate themselves in Darjeeling. However, the outcome was not as successful as it was expected. The shortage of labourers also led to the interchanging nature of employment of workers when the demand was raised. Therefore, men recruited in the military force worked in building roads and clearing forests; labourers working in the road transported people and things, within Darjeeling and between Darjeeling and the plains.

Following the cession of Darjeeling, the British government came close to its neighbours in the eastern Himalayas. Although the initial years were occupied being busy in the setting up of a sanatorium and drawing settlers and workers, the underlying fact of it being a “threatened frontier” continued to remain. This though caused by the persisting war anxiety from the aftermath of the Anglo-Nepalese War and its location in the eastern Himalayas shaped the colonial governance and its exercise in Darjeeling and beyond its frontiers.

[1] Minute by Governor General William Bentinck. Foreign Department, PC, 23 January 1835, Nos. 1-3; Minutes regarding sanatorium proposed to be established at Darjeeling. Foreign Department, PC, 17 October 1833, Nos. 1-6, NAI.

[2] Foreign Department, PC, 24 April 1839, Nos. 140-144, NAI.