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Lost slice of history: Machines that printed Constitution sold as scrap Machines that printed Constitution sold as scrap

January 25, 2020 06:41 AM


Lost slice of history: Machines that printed Constitution sold as scrap
Machines that printed Constitution sold as scrap

Suparna Roy

Dehradun : As India’s founding document, the Constitution of India, turns 70 this Republic Day, the Dehradun-based Survey of India which printed 1,000 initial photolithographic reproductions of the handcrafted Constitution has preserved one of those copies, but it sold the two machines that produced those last year. As scrap. For ~1.5 lakh.

As for the lithographic plates, they were also “auctioned to scrap dealers long ago”, Survey of India (SoI) officials said.

The two printing machines, the Sovereign and Monarch models manufactured by UK’s RW Crabtree & Sons, used to print the first copies of the Indian Constitution, were dismantled and sold last year, the officials added. A visit to the facility could only unearth a lubrication schedule for the Monarch on one of the walls.

The 1,000 copies were printed in SoI’s Northern Printing Group office located in Hathibarkala area of Dehradun, from the two original handwritten copies, using lithograph printing . Calligrapher Prem Behari Narain Raizada (Saxena) wrote the Constitution in English and Vasant Krishna Vaidya wrote it in Hindi. The handwritten copies were illustrated by artists Nandalal Bose, Beohar Rammanohar Sinha, and other artists from Santiniketan. The first printed copy was hardbound and is safe in a cupboard of the Northern Printing Division.

However, Lt Gen Girish Kumar (retd), Surveyor General of India, said that the cost of maintaining the two lithographic printing machines was very high and the technology was outdated. He added that the machines were dismantled and auctioned at scrap value. HT could not access the details of the buyers.

“Nowadays with this [current] technology you just cannot use those machines because they are very expensive in working… We definitely take pride in being the premier institution to have printed the first thousand copies of the Indian Constitution, and understand the historical importance of it, but these machines were very big and occupied a lot of space. Also, they were old and conventional, and it took a lot of time to work on,” said Lt Gen Kumar

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