British rule in Mirpur


With the arrival of British rule however, the thriving river trade was decimated due to the construction of railway lines from Bombay and Karachi into the interior of the Punjab. Moving goods by rail was both cheaper and quicker, and hundreds of Mirpuri boatmen found themselves out of a job.

At the same time long-distance ocean trade was shifting from sail to steam. There was a huge demand for men who were prepared to work in the hot, dirty and dangerous stokeholds of the new coal-fired steamers. European seamen avoided such jobs whenever they possibly could. They preferred to work on deck. But in the 1870s Mirpuri ex-river boatmen were desperately searching for a new source of income. Although unfamiliar with stoking coal-fired boilers, they were prepared to learn and quickly gained a virtual monopoly of jobs as engine-room stokers on new steamships sailing out of Karachi and Bombay, a position they retained until coal-fired ships were finally phased out of service at the end of the second world war.

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