Mungpoo Cinchona Plantation- A brief History

Mungpoo Directorate of Cinchona and Other Medicinal Plants

 Cinchona plants are native of South America. There has been wide speculation, both contending and contradictory, about the origin of Cinchona. It is, however, an undisputed and accepted fact that the virtues of the bark were originally known to the Incas of Peru. Suffice at this stage to emphasize that the Peruvian bark (Jesuits bark) had the miraculous properties to cure the ancient scourge of mankind viz. the Pernicious Malaria.
This bark with its miraculous power to cure, came to be known as Quinquina in French, based on its name Kinakina in the Quincha language of incas and Cina in Spanish. It was the Botanist Carolus Linnaeus, who in 1742 established the botanical genus Cinchona.
The Cinchona cultivation in Bengal Presidency begun under the direction of Dr.Thomas Anderson, the then Superintendent of the Royal Botanical Garden, Calcutta. The first Cinchona seeds received by Dr.Anderson were sent by Sir W.J.Hooker to the Botanical Garden. Culcutta in 1861. These were multiplied at Culcutta Botanical Garden. In the same year Dr. Anderson was sent to Java by the then Supreme Government of India with the double objective of familiarising himself with the Dutch mode of Cultivation and of convening to India the plants which the Governor of that Colony had generously offered to the Govt. of India. Dr. Anderson brought 50 plants of C. calisaya, 284 of C.pahudiana and only 4 of C. lancifolia and handed over the same to Mr. A.G.Mc. Ivor at Ootakamund wherefrom he took 193 plants of C. succirubra to cultivate in Bengal. Dr. Anderson started his experimental trial for cultivation of Cinchona in Darjeeling hills of Bengal and ultimately selected Mungpoo Hills in 1862 for commercial cultivation. Subsequently to the death of Dr. Anderson, the plantation had been under the charge of Dr. Anderson’s successor like Mr. D.B.Clarke during 1870 and 1871 and Dr. George King later. The successful establishment of Cinchona plantation at Mangpoo was made by Dr. Anderson in 1864. Subsequently Munsong plantation started in 1901, Rongo in 1938, Latpanchor in 1943 and Ambotia in 1977.

The Directorate of Cinchona and Other Medicinal Plants started functioning since 1862, right from foot hills to an altitude of 1800 meter in the hilly terrain of Darjeeling district. Initially there was only Directorate of Cinchona, later the Directorate of Medicinal Plants was created in the early 1950 and these two Directorates were ultimately amalgamated to a single Directorate in 1968. The initial objective of the Directorate was to grow different species of Cinchona trees to produce the life saving antimalarial drug, Quinine, from its bark. Later on the activity of the Directorate expanded and the cultivation of few other medicinal  plants namely Cephalis ipecacuanha, Dioscorea composita was stared on commercial basis during 1953 and 1976 respectively. Cardamom cultivation was taken up on semi commercial scale since 1956.
Of late Rubber Plantation has been taken up on commercial basis in Rongo Mungpoo and Munsong plantations of this Directorate from 2000-2001 which had been introduced during 1993-1994 on experimental basis. Besides Rubber, Mulberry plantation and Taxus plantation has also been taken up successfully in Munsong and Mungpoo as a part of diversification programme.
In addition to the plants mentioned above 83 other medicinal and aromatic plants are being maintained in the research section  of the Directorate.
Mungpoo (estd. 1862): The Head Quarter, Mungpoo, is 30 Km east of Darjeeling town.  
Altitude variation:
1000 ft to 6170 ft MSL

The plantation has four divisions:
Mungpoo, Labdha, Rungbee and Rongju valley.
Munsong (estd. 1901)
Munsong plantation lies 25 Km north of Kalimpong town adjacent to the border of Sikkim

Altitude variation:
1200 ft to 5800 ft MSL

The plantation has five divisions:
Munsong, Kashyem, Burmiak, Rangpoo, Sangseer.
Rongo (estd. 1938 ) Rongo plantation is situated 100 km east of Siliguri town.
Altitude variation
700 ft to 5200ft MSL
The plantation has three divisions:
Gairibas, Dalgaon and Rongo.
Latpanchar (estd. 1943)
Latpanchar plantation lies 20 Km east of Kurseong town
Altitude variation:
1200 ft to 5000 ft MSL
The plantation has two divisions: Latpanchar and Sittong .
Ambotay (estd. 1978)
This is mainly a research plantation covering an area of 155 acres and is situated near Kurseong town.

Altitude variation:
1500 ft to 2000 ft MSL
The Directorate has three factories under its control to produce different drugs and precursors. Govt. Quinine factory, established in 1875 at Mungpoo for the production of anti malarial drug quinine, is the oldest one. At present, this is the only manufacturing unit in India which produces the life saving anti malarial drug, Quinine, from Cinchona bark. Subsequently two other factories were established in the early 1980 as a part of the diversification programme of the Directorate of cinchona & other medicinal plants. One of them is emetine factory (established at Mungpoo in 1982) which produces Emetine hydrochloride of latest pharmacopoeal specification from the radix of Cephalis ipecacuanha (Ipecac) used as antiamoebic / antiprotozoal drug. The other factory was set up at Gairibas (Rongo) in 1984 named Govt. Diosgenin & Downstream Factroy which produces Diosgenin from the rhizomes of Dioscorea floribunda. Diosgenin is used as a precursor of steroidal drugs. All these three factories get their raw materials from the Directorate's own plantations.          
Beside the four plantations and three factories, the Directorate has a well equipped Research wing, the main centre of which is at Mungpoo. The other centre is situated at Gairbas (Rongo). The Research & Development section has the facility of soil testing, tissue Culture, pathological, agronomical, Physiological investigation & Physiochemical screening of medicinal and aromatic plants.
The Directorate has an administrative office in Kolkata at 10/1A, Indian mirror Street, Kolkata – 700013 which acts as a liaison office between the secretariat of the state and the Directorate. The Commercial accounts of the Directorate are also maintained in this office.
The finished products and different raw materials of the Directorate are sold from the sales office situated in Kolkata at 10/1A, Indian Mirror Street, Kolkata – 700013. The prices of different finished products and raw materials of this Directorate are determined by Government of West Bengal on the basis of the recommendation of the Sales Committee
The Office and staff of the Directorate get their salaries in the time scale of Government of West Bengal, whereas the Daily rated regular workers numbering 4610 (existing) out of sanctioned strength 5350 get their wages in accordance which the regulation of Minimum Wages Act commensurate with the Consumer price Index of Darjeeling District.
AFFORESTATION Annual afforestation programme has been taken up in all the plantation of this Directorate. The programme is maintained by planting quick growing trees, namely Utis (Alnus nepalensis), Dhupi (Cryptomeria japonica) Pipli (Bucklandia populnea), Panisaj (Terminalia marycarpa), Malata (Macaranga sp) etc.
The total afforested area is shown in below.
PLANTATION Area under afforestation. (Acres)
Mungpoo 1386
Munsong 865
Rongo 174
Latpanchor 209
TOTAL 2634
RESERVE FOREST Beside afforestation a large area of the plantations are covered with natural forest containing almost all the locally available plants are protected with proper surveillance. The natural forest together with afforestation is about 27% of the total land of the Directorate.
PLANTATION Area under reserved forest. (Acres)
Mungpoo 1962
Munsong 1265
Rongo 809
Latpanchor 189
TOTAL 4225
MINOR PRODUCE Cultivation of some other crops have been tried and maintained in the plantations in pilot-scales. These minor produces are shown below.
PLANTATION Area as on 01.04.2009 (acres) Name of Plants
Mungpoo 16 Taxux wallichiana
Mungpoo 137 Darjeeling Orange
Mungpoo 39 Broom Stick
Mungpoo 2 Aromatic Crops
Munsong 1 Citronella
Rongo 2.50 Areca Nut
Lathpanchar 90 Darjeeling Orange

As per the provision of plantation Labour Act, ration are supplied to the workers at cost price. But in recent times the intake of ration been found to be nil due high procurement price of the commodity.
Plantations are maintaining one hospital each for indoor patients and one or more dispensaries in the out skirt division for the treatment of the workers and their family members. Medical, nursing and para medical staff are posted in hospitals as required. Public Health Nurses and family welfare staff are also deputed to look after the assignment. Large number of indoor patients had to be shifted by Departmental Ambulance to Sadar or Sub – Divisional Hospital of Darjeeling District for better treatment. About 3000 patients are admitted and treated in indoor and about 63000 patients are treated in out door Dispensaries in the four Plantation Hospitals of the Directorate for which a good amount of fund is required to be spent every year to provide medicines and diet which is insufficient to meet the demand. 16 bedded Hospital, one each in Mungpoo, Munsong and Rongo Plantations and one 10 bedded Hospital in the Latpanchor Plantation are functional
Round the clock supply of piped drinking water is provided to the employees of the Directorate through G.I Pipes. Regular maintenance of the water reservoir and supply lines are done on priority basis. Presently about 40% of the habitation is yet to be covered with the facility.
Free accommodations are provided to the workers of the Directorate. The scheme of construction of model house for the labourers is being implemented under specific state plan scheme since 1979 – 1980 . Almost all the workers have been provided with individual toilet facilities instead of community latrines. Till date 3010 Model houses has been provided to the workers.
Similarly the staffs of the Directorate are also provided with independent staff quarter with kitchen and bathroom
Some of the labour houses in Mungpoo, Munsong and Rongo have been provided with electric connection under R.E Scheme. Electrification programme of Latpanchor plantation has been take up. About 60 – 65% labour houses are getting electricity in four plantations from W.B.S.E.B.
A considerable amount of money had to be incurred every year for the maintenance of the model labour houses and staff quarters. This is a regular feature.
The plantations link roads are maintained by this Directorate. A bout 30 KM of motor – able roads are being maintained by the Directorate besides foot – path and bridges.
The construction and maintenance of the roads are done by allotment received under Plan Scheme
The weather data of the Plantation are as depicted below.
PLANTATION Average Annual Rainfall in 8 Years (mm) Temperature °C
Max Min
Mungpoo 4531 30 08
Munsong 1988 35 05
Rongo 5000 36 04
Latpanchar 1804 39 05
Overall relationship between Labour and Management in the Directorate is good. Minor problems raised by the labourers are settled amicably.
-Collected From different sources

Mungpoo Cinchona Plantation- A brief History: Mungpoo Directorate of Cinchona and Other Medicinal Plants

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