Refugee Relief Tax - the Provisionals

Back in 1999, I wrote an article for ‘India Post’, that tackles the variety of short-lived handstamped stamps that were used to collect the tax raised by the Government of India to help refugees in the crisis of 1971, that was caused by the independence struggle of Bangladesh. 

The text of that article follows. I am uploading new images and fresh discoveries, state by state. 

The Coding System

Links given are to the first page showing that type

 1st element: appearance

1st Digit: 

2nd Digit:

3rd Digit:

  •  Mixed Case
    • No Serifs
      • Upright  1
      • Italic       2
    • Serifs
      • Upright     3
      • Italic         4
      • UPRIGHT  5
      • ITALICS     6
    • SERIFS
      • UPRIGHT   7
      • ITALICS       8 

This completes a 3-digit code which could be used to describe the look of any handstamp, thus 265 is the Family Planning design handstamped with unframed two lines of no serif capitals English, and incidentally the most frequently-met type.

2nd element: State of Origin.

I have used the usual initials for the states.

3rd element: Head Office

I used a contemporary PO list to identify Head Post Offices. The PIN codes [postcodes] made allocating SubPOs to their parent HPO fairly straightforward. From the list it is clear that many handstamps were used by more than one HO. Handstamps used exclusively on Service stamps are attributed to the State where use is widespread. 


For some of the largest groups, such as 265, I have also used a code to describe the size of the handstamp. of course, applying the handstamp was done quickly and with little precision, so markings are often slurred and smudged. So I have not been too precise myself. I have used the “Thirkell” Position Finder which was created and marketed by Stanley Gibbons Publications Ltd and seems to be currently available. This uses a 3mm grid to locate points on material such as stamps. The y axis is represented by letters , and the x (across) axis is numbered left to right. It is designed to describe a position rather than a size, but I have used it to describe size as I do not want to be too precise, as explained. So a handstamp that looks to be about 5 mm high and 16 mm wide will be described as b6 [b >3 <6mm and '6' > 15 <18mm]. 

Check out your own collection

I want collectors to be able to check your own material. Use the coding system to give your own handstamps codes. If you know where the item was used, you will be able to give it a full code, the 3 digits and the state code. If I do not know about it, please let me know through the forms that you will find throughout the site.  Where I am aware that similar handstamps are found in different states, I have tried to put some links on those pages, but as a rule the site map is your first place to find out where any particular 3-digit code is to be found on the site.