Bidhan Chandra Roy, popularly called “B.C Roy,” was one of the founding fathers of present day West Bengal and is often referred to as the maker of modern West Bengal. He was a statesman, administrator and an educationist who spent 37 years in public life serving in different capacities in India.
He served two terms as the Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1948 to 1967 and is credited with playing a key role in industrializing Kolkata by promoting sectors like power, heavy engineering plants, shipbuilding yards, steel plants etc., making it the first Indian city with an underground public transportation system.
About Bidhan Chandra Roy
“Bidhan Chandra Roy is widely accepted as the founder of modern West Bengal. He was a statesman, administrator, educationist and a social reformer. He had the qualities of a perfect scholar and statesman in the mould of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who took up the cause of the downtrodden people of his country to play an outstanding role in state politics. As if this wasn’t enough, Bidhan Chandra Roy also led an active life as a spiritual person – giving up worldly pleasures for thirty-seven years of his life. It can be stated that Bidhan Chandra Roy was indeed a great leader and one who is remembered with admiration all over the world.”
Life of B.C Roy
Bidhan Chandra Roy was born on 21 October 1899 in a Bengali Brahmo family at Naihati, a suburb of Kolkata. His father, Surendranath Roy and mother Jogomaya Devi got him admitted to Ramakrishna Mission School, Narendrapur. He subsequently went to the Scottish Church College and later studied at the University of Calcutta from where he passed his B.A.(Hons) in History in 1919 and later M.A.(Honours) in 1920.
He was a brilliant student who won an all India scholarship and got selected for the Punjab University, from where he went on to study law in 1920. He studied law for two years at the London University before returning to India in 1922 and joined the law firm of Mohinder Sen and Co., Kolkata. He also practiced as technical advisor in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation before founding his own firm, Bidhan Chandra Roy & Co., in 1923.
As a physician
In 1926, after the death of his father, he shifted his base to Kolkata and took over the family medical practice. He specialized in mental illness and took up several challenging cases in court including a case against erasure of the names of nine British kings from an ancient Hindu temple. He was also involved with many other tasks, such as founding and editing a journal called “The Movement”, which was devoted to literature and philosophy. In 1929, he left medicine to enter public life.
His first political appointment
In 1924, he was appointed a member of the Bengal Legislative Assembly by Judd Hunt. In 1927, he was elected as a member of that House.
His political career
In 1937, he was appointed a member of the Bengal Legislative Council. He became the Health Minister in 1947 in the Dr. Bidhan Chandra Ray ministry during which time he started work on development projects that would eventually make Kolkata the industrial capital of India. These projects included the construction of Howrah Bridge, construction of Sewree Channel (for port development) and creation of Garden Reach Shipbuilding Complex, Kolkata Port Trust Dockyard and Haldia Dock Complex. In 1948, he was appointed Chief Minister (Chief Executive Councilor) of West Bengal and took up office on 23 January that year.
He dedicated most of his time to industrial development, establishing the industrial units that later made Kolkata the first city in India with an underground public transportation system. These included steel plants and electrical generation projects, heavy engineering plants, shipbuilding yards, and a huge power station built in Nandi. The drive resulted in a large influx of people into the city which helped increase Kolkata’s population from 400,000 to over 3 million. In 1957-58, his government launched the ambitious project to construct a university in Calcutta. The University of Burdwan was established under this project.
His health and ailing vision
By the end of 1958, he was suffering from kidney ailments. His failing health forced him to slow down the pace of development. In 1959, he went to London for treatment where he underwent a major surgery on his kidneys. In 1960, while in London, he suffered a second cardiac arrest and died on 29 September that year at the age of 61 years.
His political life
Bidhan Chandra Roy entered public life in 1926 when he became the editor of The Movement (a journal devoted to literature and philosophy) which was started by his wife Sudhindranarayan Roy. In 1937, he became a member of the Legislative Council and later in 1940, the Bengal Legislative Assembly. In 1947, he became a member of the now-defunct Constituent Assembly and was elected to a full term as Chief Minister in 1948.
He was elected to the Lok Sabha five times in 1952, 1957, 1962, 1967 and 1971 from Kolkata’s Dakshin Kashi constituency as an independent candidate. He won on all five occasions defeating his rivals from the Indian National Congress (Congress) party on all four occasions.
Bidhan Chandra Roy was described as a tall man with well set features; he had a fine voice throughout his life and spoke English fluently. He was highly educated and well read. He had mastered many Indian languages, including Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu and English. His hobbies included playing tennis. He was also said to have a sharp wit when it came to repartee. His favourite hobby was reading and writing about philosophy and politics.
He married Sudhindranarayan Roy in 1922 and had two sons Bidhan Chandra Roy (Bidhu) who died in early infancy, in 1923 and Sisir Kumar who became a doctor like his father and later became a governor of Bihar between 1983-88.
Awards and honours
In 1979, he was awarded with the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, for his contribution to scientific development and national unity. He was also conferred with a number of other awards including Pride of India Medal by the Government of India in 1955 and Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1963.
Bidhan Chandra Roy was one of the prominent non-Congress leaders from Bengal between 1947 and 1977 who worked tirelessly for various development projects across Kolkata. It is said that ‘Bidhan Chandra Roy didn’t hesitate at all to fight for what he believed in’.
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