Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy One of The Makers of Modern India


“My young friends, you are soldiers in the battle of freedom-freedom from want, fear, ignorance, frustration and helplessness. By a dint of hard work for the country, rendered in a spirit of selfless service, may you march ahead with hope and courage…” -Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy

A renowned physician, an educationist, a social-reformer and a leading freedom fighter Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was one of the makers of modern India. He was an able administrator and an icon of morality and ethics in public life. His services to the nation are still the source of inspiration for the youth; every Indian may take pride in his great works and love for the nation.

Born on July 1, 1882 at Bankipore locality of Patna City in Bihar, Bidhan’s childhood was nurtured by his parents. He completed his primary and secondary levels of education in Patna. Later he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors in mathematics from the Patna College. His mother inculcated in him the values of understanding and serving others while his father Prakash Chandra Roy, at that time posted as an excise inspector in Patna, played a key role in developing the spirit of simplicity, discipline and compassion in him.

When he was just 14 years old, his mother Aghorkamini Devi suddenly passed away, therefore, his father had to discharge the double responsibilities of both father and mother. He worked hard not only in looking after his five children including Bidhan, but also in developing in them characteristics of self-sufficiency and working for larger welfare of humanity.

Along with completing his studies in Patna, in 1901 Bidhan Chandra Roy also obtained I. A. degree from the Presidency College, Calcutta. He was keen to study further, and preferred the medical line. His father, now retired, was unable to support Bidhan financially for further studies. Therefore, besides borrowing notes and books from friends and libraries, Bidhan had to depend on a scholarship.

While studying in Calcutta, particularly after the partition of Bengal in 1905, Bidhan, impressed by the ideas of stalwarts like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lajpat Rai, Arbindo Ghosh and Bipin Chandra Pal, got drawn to the national freedom movement. He also joined the Brahmo Samaj, the leading social reform organization founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy and for some time actively worked for it. But he kept himself away from joining the national movement directly.

Rather, he preferred serving the masses particularly, the depressed and helpless through medical aid and advice. He was of the opinion, “Independence from the colonial rule will remain a dream until and unless the people of India are healthy and strong in mind and body.” Towards this end he joined the State Health Department and also spared time for treatment of poor either free or at a very nominal charge.

In 1909 Bidhan Babu, with rupees one thousand two hundred in hand went to England to pursue higher study and research in medical science. After several efforts he got enrolled at the St. Bartholomew from where he earned M. R. C. P. and F. R. C. S., both prestigious degrees in medical science. He finally returned to Calcutta in 1911.

Adhering to his belief that, “Along with independence of India from the colonial rule, physical and mental development of masses is necessary for rebuilding the nation”, Bidhan Babu associated himself with the national liberation movement of India under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Simultaneously he initiated work for public health. He was also committed to a fair public life. He contested for the Bengal Legislative Council in 1925, and entered the House as a member after defeating a stalwart like Surendra Nath Banerjee.

Immediately he attracted the attention of the House towards a serious problem related to sanitary and environment in Howrah and compelled the State Government to take a concrete step in the matter. He was quite active in the Civil Disobedience [1930] and Quit India Movement [1942], both launched by Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1933 Bidhan Chandra Roy was elected as the City Mayor, Calcutta. In 1943 he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the Calcutta University. From January 14, 1948 to his last day i.e., July 1, 1962 he served as the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Dr. Roy was the first Indian to become the Chairman of the Medical Council of India, and shape its future. He founded cities like Kalyani and Bidhannagar; he established renowned institutions like Jadhavpur T. B. Hospital, R. G. Kar Medical College, Kamla Nehru Hospital, Chittaranjan Cancer Hospital, Victoria Institute and Chittaranjan Women Service Centre.

Besides being the architect and maker of modern West Bengal, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was one of the nation builders. He was a mass leader and a thinker. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister described him very aptly; *”Besides being a political stalwart…he was an all-rounder in a way. His contribution towards rebuilding modern India, his contribution in the making of West Bengal, can never be forgotten by anyone.”*

He especially wanted the youth of the country to become self-reliant and rebuild the nation. In his convocational address at the University of Lucknow [Uttar Pradesh] on December 15, 1956 urging the youth of India, he had said, *”My young friends, you are soldiers in the battle of freedom – freedom from want, fear, ignorance, frustration and helplessness. By a dint of hard work for the country, rendered in a spirit of selfless service, may you march ahead with hope and courage…”

In recognition to his exemplary services to the nation, Dr. Roy was honoured with Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour of the country in 1961. Furthermore, with the purpose of keeping his legacy alive, and more particularly inspiring the youth to learn from his virtues of service and sacrifice, patriotism and firm belief in human values, the B. C. Roy Awards were started in 1976, respectively in the field of arts, literature, medicine, philosophy, politics and science. They are given annually in recognition to exemplary work accomplished in the above-mentioned fields. The National Doctor’s Day is celebrated all over the country every year on July 1, the birth and death day of Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy.

Dr. Ravindra Kumar is an eminent writer, Indologist, political scientist and a former vice chancellor of Meerut University, India, who authored and edited over 100 works on great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and on various social-cultural issues.