Shree Biju Patnaik

Born :- 05-Mar-1916
Died :- 17-Apr-1997
Place of Birth :-

A statesman in true tense of the term, an ardent freedom lover and an adventurous freedom fighter, an ace pilot, an esteemed politician, ‘King Maker’ amidst the post-Emergency political uncertainties in national politics, one of the most illustrious sons of India, the hero and the maverick Biju Pattanaik  is universally acclaimed as the architect of modern Odisha and the tallest leader of post-independence Odisha state. Biju Pattanaik, both in his life-time and even after his death, enjoys an iconic status in among the people and is widely admired across India for his courage, idealism, statesmanship and dedication to the cause of the people at the grassroots level.

Biju Patnaik, was born in Cuttack on March 5, 1916 to Lakshminarayan and Ashalata Patnaik who hailed from Bhanjanagar in Ganjam. His father was a judicial servant, a great nationalist and a prominent leader of the Odia Movement respectively. Bijubabu completed his early education at the Mission Primary School and Mission Christ Collegiate School of Cuttack. In 1932, he got admitted into the intermediate science class of the famous Ravenshaw College, where he was a talented sportsman and headed the football, hockey, athletics and cricket team of the University. He was the sports champion continuously for three years. In order to fulfil his dream to become a pilot, he left his studies before completion of B.Sc. and studied Aeronautics at the Aeronautical Training Institute of India under the Delhi Flying Club. He successfully completed his training and joined the Dalmia-Jain Airways as its chief pilot.

Bijubabu was highly influenced by two architects of modern Odisha – Utkal Gourav Madhusudan Das and Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das. He was also influenced by the ideals and Mahatma Gandhi and his role in the Freedom struggle and plunged into the Quit India Movement in 1942. In 1943, he was sent to prison for over two years on charges of carrying hunted movement leaders to secret places.  Recalling Biju Babu’s role during this period Aruna Asaf Ali has mentioned that among the thousands who came forward to take up the challenge, Biju Patnaik, Chief Pilot of the Dalmia- Jain Airways was one of the most fearless who mobilised his fellow pilots.

Bijubabu joined the Indian Air Force following the outbreak of World War-2 and flew to its capital along with his Punjabi pilot-wife Gyan Pattanaik to rescue British officers when Japan attacked Burma, now Myanmar. He was also instrumental in assisting Indonesia in its struggle for Independence from the Dutch in 1947. At the behest of Nehru, he, along with his wife, flew into the Indonesian capital, astutely avoiding the watchful eyes of the Dutch soldiers, successfully rescued Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir and other leaders, who were under surveillance, and landed them in Delhi. For about three years he flew medicines and provisions for the Indonesian Freedom fighters. For such acts of bravery and as token of their gratitude, Biju Patnaik was declared ‘Bhoomi Putra’, the highest Indonesian award and offered honorary citizenship. In 1996, when Indonesia was celebrating its 50th Independence Day, Biju Patnaik was also given the highest national award, the ‘Bintang Jasa Utama’.

In 2015, Sukarno's daughter Megawati Sukarnoputri recounted how Bijubabu had suggested that she be named Meghavati or ‘daughter of clouds’ as she was born in a cloudy atmosphere of her nation. Her full name is Diah Permata Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri and she later became Indonesia's first female president, serving from 2001 to 2004.

In 2021, the Indonesian Embassy in New Delhi designated a room in the name of Biju Pattanaik. On the walls of the room are photographs, newspaper clippings and letters that document Bijubabu’s secret assignments to fly out Indonesian leaders, as well as his relations with the Indonesian leadership.

Biju Patnaik flew many sorties on his Dakota DC-3 from Delhi’s Safdarjung Airport on 27 October 1947, after the first Dakota DC-3 (Reg. No: VP 905) flown by Wg. Cdr. KL Bhatia landed in Srinagar Airport early morning. He brought 17 soldiers of 1-Sikh regiment commanded by Lt. Col. Dewan Ranjit Rai. He flew low on the airstrip twice to ensure that no raiders were around. Instructions from Prime Minister Nehru's office were clear: If the airport was taken over by the enemy, he was not to land. Taking a full circle the DC-3 flew ground level. Anxious eyeballs peered from inside the aircraft  only to find the airstrip empty. Not a soul was in sight. The raiders were busy distributing the spoils of war amongst themselves in Baramulla.

Bijubabu's political ideals were centred in socialism and federalism. His strong advocacy for equal resources to all Indian states which were in need of it, made him a champion of the poor states. Nehru affectionately called him “India’s buccaneer”. During his time in the Parliament, Nehru said, “Biju Patnaik has the courage, dynamism, and zeal to work. So there is no blunder in giving more aid to Odisha.”

Bijubabu was elected uncontested to the Odisha Legislative Assembly from North Cuttack constituency in 1946. In 1952 and 1957 he won from Jagannath Prasad and Sorada, respectively. In 1961 he assumed the presidency of the state Congress. Under his leadership, the Congress Party won 82 of 140 seats and he (Bijubabu represented the Chowdwar constituency) became the state’s chief minister and remained so until October 2, 1963, when he resigned from the post under the Kamaraj Plan to revitalize the party. He was chief minister only when he was 45.

Bijubabu was close to Indira Gandhi who took over the Congress Party in 1967. However, they clashed in 1969 over the Presidential election. He left the Congress and formed a regional party - the Utkal Congress. In the 1971 assembly poll, his party fared well. He then re-established contact with his old friend Jayaprakash Narayan and plunged into the JP movement as it picked up momentum in 1974. When the Emergency was declared in 1975, Biju Patnaik was one of the first to be arrested along with other opposition leaders. In 1977, he was released and elected to the Lok Sabha from Kendrapada and was the Union Minister for Steel and Mines till 1979 under the government of Morarji Desai and Choudhary Charan Singh. In 1980, and again in 1984 Bijubabu was elected to the Lok Sabha despite pro-Congress wave due to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Due to the defeat of the Congress in the 1989, he had to again take an active role in the formation of Government at Centre. Following negotiations he succeeded in persuading party leaders to accept VP Sing as the Prime Minister. In the 1990 state assembly election, Janata Dal won and Biju Patnaik again became chief minister of Odisha till 1995.

The following are just some of his outstanding contributions, among countless others:

The Choudwar and Barbil Industrial Belts, The Cuttack-Jagatpur Mahanadi Highway Bridge, The Bhubaneswar Airport, Regional College of Education at Bhubaneswar, The Orissa Aviation Centre, Paradeep Port, The MIG factory at Sunabeda, Thermal Power Plant at Talcher, Hydro-Electric Project at Balimela, The Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), Engineering & Medical Colleges at Burla, The Odisha State Planning Board, Re-organisation of districts (created 17 news districts), Ferro Silicon Complex at Theruvali, Engineering College at Rourkela, Express Highway linking Daitari with Paradeep, Sainik School at Bhubaneswar, Regional Research Laboratory, Hirakud Dam and Rourkela Steel plant.

Biju Patnaik started his own airline, the Kalinga Airways and in 1947 carried soldiers into Kashmir, when it was threatened from across the border sky. At great risk, he landed the first platoon of troops in Srinagar.

Biju Babu is considered as a pioneer of the industrial growth of Odisha who established a string of industries as a mission. He set up the Kalinga Tubes, the first modern Textiles Mills at Choudwar, the first Refrigerator factory at Jobra, Cuttack and a low shaft furnace at Barbil. In 1951 he established the international Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science and entrusted the responsibility to the UNESCO. Even at the young age of 35, he had foreseen the importance of science and technology and established the Kalinga Foundation for the purpose. This prize is considered a prestigious award by the international scientific community.

The legendary statesman died in New Delhi on April 17, 1997 of cardio-respiratory failure. In 1992, Biju Patnaik advised the Youth of Odisha saying thus :

“In my dream of the 21st century for the State, I would have young men and women who put the interest of the State before them. They will have pride in themselves, confidence in themselves. They will not be at anybody’s mercy, except their own selves. By their brains, intelligence and capacity, they will recapture the history of Kalinga.”

Sir Julian Huxley, UNESCO’S First Director General and also a Kalinga Prize Winner, had described Biju Patnaik as a “remarkable Indian whose adventures would fill a book”.


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