Bidhan Chandra Roy MRCP FRCS (1 July 1882 – 1 July 1962) was an Indian physician, educationist, philanthropist, freedom fighter and statesman who served as Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1948 until his death in 1962. Roy played a key role in the founding of several institutions and the cities Bidhannagar and Kalyani. In India, the National Doctors' Day is celebrated in his memory every year on the 1st of July. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour in 1961.
Bidhan Chandra Roy
|2nd Chief Minister of West Bengal|
23 January 1948 – 1 July 1962
Kailash Nath Katju
|Preceded by||Prafulla Chandra Ghosh|
|Succeeded by||Prafulla Chandra Sen|
|Member of West Bengal Legislative Assembly|
|Preceded by||Constituency established|
|Succeeded by||Bijoy Singh Nahar|
|Preceded by||Bijoy Singh Nahar|
|Succeeded by||Siddhartha Shankar Ray|
|5th Mayor of Kolkata|
5 April 1931 – 9 April 1933
|Preceded by||Subhas Chandra Bose|
|Succeeded by||Santosh Kumar Basu|
|Born||1 July 1882|
Bankipore, Patna, Bengal Presidency, British India
|Died||1 July 1962 (aged 80)|
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
|Political party||Indian National Congress|
|Parent(s)||Aghore Kamini Devi|
Prakash Chandra Roy
|Residence(s)||Kolkata, West Bengal, India|
|Awards||Bharat Ratna (1961)|
Roy's grandfather, Prankali, was an employee of the collectorate of Baharampur in Murshidabad, West Bengal, and his father, Prakash Chandra Roy, was a kayasth jamidar born there in 1847. His mother, Aghorkamini Devi, was the daughter of a zamindar of Baharampur named Bipin Chandra Bosu.
Bidhan Chandra Roy was born on 1 July 1882 to a Bengali family in Bankipore in Patna, where his father, Prakash Chandra Roy, was serving as an excise inspector. His mother, Aghorkamini Devi, was religious and a devoted social worker. Bidhan was the youngest of five siblings – he had 2 sisters, Susharbashini and Sarojini, and 2 brothers, Subodh and Sadhan. Bidhan's parents were ardent Brahmo Samajists, led an austere and disciplined life, and devoted their time and money to the service of everyone in need, irrespective of caste or creed.
Prakash Chandra was a descendant of the family of Maharaja Pradapaditya, the rebel Hindu king of Jessore, but did not inherit much wealth from his ancestors. He earned a moderate salary for most part of Bidhan's childhood, but he and Aghorkamini supported the education and upbringing of both their own children and a number of other poor children, mostly orphans. The spirit of 'give and take' was inculcated in Bidhan and his siblings at a young age. They were taught and encouraged to give away what was precious to them, freely and willingly.
Bidhan studied at Patna Collegiate School in 1897, and obtained his I.A. degree from Presidency College, Calcutta. He completed his undergraduate studies at Patna College, where he obtained a B.A. degree with honours in mathematics. After graduating with his bachelor's degree, he applied to undertake postgraduate studies at the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology and at the Calcutta Medical College. His application was accepted by both institutions and he chose to attend the latter. Bidhan left Patna in June 1901 to study at the Calcutta Medical College. While at medical school, Bidhan came upon an inscription which read, "Whatever thy hands findeth to do, do it with thy might." These words became a lifelong source of inspiration for him.
Bengal was partitioned while Bidhan was in college. Opposition to the partition was being organised by such nationalists as Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal. Bidhan resisted the immense pull of the movement. He controlled his emotions and concentrated on his studies, realising he could serve his nation better by qualifying in his profession first.
Intending to enroll at St Bartholomew's Hospital to complete further studies in medicine, Bidhan left for Britain in February 1909 with ₹1200. The then dean of St. Bartholomew's Hospital was reluctant to accept an Asian student and rejected Bidhan's application. Roy submitted several additional applications till the dean, after 30 admission requests, admitted Bidhan. Bidhan completed his studies in two years and three months, and in May 1911 became a member of the Royal College of Physicians and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons simultaneously. He returned home in 1911.
After his return, Roy joined the Provincial Health Service. He exhibited immense dedication and hard work, and would serve as a nurse when necessary. In his free time, he practised privately, charging a nominal fee. He taught at the Calcutta Medical College, and later at the Campbell Medical School (now NRS Medical College) and the Carmichael Medical College(now R.G. Kar Medical College).
Roy believed that swaraj (the call to action for India's freedom) would remain a dream unless the people were healthy and strong in mind and body. He made contributions to the organisation of medical education. He played an important role in the establishment of the Jadavpur T.B. Hospital, Chittaranjan Seva Sadan, Kamala Nehru Memorial Hospital, Victoria Institution (college), and Chittaranjan Cancer Hospital. In 1926, the Chittaranjan Seva Sadan for women and children was opened by Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy.
In 1942, Rangoon fell to the Japanese bombing and caused an exodus from Calcutta fearing a Japanese invasion. Roy was serving as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. He acquired air-raid shelters for schools and college students to have their classes in, and provided relief for students, teachers and employees alike. In recognition for his efforts, the Doctorate of Science was conferred upon him in 1944.
Roy believed the youth of India would determine the future of the nation. He felt the youth must not take part in strikes and fasts but should study and commit themselves to social work. While delivering the Convocation Address at the University of Lucknow on 15 December 1956, Dr. Roy 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...
Dr. Roy was both Gandhiji's friend and doctor. When Gandhiji was undertaking a fast in Parnakutivin, Poona in 1933, Dr. Roy attended to him. Gandhiji refused to take medicine on the grounds it was not made in India. Gandhiji asked Dr. Roy, "Why should I take your treatment? Do you treat four hundred million of my countrymen free?" Dr. Roy replied, "No Gandhiji, I could not treat all patients free. But I came... not to treat Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, but to treat "him" who to me represents the four hundred million people of my country." Gandhiji relented and took the medicine.
In 1925, Roy began his political career. He ran for elections from the Barrackpore Constituency as an independent candidate for the Bengal Legislative Council and defeated the "Grand Old Man of Bengal," Surendranath Banerjee. Though an independent, Roy voted with the Swaraj Party (the Parliamentary wing of the Congress in the 1920s). As early as 1925, Roy tabled a resolution recommending a study of the causes of pollution in Hoogly and suggested measures to prevent pollution in the future.
Roy was elected to the All India Congress Committee in 1928. Roy efficiently conducted the Civil Disobedience in Bengal in 1929 and prompted Pandit Motilal Nehru to nominate him Member of the Working Committee (CWC) in 1930. The CWC was declared an unlawful assembly and Dr. Roy along with other members of the committee were arrested on 26 August 1930 and detained at Alipore Central Jail.
During the Dandi March in 1931, many members of the Calcutta Corporation were imprisoned. Congress requested Roy to remain out of prison and discharge the duties of the Corporation. He served as the Alderman of the Corporation from 1930 to 1931 and as the Mayor of Calcutta from 1931 to 1933. Under him, the Corporation made leaps in the expansion of free education, free medical aid, better roads, improved lighting, and water supply. He was responsible for setting up a framework for dispensing grant-in-aid to hospitals and charitable dispensaries.
The Congress Party proposed Roy's name for Chief Minister of Bengal. Roy wanted to devote himself to his profession. On Gandhiji's advice, however, Roy accepted the position and took office on 23 January 1948. Bengal at the time had been torn by communal violence, shortage of food, unemployment and a large flow of refugees in the wake of the creation of East Pakistan. Roy brought unity and discipline among the party ranks. He then systematically and calmly began to work on the immense task in front of him. Within three years law and order was returned to Bengal without compromising the dignity and status of his administration. He told the people:
We have the ability and if, with faith in our future, we exert ourselves with determination, nothing, I am sure, no obstacles, however formidable or insurmountable they may appear at present, can stop our progress... (if we) all work unitedly, keeping our vision clear and with a firm grasp of our problems.
The nation honoured Roy with the Bharat Ratna on 4 February 1961. On 1 July 1962, his 80th birthday, after treating his morning patients and discharging affairs of the State, he took a copy of the "Brahmo Geet" and sang a piece from it. 11 hours later Roy died. After he died, his house became a nursing home named after his mother, Aghorkamini Devi. He had also constituted a trust for his properties at Patna to carry out social service, with eminent nationalist Ganga Sharan Singh (Sinha) being its first trustee.
The B.C. Roy National Award was instituted in 1962 in Roy's memory and has been awarded annually since 1976. The award recognizes excellent contributions in the areas of medicine, politics, science, philosophy, literature and arts. The Dr. B.C. Roy Memorial Library and Reading Room for Children in the Children's Book Trust, New Delhi, was opened in 1967. Today, his private papers are part of the Archives at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, at Teen Murti House, Delhi.