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Why India has forgotten Dr BC Roy

By Dr SUDHIR BISHT
July 04, 2020 13:20 IST
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'But India needs to remember Dr Roy, the multifaceted genius who excelled as a physician and was most loved as a leader,' notes Dr Sudhir Bisht.

IMAGE: Leaders pay tribute to Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy on the occasion of National Doctor's Day, July 1, in Kolkata. Photograph: Utpal Sarkar/ANI Photo
 

Let us see how many can answer this right.

He was a physician, a freedom fighter, an educationist and one of the greatest sons of India. Who was he?

A BA (Hons) in mathematics from Patna and an MBBS from Calcutta, he went to England and became both a member of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS), a rarest of rare feat. And he achieved it in under three years. Who was he?

He was an unwilling politician, but was mayor of Calcutta and chief minister of Bengal from 1948 to 1962. Who was he?

Prior to that, he was the governor of Uttar Pradesh for one year. Who was he?

He was a physician who was trusted for his diagnosis by the rich and poor alike. The only physician who could force Bapu to take allopathic medicine. Who was he?

The people of West Bengal idolised him and worshipped the ground he treaded. Patients would flock to him for treatment of their ailments even though he was the chief minister of one of the biggest states of India. And he never was found wanting in discharging his duties either as a doctor or as a chief minister. Who was he?

He was a Congressman, again an unwilling Congressman to start with and soon became one of its tallest leaders, without forcing himself into any political games. He achieved greatness by his deeds and people were more than willing to thrust greatness upon him. Who was he?

National Doctor's Day is celebrated on July 1 every year. That is his birthday as well as the day of his passing away. Who was he?

The answer to all the above questions is Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the the man who helped set up the Medical Council of India and the Indian Medical Association.

A year before he died, he was awarded the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.

So why does this generation know so little about him?

Firstly, because he left no political successors behind in the form of children who could reap the benefits of his legacy. Dr Roy was a bachelor by choice.

Secondly, Dr Roy was a Congressman and the undisputed top-notch servant-leader of Bengal. But the deification of leaders was a domain which was exclusively reserved for one family of the Indian National Congress. This peculiar syndrome took over the Congress party after the ascent to power of Indira Gandhi, though a great leader in her own right.

Thirdly, from 1967 onwards, the surge in Communism began in Bengal and for the Communists, the only hero is their party's red flag and the hammer and the sickle.

The Communists refused to lionise their own superstar, Jyoti Basu, who led them to successive election victories for quarter of a century. So Bengali rulers did nothing to put Dr Roy's name centrestage.

I may add here that the prestigious Bidhan Chandra Roy Award was instituted by the Medical Council of India in 1962, the year Dr Roy passed away. It is a national award and Nehruji was behind it. It would be apt to mention here that Nehruji absolutely admired and respected Dr Roy.

Fourthly, the reason why Dr Roy is a forgotten name today is that his karm-bhoomi was Bengal, a state that has fallen by the wayside today in terms of industrialisation or in respect of growth of services sector or even agriculture.

Gone are the days when Bengalis occupied top positions in the fields of bureaucracy, judiciary, sports, cinema and politics.

When a state gets marginalised in the power hierarchy, formal and informal, the portrait of its heroes of yesteryear also gather dust in the august hall of fame.

But India needs to remember Dr B C Roy, the multifaceted genius who excelled as a physician and was most loved as a leader. Even while leaving, he donated his bungalow to set up a medical facility.

Long live austerity! Long live the breed of Dr B C Roy!

India needs hundreds of them.


Dr Sudhir Bisht, author and columnist, is a frequent contributor to Rediff.com. You can e-mail him at sudhir_bisht@rediffmail.com

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