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.
B. C. Roy’s Early Life and Career
Bidhan Chandra Roy was born on July 1, 1882, at Bankipore in Patna, Bihar. His father Prakash Chandra was an Excise Inspector. Bidhan was the youngest of five children. Though Bidhan’s mother passed away when he was 14, his father had played the role of both father and mother to his five children. He promised never to compel them to do anything but to just guide them on their path. All five children were required to do the household chores themselves. This was very helpful for Bidhan during his college days. He opted to go to medical school. Bidhan left for Calcutta in June 1901.
Bidhan’s term in medical school was filled with hardships. Since, his father retirement, Bidhan fended for him by getting a scholarship and living frugally, saving on books by borrowing notes and relying on books in the library. Bidhan went to England to enroll himself at St. Bartholomew’s to further his education. The Dean, reluctant to accept a student from Asia, rejected Bidhan’s application. Dr. Roy did not lose heart and after 30 admission requests, the dean accepted Bidhan to the college. Bidhan completed his M.R.C.P and F.R.C.S and returned home from England in 1911.
On his return he taught at the Calcutta Medical College, then the Campbell Medical School and finally at the Carmichael Medical College. After graduation, B.C. Roy joined the Provincial Health Service. He exhibited immense dedication and hard work. He was prepared to even serve as a nurse when necessary. In his private practice he would charge only Rs. 2 to treat the poor.
He made contributions to the organization of medical education. He established institutions like the Jadavpur T.B. Hospital, Chittaranjan Seva Sadan, R.G. Khar Medical College, Kamala Nehru Hospital, Victoria Institution, and Chittaranjan Cancer Hospital. The Chittaranjan Seva Sadan for women and children was opened in 1926. He opened a center for training women in nursing and social work.
In 1942, Yangon fell to Japanese bombing and caused an exodus from Calcutta fearing Japanese insurgency. Dr. Roy acquired air-raid shelters for schools and college students to have their classes in, and provided relief for students, teachers and employees alike to save them from Japanese insurgency.
DR B.C. Roy’s Political Involvement and Other Activities
Dr. Roy entered politics in 1925. 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 Banerjea. In 1925, Dr. Roy tabled a resolution recommending a study of the causes of pollution in Hooghly and suggested measures to prevent pollution in the future.
Dr. Roy was elected to the All India Congress Committee in 1928. He kept himself away from rivalry and conflicts and made a deep impression on the leaders. Dr. 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 August 26, 1930 and detained at Central Alipore Jail.
During the Dandi March in 1931, many members of the Calcutta Corporation were imprisoned. He served as the Alderman of the Corporation during 1930-31 and Mayor in 1933. Under him, the Corporation made leaps in the expansion of free education, free medical aid, better roads, improved lighting, and water supply.
The Congress Party proposed Dr. Roy’s name for Chief Minister of Bengal. Dr. Roy accepted the position and took office on January 23, 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. Dr. Roy brought unity and discipline amongst the party ranks. Within three years law and order was returned to Bengal without compromising the dignity and status of his administration. On July 1st of 1962, after treating his patients Dr B.C. Roy passed away. He gifted his house for running a Nursing Home.
- Dr. B. C. Roy was conferred the Doctorate of Science in 1944.
- The nation honored Dr Roy with the Bharat Ratna in 1961.
- The B.C. Roy National Award was instituted in 1976 for the work in the area of medicine, politics, science, philosophy, literature and Arts.
Lessons from the life of Dr. B. C. Roy
Dr. B. C. Roy stood by his principles and lived a life of integrity and showed by his own actions that people in public life should set examples for others. He proved that serving the people truly is possible.
His thirty attempts at entering medical school in England is an example for self belief and not giving up.
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.
His life shows us how discipline is the first priority in public life by staying away from rivalry and petty politics.