Biju Patnaik: A Visionary Leader of the Century
From the boyhood to his last breath, Biju Patnaik’s life was full of adventures and excitement. All along his life span, he was the dealer of hope; a mass leader among each Odia. He was a visionary for making Odisha a progressive and prosperous and played a vibrant role in state as well as in Indian politics.
He took active part in the Freedom of India Movement with Jawaharlal Nehru, Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia during Quit India Movement.
In his short but first leg as Chief Minister, he achieved many milestones that silenced even his detractors. He succeeded in setting up the Paradip Port, the MIG factory at Sunabeda, a thermal plant at Talcher, the Express Highway connecting the iron ore deposits of Sukinda with Paradip, Balimela Hydel Project, Rourkela Engineering College (REC), Sainik School and Regional College of Education at Bhubaneswar, and Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) at Bhubaneswar.
Bringing an industrial revolution in Odisha was one of his dreams. He set up the State Planning Board and a number of Public Corporations. Ayodhya Nath Khosla, the internationally reputed engineer as the Governor of Odisha gave a helping hand to Biju Babu in formulating the development of the river basin of Odisha, by preparing a ten-year plan popularly known as the Decade of Destiny.
During the second term as Chief Minister from 1990-1995, Panchayati Raj movement gained momentum under his dynamic leadership. He took a revolutionary step to reserve 33 per cent of seats for women in three-tiers of the Panchayati Raj system and subsequently ‘The Orissa Panchayat Samiti (Amendment) Act 1993’ & ‘The Orissa Grama Panchayatas (Amendment) Act 1993’ were passed by the Odisha Legislative Assembly, which provided 33 per cent of reservation for women, including S.C. and S.T. women.
Penchant love for Odisha and Odia people not only made him a household name in Odisha, but he was known as Adhunik Kharavela (the modern Kharavela) for his vision to strengthen Odisha in every sphere.
Keeping pace with swift changes and development in science and technology scenario around the globe, Biju Patnaik instituted Kalinga Prize in 1952 to popularize and promote science. The Prize is an international distinction recognizing an individual’s work to interpret science, research and technology to the general public given each year through UNESCO.
He was, truly, a living legend in his lifetime that Odisha witnessed.