Tribute to Krishna Singh

21 Oct 1887
31 Jan 1961
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Krishna Singh (21 October 1887 – 31 January 1961) known as Dr. S.K.Singh, Sri Babu and Bihar Kesari was the first Chief Minister of the Indian state of Bihar (1946–61). Along with the nationalists Rajendra Prasad and Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Singh is regarded among the “Architects of Modern Bihar”. “Barring the war years(Second World War 1939–1945), Sinha was chief minister of Bihar from the time of the first Congress Ministry in 1937 until his death in 1961.”

He led Dalit’s entry into the Baidyanath Dham temple (Vaidyanath Temple, Deoghar), reflecting his commitment to the upliftment and social empowerment of dalits. He was the first Chief Minister in the country to abolish the zamindari system. He underwent different terms of imprisonment for a total of about eight years in British India. S.K.Sinha’s mass meetings brought hordes of people to hear him. He was known as “Bihar Kesari” for his lionlike roars when he rose to address the masses. His close friend and colleague Anugrah Narayan Sinha in his essay mere Shri Babu wrote that, “Since 1921, the History of Bihar has been the history of the life of Shri Babu”.

The former President of India, Pratibha Patil, released a book on the letters of exchange between Singh and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru titled Freedom and Beyond. The Nehru-Sinha correspondence touches on subjects such as Indian democracy in the making in early years of Independence, Centre-State relations, role of governor, turbulence in Nepal, Zamindari abolition and education scenario. Sinha was known for his scholarship and erudition and he had given his personal collection of 17,000 books to the public library in Munger in 1959 which is now named after him as Sri Krishna Seva Sadan.

Singh was born on 21 October 1887 in Khanwa in Nawada district of Bihar. His paternal village is Maur, near Barbigha in the then Munger District that is now part of Sheikhpura District. His father was a religious, middle-class member of a Bhumihar Brahmin family. His mother, who was also an unassuming and religious-minded person, died of plague when he was five years old. He was educated in the village school and at Zila School in Munger.

In 1906 he joined Patna College, which was then an affiliate of the University of Calcutta. He studied law and started practicing in Munger from 1915. In the meantime, he married and had two sons, Shivshankar Singh and Bandishankar Singh (more commonly known as Swaraj Babu) who later held various posts in the state government.

Singh first met Mahatma Gandhi in 1916 at Central Hindu College, Benares and later at Shah Muhammad Jubair’s house in December, 1920. At Munger, he vowed to work relentlessly to free India from the British rule. He gave up practising law in 1921 to take part in Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement.

He was arrested for the first time in 1922 at Jubair’s house and Congress Seva Dal was declared illegal. For this he was known as Bihar Kesari by the people. He was released from jail in 1923 and on the day of Tulsi Jayanti performed in the play Bharat Darshan at Central School, Kharagpur. In the same year he became member of All India Congress Committee.

In 1927, he became member of the Legislative Council and in 1929 became General Secretary of Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee. In 1930, Sinha played an important role in the Namak Satyagrah at Garhpura. He suffered severe scalding injuries to his hands and chest while being arrested, was imprisoned for six months and then was again arrested and imprisoned for two years during Civil Disobedience movement. He was released after Gandhi–Irwin Pact and again started with his nationalist work and work with the Kisan Sabha.

On 9 January 1932 he was sentenced to two years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1,000. He was released from Hazaribagh Jail in October, 1933. He was involved in relief and rehabilitation after the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake. He was the President of Munger Zila Parishad from 1934 to 1937. In 1935, he became member of the Central Assembly.

Sribabu was also the President of the B.P.C.C. in 1936, a member of its working committee and in fact, the life and soul of the Provincial Working Committee and of the Congress organization in the state for over thirty years. This long period of service at the help of the state is a proof not only of the great popularity and confidence which he enjoyed in the party but it symbolises also his great qualities as a co-ordinator between party and government.

On 20 July 1937, he became the Premier of Bihar province when Congress came to power. Under the Government of India Act of 1935, Sinha formed his Cabinet at Patna on 20 July 1937. He and his colleague Anugrah Narayan Sinha disagreed with the governor on the issue of the release of political prisoners and resigned. The then governor had to accede to the demands for release of prisoners from Cellular Jail (Kalapani) and Bihar Tenancy Act was reformed in favour of peasants.

They then resumed office. But they again resigned in 1939, as did all Congress chief ministers, over the question of involving India in the Second World War without the consent of the Indian people. Along with Anugrah Narayan Sinha, a prominent Gandhian and the first Deputy Chief Minister cum Finance Minister of Bihar, he is considered one of the makers of modern Bihar.

Sinha was always interested in self-study and his ideas and speeches were noted for their wisdom. He was a staunch opponent of casteism and defended the oppressed and the oppressed. Impressed by his courage, in 1940 Gandhi awarded him the distinction of being called the first Satyagrahi of Bihar. He was jailed for nine months (22 November 1940 – 26 August 1941).

When the Quit India movement started in 1942, he was arrested on 10 August. He was released in 1944 from Hazaribagh jail after he became seriously ill. In the same year his wife died at Prince of Wales Medical College.

As the former Prime Minister of Bihar he attended the Simla Conference and also became the member of Constituent Assembly of India which framed the Constitution of India.

Singh served Bihar continuously from 1946 until his death on 31 January 1961 at the age of 73. In 1978, the Ministry of Culture established a science museum called Srikrishna Science Centre. The biggest conference hall in Patna, Shri Krishna Memorial Hall is also named after him.

Almost all the development projects needed for the state of Bihar were done by the leadership pair of Shree Babu and A N Sinha. It includes several river valley projects right from Koshi, Aghaur and Sakri to other such river projects. The first five-year plan period was given to the development in rural development works mainly in the agricultural sector.

In fact, Bihar became the top state in the country’s first five-year plan and it was announced by the then Finance Minister Dr. A N Sinha in the assembly. Since the second five-year plan period, Shri Babu brought several heavy industries like Barauni Oil Refinery, HEC plant at Hatia, Bokaro Steel Plant, Barauni Fertiliser Plant, Barauni Thermal Power Plant, Maithon Hydel Power Station, Sulphur mines at Amjhaur, Sindri Fertiliser Plant, Kargali Coal Washery, Barauni Dairy Project, etc. for the all round development of the state.

He had immense contribution in the cultural and social development of the state. It was he who had established the Rajendra Chatra Niwas at Calcutta for the Bihari students, the Anugraha Narayan Sinha Institute of Social Studies (ANSISS) at Patna, Lok Rangshala of the Bihar Sangit Nritya Natya Parishad, Sanskrit College at Patna, Ravindra Bhavan at Patna, Bhagvan Buddha’s statue at Rajgir Venu Van Vihar as well as orphanage at Muzaffarpur. Lok Rangshala of the Bihar Sangit Nritya Natya Parishad, Sanksrit College at Patna, Ravindra Bhavan at Patna, Lord Buddha’s statue at Rajgir Venu Van Vihar, as well as an orphanage at Muzaffarpur were opened by him.

In a formal legal sense, the Chief Minister can be persuaded or forced in the interim to resign or retire by the legislature to which the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible. Sri Babu faced no-confidence motion five times, though all the motions were defeated in the house.

Sri Babu maintained good working relations with the secretariat officials and protected police from demoralization because police, having done away with pre-independence legacy no longer symbolized tyranny, domination, intimidation and oppression. Sri babu emphasized that in democratic India, policemen symbolized efficiency, service, protection, and help to the people. Caste played no role in promotion, transfer, posting and in working relationship of police officials with ministers or the Chief Minister in the fifties.

S.Q.Rizvi, an upright and retired senior Indian Police Service official spoke thus, “About the qualities of head and heart of this great man, it could be summed up in three words ‘Humanism, Integrity and Secularism’. Dr. S.K.Sinha was a great leader and idealist endowed with great intellectual attainments. But what to me appeared the most prominent feature was that as a politician he had absolute integrity. A rare quality in a political leader of an area besieged with problems of caste and of low level mental make-up.”

Sri Babu was a “progressive” leader who introduced substantive land reform legislations at the early period of Bihar’s history. However, Sri Babu favoured the growth of agricultural capitalism and he wanted to do away with the constraints and hindrances in the way of the growth of productive forces in agriculture. Sinha was, not so much enthusiastic about post-zamindari agrarian reforms, a section of leftists argue. Yet, leftists grant credit to Sinhafor getting the Bihar Tenancy Act passed in the early years.

Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer has written, “Sri Krishna Singh, Govind Ballabh Pant, Bidhan Chandra Roy, Rajaji, K. Kamaraj, E. M. S. Namboodiripad and others of that stature were heavyweights in their own right and brought into political administration a texture of nationalism, federalism, realism, and even some touch of pragmatic socialism.” Justice Iyer further wrote, “Sri Krishna lived poor, died poor and identified himself with the poor.

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