Siddhartha Shankar Ray

20 Oct 1920
6 Nov 2010
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Siddhartha Shankar Ray (20 October 1920 – 6 November 2010) was a Bengali politician belonging to the Indian National Congress. He was a prominent barrister, Judicial Affairs Minister of West Bengal, Education Minister of India., Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1972 to 1977, Governor of the Punjab, 1986-1989 and Ambassador of India to the United States of America.

Ray was born in an aristocratic Baidya family. Ray’s father, Sudhir Kumar Ray, was a well known barrister of Calcutta High Court and a member of the Indian National Congress and his mother Aparna Devi, was the elder daughter of the nationalist leader ‘Deshbandhu’ Chittaranjan Das and Basanti Devi. Ray was married to Smt. Maya Ray, who grew up in England. She was once referred to as “a noted barrister and former elected official” by the late Thomas J. Manton, a member of the United States House of Representatives. Ray’s sister is Justice Manjula Bose who was a senior judge of the Calcutta High Court. Ray was also related to Sudhi Ranjan Das, a Chief Justice of India and Satish Ranjan Das, an Advocated General of Bengal and a Law Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council.

Ray studied at St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, Calcutta, Mitra Institution, Bhowanipore Branch, Calcutta, Presidency College, Calcutta and University Law College, of the University of Calcutta. In college and university, he was active in both sports and politics. In 1941, he was elected as student Under-Secretary in the Calcutta University Institute Elections and was put in charge from time to time of various departments including Student’s Aid Fund, Debates, Sports and Socials. He was also the Debate Secretary and later the General Secretary of the Calcutta University Law College Union. As a sportsman he captained the Presidency College cricket team. He was the captain of the team that won the Inter Collegiate cricket Championship in 1944. He had scored three double centuries and 1000 runs for three consecutive seasons. He was also a keen footballer in Calcutta playing for the Kalighat Club. He was a University Blue in this sport and represented the Calcutta University in Inter-Varsity matches. In 1939, he was the Captain of the victorious Presidency College Football Team which won both the Elliot and Hardinge Birthday Shields.

Later Ray was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of Inner Temple, London. While in London he played cricket for the Indian Gymkhana Club.

Ray died of renal failure on 6 November 2010 at the age of 90. He was survived by his wife Maya (d. 11 March 2013 of renal failure)

Upon his return from England in 1946, Ray joined the Calcutta Bar as a junior of Ramaprasad Mukherjee, who himself later became a judge of the High Court of Calcutta. In 1954 he became one of the three junior Central Government counsels in Calcutta. In 1957 he was elected to the Bhowanipore Assembly seat which he won by a large majority, becoming the youngest member of the West Bengal Cabinet under the leadership of Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy. He was appointed as Law and Tribal Welfare Minister in West Bengal. In 1962, he was re-elected to the state’s Legislative Assembly as an Independent Candidate. In 1966, he became the Union Cabinet Minister of Education & Youth Services for the Government of India. He was also the Union Cabinet Minister of West Bengal Affairs of the Government of India.

After the Congress won the General Election of 1972, he became the Chief Minister of West Bengal from March 19, 1972 to June 21, 1977. He took office shortly after the Bangladesh Liberation War, and his administration was faced with the massive problem of resettling over a million refugees in various parts of the state. The crackdown on Naxalites also took place during this period.

Later, he had the distinction of serving as the Governor of Punjab from April 2, 1986 to December 8, 1989. When the Congress came back to power once again in Delhi in 1991, Ray was sent as India’s Ambassador to the United States. He remained in the USA from 1992 to 1996.

During his retirement between 1996 and 2010, Ray returned to his law practice, once again making his mark as an eminent Barrister of the High Court of Calcutta.

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