Balwantrai Mehta

Balwantrai Mehta

Balwantrai Mehta

Date of Birth : February 19, 1899
Date of Death : September 19, 1965
Mini Biography

Balwantrai Mehta (February 19, 1899 – September 19, 1965) was the second Chief Minister of Gujarat, India. He was a valiant freedom fighter, social worker and pioneer of concept of Panchayati Raj (local government). He was a soldier in the Bardoli Satyagraha. His greatest contribution were in the sphere of princely states’ peoples’ fight for self-rule. His name is conspicuously linked with democratic decentralization.He studied up to B.A classes but refused to take the degree from the foreign government. His teachers admired his devotion to study, hard work and gentle nature.

He joined the national movement of non-cooperation in 1920. He founded Bhavanagar Praja Mandal in 1921 for carrying on the freedom movement in that state. He participated in the Civil Disobedience movement from 1930 to 1932. He was sentenced for three years imprisonment in Quit India Movement of 1942. In short, he spent seven years of precious life in prison of British Empire. On Gandhiji’s suggestion, he accepted membership of the Congress Working Committee. When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru became president of All India Congress Committee, he was elected its general secretary; in 1957, he was selected for Lok Sabha.

There he rose in grassroots politics. Coming in contact with likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Lala Lajpat Rai, he joined Indian independence movement. During this struggle, the British government many times imprisoned him.

He succeeded Dr. Jivraj Mehta as the Chief Minister of Gujarat on September 19,in 1963. In the 1965 India-Pakistan war, he went for inspection of the Gujarat border along with his wife Shrimati Sarojben, pilot J. M. Engineer and six other crew members. On September 18, 1965, he was travelling in a civilian Dakota aircraft over Kachchh district of Gujarat when two Pakistani fighter planes chased his aircraft and fired on it. It is said that Pilot J. M. Engineer tried to crash plane in the sea but plane crashed couple of miles before reaching the sea. He is the first and probably only Indian politician, who happens to be died in battle by enemy action.

He also started Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan. The institution was started to give world class education and Indian values to children of India.He lived and died for the country; a dedicated life; widely known as ‘Architect of Panchayati Raj’.

Department of Post, Government of India has issued a special postage stamp of face value INR 3.00 to commemorate his 100th birth anniversary on February 19, 2000.

After the independence he was twice elected as a Member of Parliament in India’s Lok Sabha. he was the Chairman of Estimate committee of Parliament.

He was the Chairman of the Committee on Plan Projects which brought out an excellent report that paved way for establishment

Kerala celebrates his birthday

Kerala State celebrates February 19th, the birth anniversary day of Balwant Rai Mehta as the panchayati Raj Day in the State, in recognition of his contributions to the development of panchaytiraj in India. Every year the day is celebrated with pomp and gaiety.

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