Monday, September 18, 2017




 Biju Patnaik was born in Cuttack  Orissa in 1916, into an aristocratic family.Apart from being a politician from Odisha , Biju Babu was an Aeronautical engineer, Navigator, Industrialist, A daring  pilot and a front line Freedom Fighter .Biju Babu had been a daring man right from his childhood. As a young college boy, he Bicycled all the way from Cuttack to Peshawar . Much before 1947, He had joined as a pilot in the Royal Air Force of British Empire.


On 24th July 1947 , At Pandit Nehru’s request ,Biju Babu airlifted and rescued Sultan Sariar Khan and Muhhamad Srihatta , two key Indonesian independence leaders from a remote hideout in Indonesia and flew them to India. He flew to Jakarta and Java under extremely dangerous conditions of Bombing and fight where his aircraft could have been shot down any moment. A specific request was made by Sukarno to Nehru for this Rescue Mission. The colonial Dutch were after his blood when they came to know about this rescue Mission . The Indonesians Named him “Bhumi Putra” and in 1996 Indonesian Government awarded the highest national award, the 'Bintang Jasa Utama'. In this rescue mission,Biju Babu was accompanied by his daring wife Gyanwati Sethi who was also a trained pilot.Gyan was a Punjabi girl from Lahore and she married Biju in 1939. 

                                                         ( Biju Babu and Gyan )

( Biju Babu and Gyan )

 Biju himself piloted the plane that carried his Barat( Wedding party ) to Lahore.

During second world war, Biju Patnaik and his wife Gyan played crucial role in air dropping medicines and supplies for soldiers and also evacuating Indians to safety from war ravaged  Burma.

During India’s Freedom struggle , Biju Babu gave shelter to Aruna Asif Ali In his Cuttack House when British Government declared a reward of 40 thousand rupees to capture Aruna Asaf Ali 

He was awarded “ ORDER OF LENIN “ By Russians for his commendable work in helping the Russians during 2nd world war against Hitler’s Army .


At Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s specific request , Biju Patnaik played a daring role in carrying first Batch of 17 Soldiers of Sikh Regiment to Srinagar at the crack of Dawn on 27 October 1947. It was rumoured that Tribals had already captured Srinagar Air Port and some daring Pilot was needed for the Specific mission of air dropping first Batch of Armed solders . That Day, He flew at a very low level to look around whether the enemy had already taken over the airport or not. He flew over Srinagar Airport for about 30 Minutes and once he was sure that the landing was safe , he landed his DC -3 Aircraft and hurried back to Capital to bring more soldiers . Pandit Ji had given very clear instructions not to land if he felt the presence of Pakistan sponsored Tribal raiders at Srinagar Air Port .

At that crucial time , Maharaja had suddenly left Srinagar and there was practically no administration. It was reported that the advancing Tribal raiders were approaching Srinagar city via two routes ; one Bandipora -safapora road and the other Pattan- Baramulla road . They had almost reached srinagar’s outskirts , The city had already plunged into total darkness with Raiders destroying Mohra Power house. Fear and panic prevailed all over . Volunteers from Men and women Militia marched through the street of Srinagar city , building confidence of the population terrified from reports about advancing Tribal Raiders . They Guarded Bridges , Roads and Vital Installations in the city . The First Indian Aircraft ( carrying Soldiers ) that Kashmiris saw flying over Srinagar city during those Turbulent days was piloted by Biju Patnaik.

Residents of Srinagar city heaved a sigh of relief once they saw all this. They had every reason to believe that the impending death and destruction in the city from the hands of marauding Raiders had been averted .

Mohhamad Sayeed Malik well known Journalist from J&K Informs me as under :

During the Emergency (1976) Biju Patnaik, against whom there was an arrest warrant along with other opposition leaders, stayed in Srinagar for nearly two weeks and my boss (at PATRIOT newspaper) Aruna Asaf Ali asked me to look after him. It appeared that Mrs Gandhi was not that keen in pursuing Biju's arrest warrant, probably because of her father's close association with him.
Arunaji called me to receive Patnaik at Srinagar airport and his accommodation had been booked at the then Oberoi Palace hotel. He was accompanied by his wife who was closely related to 'Sethis' of ND Radhakishen & Co (red colour Mail bus service).

 During that time I had taken long leave from PATRIOT to take up the contract job of State's Director Information and PR in Sheikh Saheb's govt. Sheikh Saheb willingly permitted me to 'give company' to Biju during his stay here. At times it necessitated joining the Patnaik's at dinner in their hotel. To keep company with Mrs Patnaik, Arunaji desired that my wife too joined me, as courtesy. So it became our daily duty to visit them late afternoon and my wife was not all too comfortable with her imposed role because of her own domestic preoccupation.
Probably, appreciating the value of time we were spending with them, Biju offered me to take local agency for his Kalinga Pipes in J&K. I politely declined saying business was not my cup of tea and that I would only make a mess of his company's market reputation. He just would not listen. He shoved Rs 1, 000 into pocket literally forcibly and suggested I start with this as my capital. I still owe that amount to him because he just would not accept the fact that I could be so foolish as to reject such a good offer.  Mrs Patnaik did visit Sethis during that time. On their return, Biju did call a few times to thanks us. But he saved me the embarrassment of again saying 'no' to his Kalinga Pipes offer.

Biju Patnaik is survived by daughter Gita Mehta (author of Karma Cola, Raj, Snakes & Ladders etc) and two sons-Prem and Naveen Patnaik. Naveen Patnaik happens to be the present CM of Odisha .

 And Biju Babu remains unknown and unsung…

( Autar Mota )


Gyanwati sethi was an ex student of Lahore’s prestigious, Kinnaird college  .  Originally her family  hailed from Raja Bazar area of Rawalpindi. Gyan was one of the first women in the undivided India to get a commercial pilot’s licence in 1937. She co-piloted with her husband and former Chief Minister of Orissa Biju Patnaik’s aircraft on several  trips around the world.


Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.