“Whatever thy hands findeth to do, do it with thy might”
National Doctors’ Day is celebrated in India on July 1, every year. The day is dedicated to Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy for his contribution to medical science. He was one of the greatest statesmen in India. It was because of his contribution that July 1 is observed as a day to thank doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers for their esteemed contribution to the service of humanity.
Bidhan Chandra Roy: Builder of Modern India
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (publications division) published a biography of Dr. B.C. Roy in the “Builders of Modern India” series, which was written by Dr. Nitish Sengupta, who worked very closely with Dr. Roy during his time as the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
In his book, “Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy (Builders of modern India)”, Dr. Nitish Sengupta describes Dr. Roy as a legendary physician of the country, a distinguished political leader, philanthropist, educationist, and social worker.
Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was born on July 1, 1882, at Bankipore, Patna, Bihar. He belonged to the family that claimed descent from the Maharaj Pratapaditya of Jessore, who raised the banner of revolt against the Mughal Emperor, Akbar.
As a child, he was physically weak but sensitive and always had the spirit of service to others. His constant companion was his elder brother, Sadhan. His parents, Prakash Chandra Roy and Aghore Kamini Devi had a huge influence on young Bidhan who became spiritual, disciplined, and had strong ethics in his life due to them.
Dr. Bidhan completed his studies in arts with honours degree in Mathematics in 1901 from Patna College. He joined Calcutta Medical College on June 1, 1901. He also obtained degrees in both medicine and surgery from Great Britain.
Dr. Roy- The physician
In Dr. Roy’s life, a person who played a very significant role was Englishman, Col. Lukis, who was a friend, philosopher, and guide to Dr. Roy during his time in Britain. It was Col. Lukis who also inspired Dr. Roy to not only achieve success in the profession of medical science but also to serve the nation.
According to Nitish Sengupta’s book, Dr. Roy met with the dean of his university, more than 30 times in the course of a month and a half to get himself admitted to St Bartholomews only because it offered courses in both MRCP and FRCS. He cleared both the courses with flying colours in May 1911, which was a rare accomplishment then.
Dr. Bidhan worked as an Assistant Surgeon in the Provincial Medical service and was posted as House Physician under Col. Lukis. There, he got the opportunity to teach students and also to practice his profession.
As a practitioner, he charged Rs 2 but completely nursed his patients, and also prepared food for them if need be. This not only highlighted his dedication towards his profession but also his passion for serving others.
It once so happened that Dr. Roy identified the presence of a patient suffering from chickenpox upon entering the room.
Under Col. Lukis, Dr. Roy learned a lot, one of which was to not stand being bullied by others. During his time in Britain, Dr. Roy often raised his voice if he felt he was being racially discriminated.
A distinguished political leader
Bidhan Chandra Roy entered into politics in 1923 elections against Sir Surendra Nath Banerjee. K P Thomas in his book, ‘Dr. B C Roy’, writes, “A complete stranger to the wider politics of the country, Dr. Roy became in the twinkling of an eye, as it were, one of the foremost figures in the political life of Bengal at the comparatively young age of forty-two.”
He further writes, “Though he had no political background as such, he had a sound grasp of politics. He understood human nature and was well aware of the conditions of the people, their aspirations, thoughts, and sufferings. It was his sympathy for fellow-beings that made him realize that he could, by entering politics, do a lot to better the conditions of the people.”
During his time as a politician, he pledged to improve the condition of tenants, protect them against the tyranny of zamindars, solve problems related to public health and medical relief.
Dr. Roy became the Chief Minister of West Bengal in 1948 until his death in 1962. During which he transformed post-partition West Bengal from a problem State into one of the foremost States in the country. He was the Chief Minister of the State for 14 years, and one of the foremost national leaders in the country. He was also the 6th Mayor of Kolkata from April 1931 to April 1933.
Digha, in West Bengal, was also developed into a beach resort by Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy after John Frank Smith’s persuasion.
Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy is credited for the creation of two prestigious medical institutions in the country, the Indian Medical Association in 1928 and the Medical Council of India. He also helped in the formulation of the Indian Institute of Mental Health, the Infectious Disease Hospital, and Kolkata’s first-ever postgraduate medical college.
Dr. Roy was honored with Bharat Ratna in 1961. The B.C Roy National Award was also instituted in his respect in 1962 for excellent contribution in areas of medicine, politics, science, philosophy, literature, and arts.
Several books have been written on Dr. B C Roy that speak of the man he was, his ideals, and principles in life. Some of them are ‘Dr. Bidhan Chandra Ray: A jewel of India by Asoke K Bagchi’, ‘B. C Roy, the true Gandhian by S Gajrani’, ‘Dr. B. C Roy by K P Thomas’ and ‘My years with Dr. B C Roy by Saroj Chakrabarthy’. Further, private papers of Dr. Roy are archived at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, New Delhi.
Dr. Roy passed away on July 1, 1962, on his 80th birth anniversary.