Biju Patnaik was a two time Chief Minister of Odisha, he was much known for his fearlessness. He was part of the Royal Indian Air Force, he also owned an airlines named Kalinga Airlines. However, history remembers him for his daring act of saving Indonesian Prime Minister Sjahrir who was under house arrest by the Dutch occupation in 1947. His political career was a stellar one with remarkable leadership and humility showcased by him.
Biju Patnaik was born on 5 March 1916 to Lakshminarayan and Ashalata Patnaik. His interest in aviation forced him to get dropped out of college and he got trained as a pilot. Patnaik joined the Royal Indian Air Force and became the head of air transport command. Shortly after independence Pakistani tribesmen invaded Kashmir and at Nehru’s request he helped airlift the first Indian soldiers into Srinagar. But that was not the only rescue act Mr Patnaik did.
The rescue of Indonesian Prime Minister
Nehru asked Biju Patnaik, who was adventurous and an expert pilot, to rescue Sjahrir from Indonesia, Sjahrir was the then the Indonesian PM who was put in house arrest by the Dutch. The Dutch went back on their word of granting Independence to Indonesia. Nehru considered Indonesia’s freedom struggle similar to that of India and hence he asked Biju Patnaik to rescue Sjahrir. President Sukarnoordered Sjahrir, the former prime minister of Indonesia, to leave the country to attend the first Inter-Asia Conference, organised by Nehru, in July 1947 and to foment international public opinion against the Dutch. Sjahrir was unable to leave as the Dutch controlled the Indonesian sea and air routes. Biju Patnaik and his wife flew to Java and brought Sultan Sjahrir out on Dakota and reached India via Singapore on 24 July 1947. For this act of bravery, Patnaik was given honorary citizenship in Indonesia and awarded the ‘Bhoomi Putra’, the highest Indonesian award, an honor rarely granted to a foreigner. In 1996, when Indonesia was celebrating its 50th Independence Day, Biju Patnaik was awarded the highest national award, the ‘Bintang Jasa Utama’
Biju Patnaik was a two-time Chief Minister and he was one of the Chief Ministers who resigned in response to the ‘Kamaraj Plan’ (where Kamraj had advised all top level leaders to resign and reach out to people to re-vitalize the congress). The then Indian Prime Minister would often seek Mr Patnaik’s advise during war like situation (1962 Indo-Sino war).
Kalinga Airlines was a private airline founded in 1947 by Biju Patnaik who was also the airline’s chief pilot. The airline was nationalized and merged into Indian Airlines in 1953. It restarted operations as a non-scheduled charter operator in 1957 and flew passengers and cargo until 1972. Notably, On September 15, 1952, a Kalinga Airlines Douglas Dakota cargo flight crashed in Wadi Halfa, Sudan killing three crew members aboard.
Retiring after spending 32 years in the Indian Army, Col Chris Rego is helping change the destinies of hundreds of children in conflict-affected North East India through his “White Bullets” initiative. With this initiative, he hopes to bring peace and progress to communities across North East India.
Luminouswanted to bring out the Colonel’s story to the world to inspire and motivate others as it believes that education is a strong tool to empower women. It is supporting Col Rego’s cause through an initiative called #Luminaries – the brave people who stand up for causes like girl child education and make a difference in the society.
Col Rego’s journey started over a decade ago in Manipur when a tribal woman knocked on his door pleading for support for her daughter’s education. Touched by the woman’s story, Col Rego and his wife delved into their savings and arranged for the money for the girl’s education. Two years down the line, the woman returned, this time with a small pumpkin and a shawl that she had knitted, and all the money she had borrowed. Moved and realizing that their money could make lives rather than earn paltry interest, Col and Mrs. Rego embarked on a journey to arrange for sponsorship of many more underprivileged children.
Retiring from the Army, Col Rego took over as CEO of Sunbird Trust, a not-for-profit organization which he founded in 2014. The Trust now sponsor over 1,000 children in 21 locations acrossNorth East India. The centre of Sunbird Trust’s activities is at beautiful Ijeirong, Manipur.
Recognizing Col Chris’s immense work, Luminousacknowledged him as their first Luminary. Through this, they hope to bring more power to his elbow in the notable work he is doing. The Luminousteam travelled to remote Ijeirong village and installed solar products. These solar products will help in providing power to the entire campus 24/7 for the very first time.
The Logical Indian salutes Col Christopher Rego for his untiring efforts and leadership. His efforts are already having a cascading effect on people from across India joining the “White Bullets” endeavour. Quite amazingly, education, in itself so empowering, is merely a means to PEACE. We hope the path illuminated by #Luminary Col Rego and his Sunbird Trust team acts as a beacon for others to follow.
If you too have stories of change, share them with us. And if you want to connect with Colonel Rego, click here.