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 Sukarno
, 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
killing three crew members aboard.