George Fernandes, the former Defence Minister of India and the pioneer of Konkan Railways, kicked the bucket at the age of 88 in New Delhi on Tuesday. He was suffering from Alzheimer disease and making it worse, he also got plagued by the Swine Flu recently which deteriorated his health further, and hence, he breathed his last in New Delhi.
George Fernandes was known for his ardent administrative valor and evangelistic passion. During his stint, he presided over key portfolios like communications, industry, and railways besides Defence. He is construed to be the Konkan Man of India for his astounding contribution to the Konkan Railways.
A Glimpse of George Fernandes’ Notable Achievements
George Fernandes was born to a Christian family in Mangalore, Karnataka. He heaped limelight in India when he organized a Railways strike which ultimately brought the country to a standstill in 1974 as a Trade Unionist. George Fernandes was the Defence Minister of India from 1998 to 2004 under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. As the Defence Minister of India, he steered the Nuclear test of 1998, and also led from the front in the Kargil War of 1999. He was also well known for his inclinations towards the soldiers, as he used to frequently visit the soldiers in the Siachen Glacier.
Apart from his accomplishments in Defence, he is deemed to be the pilot of the Konkan Railways and is also known as the Konkan Man of India. His missionary vision and fortitude paved the way for the Konkan Railways in India, which reduced the traveling time by 12 hours in the Konkan Coastal Belt. Hence, Konkan Railway can be construed as an everlasting accomplishment of George Fernandes.
Apart from his political extravaganzas, he was an enduring socialist who founded the Samata Party in 1994, which later merged with the Janata Dal. Mr. Fernandes was often described as a rebel who fought for the rights of the poor and low paid workers. His last stint as an MP was in the Rajya Sabha during 2009-2010.
Some Notable Events in His Life
In 1975 he opposed the National Emergency imposed by the Indira Gandhi and was later incarcerated in connection to the Baroda dynamite case, where he was accused of using explosives to blow up government establishments and railway tracks.
In 1977, still in jail, Mr. Fernandes not only stood for parliamentary elections, but also won with a massive majority. He was appointed as the industry minister, once he was out of jail in then prime minister Morarji Desai’s government.
During his tenure as Industry Minister under the Janata Party government, he took some contentious overtures like showing the doors to IBM and Coco-Cola over the charges of foreign exchange violation as they refused to dilute their stakes in their local partners.
In 2001, he resigned from the portfolio of the Defence Ministry over the allegations of Tehelka Scandal, though, later he was acquitted of the charges as he got a clean chit from the court.
Reactions of Politicians and Ministers
The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi commiserated with the family of the Late Defence Minister in a spree of his tweets and deemed him to be the most significant trade Union leaders of the poor and marginalized. In one of his tweets, he reminisced his role in fighting against the emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.
Congress, President, Rahul Gandhi also showed his condolence to the family of the deceased former Defence Minister. While the Chief Spokesperson of Congress, Randeep Surjewala also showed his commiseration on the demise of George Fernandes.
Ram Nath Kovind, the prevailing President of India also paid his condolence and called George Fernandes as the Champion of Democracy. He reminisced his immense contribution to India as a Defence and Railway Minister. He further stressed at his simple way of living and High Thinking and construed him to be an exemplary paradigm of Simplicity and Intrepidity.
The Chief of Minister of Bengal also condoled to the demise of George Fernandes and proclaimed him to be the most significant trade union leaders of all time. Pained at his demise, she further uptick and said she had known him for decades and he was a man of great strength and valor.
Sources: Times of India, India Today, BBC
Image sources: Zee News, latestly.com, Rediff.