Posthumous Bharat Ratna for Karpuri Thakur: Bihar’s Trailblazing Non-Congress Chief Minister and Language Advocate

Former Bihar Chief Minister Karpuri Thakur is set to be posthumously honored with the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award. Known for championing the interests of the backward classes, Karpuri Thakur served as Bihar’s Chief Minister twice and as Deputy Chief Minister once. He held the distinction of being the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Bihar. Karpuri Thakur won his first assembly election in 1952 and, in 1967, he eliminated the English language requirement in Bihar during his tenure as Deputy Chief Minister. His birth anniversary is observed on 24th January.

In 1904, only one person passed matriculation in Pitonjia (now Karpuri village) in Samastipur. By 1934, the number increased to two, and in 1940, five individuals achieved this feat. Notably, one of them was Karpuriji. He later became a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in 1952. Karpuri Thakur was part of a delegation to Austria, and despite not having a coat, he borrowed one from a friend, which happened to be torn. During the visit, Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia observed the torn coat and presented Karpuri Thakur with a new one.

Karpuri Thakur drew inspiration from leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan (JP), Ram Manohar Lohia, and Acharya Narendra Dev for his vision of transforming the social order. In 1970, during his tenure as a minister, he implemented significant reforms, including providing free education up to the eighth standard and elevating Urdu to the status of the second official language. Additionally, he abolished revenue on land holdings up to five acres.

Karpoori Thakur emphasized the significance of providing a monthly pension for the poor in the context of India’s economic conditions. He pointed out that in a country where the average income of around 50 crore people (referring to the population at that time) was merely three and a half to two rupees, the implementation of a monthly pension law would be a substantial development. Thakur highlighted the potential impact of providing a monthly pension of 50 rupees to the impoverished citizens of the country.

Niyati Rao

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