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Kalyani - the town that carries Bidhan Roy’s scars of unrequited love

10 March, 2021 16:08:04
Kalyani - the town that carries Bidhan Roy’s scars of unrequited love

Kalyani, the satellite town in Nadia district that is barely 50 kilometers from Kolkata, is a relatively young town that was conceived by Dr B.C. Roy on the site of what had been US air base Roosevelt Town in World War II. But the town has a very interesting history and is a lovelorn man’s tribute to his lost love.

USAAF temporary accommodation sheds

With the advent of the Second World War and the onward march of the Japanese on the South East Asian frontier, the British Empire was increasingly nervous of a Japanese invasion of India, especially after Burma fell. Meanwhile, Britain had to struggle to repel a combined force of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose-led Indian National Army (INA) and Japanese troops around Imphal and Kohima in 1944. This stirred nationalistic feelings among Indians who saw this as a step towards attaining independence from British rule.

West Bengal’s former Chief Minister and legendary physician, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was a man of immense foresight. After Independence, he had witnessed the large influx of refugees from East Pakistan and he also felt the need to build a few satellite townships around Kolkata, to ease the pressure on the capital, and tackle future problems that would increase with the growth of urban development, industrial growth and growing population.

Google Earth image of four parallel airstrips now situated within the Kalyani University premises

Meanwhile, the US President offered to help the British Allied Forces and sent troops to India. Large number of American soldiers was deployed. They set up base in different parts of Bengal to counter attacks by the Japanese. One such full-fledged air base was built on the banks of Ganga River in Nadia district. The residents of 45 villages were ordered to vacate their ancestral land and move out for accommodating the US soldiers. A garrison town evolved and was named after the American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt as ‘Roosevelt Town’ or ‘Roosevelt Nagar.’  After World War II ended, the American military left the base, and the airfield and hangars went into disuse. The deserted area was gradually covered with vegetation.  There was a railway station close to the garrison town and it was called Chandmari Halt Station. But in the 1950s, the station was re-named Kalyani and development work on the abandoned land began. But why Kalyani? Here lies a story of abuse and rejection. 

West Bengal’s former Chief Minister and legendary physician, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy was a man of immense foresight. After Independence, he had witnessed the large influx of refugees from East Pakistan and he also felt the need to build a few satellite townships around Kolkata, to ease the pressure on the capital, and tackle future problems that would increase with the growth of urban development, industrial growth and growing population. Dr. Roy was also the man behind building of Durgapur, Salt Lake, Shakuntala Park residential clusters etc. The Kalyani township too was his brainchild and he is credited with the development of modern Kalyani. 

University of Kalyani

It is widely believed that in his youth, Dr Roy fell in love with legendary medical scientist, Sir Nilratan Sarkar’s daughter, Kalyani. The young man mustered courage to meet Dr Sarkar, the most famous and rich doctor of Calcutta at that time, to seek the hands of Kalyani, one of his five daughters. Dr Sarkar rejected the proposal outright and insulted the young man saying, his daughter's daily make-up cost was at least thrice more than the young doctor’s monthly income. Dr Roy left dejected. He was deeply hurt by this rejection and vowed to remain single all his life.

AIIMS Kalyani

The residents of 45 villages were ordered to vacate their ancestral land and move out for accommodating the US soldiers. A garrison town evolved and was named after the American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt as ‘Roosevelt Town’ or ‘Roosevelt Nagar.’ After World War II ended, the American military left the base, and the airfield and hangars went into disuse.

After Independence, in 1950, the master plan of the town was developed and the foundation stone for the town was laid by the then Governor of West Bengal, Kailashnath Katju, on 24 February 1951. This town was built in a short time to host the 51st Indian National Congress meeting in 1954. In memoirs of that conference, a road of the city was named as ‘Congress Road.’ In the same year, the name of the current Kalyani railway station was changed from ‘Chandmari Halt.’ In 1957, the Kalyani police station was formed. In 1979, the rail line was extended from Kalyani main to Kalyani Simanta station and established direct connectivity to Kolkata through Kalyani Simanta local EMU trains. 

Kalyani Municipality

In 1995, Kalyani Municipality was established, which has been crucial in the development of infrastructure in Kalyani. In 2014, Kalyani was chosen for ‘Smart City’ tag. The city boasts of industries, high quality education and other infrastructure facilities including two universities, a medical college and an engineering college. The town has ample green coverage and life is peaceful there. Kalyani carries the scars of unrequited love of a young man, yet has been transformed by the state government into a Smart City.  
 

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