Not Just Bejaigars, All Kodiyalgars Should Respect Late George Fernandes, the Uncommon Politician!

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Not Just Bejaigars, All Kodiyalgars Should Respect Late George Fernandes, the Uncommon Politician!

  •  Not Just Bejaigars (Bejai residents) , All Kodiyalgars (Mangalureans) Should Respect Late George Fernandes, the Uncommon Politician! A person who has done so much good for the Country, and also contributed immensely to his hometown- Kodiyal aka Kudla aka Mangaluru aka Mangalapuram, it is time we Mangalureans remember this Great Politician, a Selfless Dynamic Leader, a Philanthropist, Honest and Charismatic, and many more qualities, and urge the government, politicians and District Administration officials to honour Late George Fernandes by renaming Mangaluru Junction Railway Station after him- since he was the force behind to start the Konkan Railway. Konkan railway was a ‘Dream Come True’ for George Fernandes, who hails from Bejai-Mangaluru, and it was also a ‘Dream Come True’ for many train travelers. This country would not have got this most useful railway line, which reduced travel time by 12 hours and travel distance by 650 Kms, but for His vision and passion. Konkan Railway will remain as an everlasting achievement of George Fernandes.

Mangaluru: While the Parishioners of St Francis Xavier Church, Bejai, Mangaluru, and the people of goodwill commemorated the 2nd death anniversary of our National leader Padma Vibhushan late George Fernandes, also a parishioner of Bejai church, on Friday, 29th January 2021, where the faithful offered prayers for the soul of Late George Fernandes, in Bejai Church, followed by a visit to His grave site, and thereafter a condolence meeting held in Bejai Church hall, where large number of people attended. (Ref: 2nd Death Anniversary of Parishioner Late George Fernandes Commemorated by Bejai Church  . During the Condolence Meet, Rev Dr J B Saldanha-the Parish Priest of St Francis Xavier Church-Bejai said, “George was a selfless dynamic leader who was not bothered about his personal career rather took people into confidence and promoted leadership among young adults. His personality was filled with the spirit of nationalism beyond partisan politics. We would hardly find any leader of his caliber at the national level who only thought of the well being of the country. He was a clean man who stayed away from any sort of corruption. He remained truthful to the government which was a coalition of 27 national and local parties”.

 

Fr Saldanha further said “We make an earnest appeal that since Fernandes contributed a lot to the development of Konkan Railway,we request the government as well as our political leaders to name Mangalore Junction Railway Station after George Fernandes as “Padma Vibhushan George Fernandes Railway Station”. And since late George Fernandes hails from Mangaluru, we request the Mangaluru City Corporation and officials concerned to name the road between Mangaluru City Corporation and Bejai Church Circle as ‘Padma Vibhushan George Fernandes Road’. That apart, late George Fernandes always took initiative in promoting leadership among the youth. Keeping this in mind on this occasion, we would like to identify and honour some budding leaders of our times from various communities”.

While the parishioners of Bejai Church, and nearby Bejai residents are putting their efforts in paying respect to this great politician by trying their best to honour Him by asking the government to rename Mangaluru Junction Railway Station after him. Therefore, not just Bejaigars (Bejai residents) , All Kodiyalgars (Mangalureans) should respect Late George Fernandes, who has done so much good for the Country, and also contributed immensely to his hometown- Kodiyal aka Kudla aka Mangaluru aka Mangalapuram, it is time we Mangalureans remember this Great Politician, a Selfless Dynamic Leader, a Philanthropist, Honest and Charismatic, and many more qualities, and urge the government, politicians and District Administration officials to honour Late George Fernandes by renaming Mangaluru Junction Railway Station after him- since he was the force behind to start the Konkan Railway.

Konkan railway was a ‘Dream Come True’ for George Fernandes, who hails from Bejai-Mangaluru, and it was also a ‘Dream Come True’ for many train travelers. This country would not have got this most useful railway line, which reduced travel time by 12 hours and travel distance by 650 Kms, but for His vision and passion. Konkan Railway will remain as an everlasting achievement of George Fernandes. The first train on the completed track of the Konkan railway was flagged off on a Republic Day, on 26 January 1998. Twenty one Republic Days and three days later, on 29 January 2019, India lost George Fernandes, the man whose passion, administrative prowess and missionary zeal helped India execute that project, which was a “tryst with destiny” for many people in the coastal belt of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka redeemed in the 50th year of the nation’s Independence.

The visionary Railway Minister and a Great Defence Minister, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi described him in his condolence tweet, was suffering from prolonged illness. He was 88. Fernandes was the Defence Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government when India carried out successful nuclear bomb tests in Pokhran, Rajasthan, also in 1998, the year when his dream Konkan project took off. While credit to Pokhran tests will be shared, Konkan railway was a dream come true for George Fernandes, who hails from Mangaluru, one end of the Konkan coastal belt. The very decisive steps he took as Railway Minister and financing strategy employed made his dream come true. This country would not have got this most useful railway line, which reduced travel time by 12 hours and travel distance by 650 Kms, but for his vision and passion. Konkan Railway will remain as an everlasting achievement of George Fernandes.

The proposal was included in the Railways works programme for the year 1990-91, Konkan Railway Corporation was formed, and the new railway route passing through one of the most difficult terrains ever encountered in the history of railway construction in India got completed in a record short period of 7 years. As tributes flow in memories of late George Fernandes today, Konkan Railway will remain as the tallest tribute Fernandes has given to his nation.

Michael Fernandes ( 87) -the Younger Brother of Late George Fernandes

Team Mangalorean had a brief interaction with Michael Fernandes, the younger brother of Late George Fernandes, who had come down from Bengaluru for the Second Death Anniversary of his brother, held at Bejai Church and Church hall. Michael was kind enough to narrate the life and journey of his beloved brother George. He narrated, ” Born of John Jos ( Entrepreneur and Insurance Agent) and Alice Martha (nee Pinto) Fernandes (Housewife) in Bejai on 3rd June 1930, George Fernandes, the eldest of six brothers, did his 5th standard at St. Francis Xavier Higher Primary School in 1939-40 and completed high school at St. Aloysius College in 1946. We are six brothers, George being the eldest one, followed by (Late) Lawrence (73) was a Mayor of Bengaluru in 2005, and a businessman and water diviner; Myself ( 87)- retd engineer from Indian telephone company, been MLA, MLC, Trade Union leader; Paul (86)- who left to Canada in 1966, is a active politician there; Aloysius aka Louis ( 82) works as a consultant for a private company in Mumbai; and Richard ( 70) -a Scientist worked at Tata, Bengaluru and other firms.“

“Although our father wanted George to join college and then do law, he was not for it, so he joined the seminary in Bengaluru in mid-1946 to become a priest. However, at the end of 1948, he left the seminary and within the next year found himself in the Socialist Party as well as the labour movement, influenced mainly by Ammembala Balappa, Dr. Nagappa Alva and Placid D’Mello. After the strikes by transport and hotel workers, mainly under the leadership of Placid and George, could not be successfully ended with settlements, George was sent to Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1950 – not in search of a job – to plunge into trade union work under D’Mello. (George did work as a proof reader just for a month and a half in The Times of India press when D’Mello was not around and George faced his own survival problem). Becoming a wholehearted follower of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, George engaged himself in the socialist movement as well as labour movement of, among others, Dock, Municipal, Hotel & Transport workers and Taxi drivers”.


“A few of the milestones created by George in his variegated life are : George was elected as Corporator of Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1961 and re-elected for a second term in 1965; Defeated S.K. Patil from Bombay South Lok Sabha Constituency, thereby earning the title “George, the Giant Killer” in 1967. Also started the Bombay Labour Co-operative Bank which was converted in 1977 into a broad-based New India Co-operative Bank; In 1974 led the historic all-India strike by about 15 lakh railway men, which drew the attention of the whole world; Went underground on the intermediate night of June 24th and 25th, 1975 to fight the National Emergency which was just then declared. He was however captured in a church in Kolkata on 10th June 1976 and put first in the Hissar Jail and then in Tihar Jail together for about 10 months”.

” In the 1977 Lok Sabha election won the Lok Sabha seat from Muzzaffarpur in Bihar by a margin of over 3.25 lakh votes while still lodged in Tihar Jail in New Delhi. Elected subsequently to Lok Sabha from Muzzaffarpur in 1980, 1989, 1991 & 2004: from Nalanda (also in Bihar) in 1996, 1998 & 1999. He also became a Member of the Rajya Sabha in 2009; Was Cabinet Minister of Communications (for 3 months) and thereafter of Industry between 1977 & 79 in the Morarji Desai government during which to encourage particularly small-scale industries he created District Industrial Centers throughout the country resulting in jobs and a boost to the country’s economy; Was Cabinet Minister of Railways, also in charge of Jammu & Kashmir Affairs, during 1989-90 in the VP Singh government. He set up the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited and laid foundation stones at seven different places in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra to start construction simultaneously for the about 800 km long Konkan Railway line”.

“In 1994 George formed the Samta Party; From 1998 to 2009 he was the Convenor of the National Democratic Alliance. As Cabinet Minister of Defence in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government from 1998 to 2004, he saw India through the Kargil War during the early stage of this spell in government. He was the first Defence Minister to visit the Siachen Glacier several times. He also saw the Sea Bird project getting implemented fast; Most of the people in Defence regarded him as the best Defence Minister they had come across. For seven years from 1998 to 2004, he distributed Christmas cake to soldiers stationed along the Northern borders”.

In a nutshell it can be truly said of George Fernandes that he was an indefatigable fighter for justice; a true defender of workers and the downtrodden; a selfless workaholic not for his own benefit but for the betterment of others, and he was a genuine representative of the people at large. With simple living and high thinking, he fought indomitably against corruption in public life and did his best to uphold democracy and cultural pluralism and defend human rights and workers’ rights not only in India but elsewhere too. It needs to be noted that occasionally on the TV or in the newsprint, George is described as either an atheist or a non-practicing Christian. This is far from the truth. In an article written by George Fernandes himself published in The Illustrated Weekly of India of December 27th, 1970, which was reproduced in full in his political monthly magazine ‘the OtherSide’ of May 2010, the true picture that he was a true Christian is evident. A few aspects culled from his article are given below:

Referring to Christ’s abiding compassion towards the hungry, the sick, the lepers, the blind, the paralytic, on the one hand, and driving away of usurious moneylenders and traders from the Temple’s precincts thereby showing his contempt for the parasitic and dishonest brood, on the other, George asserts that the life of Christ has continued to inspire him and also driven him to the conclusion that “to be truly Christian is to be a truly Socialist”. George further asks, “how can you love God whom you do not see when you do not love your fellow man whom you do see?”. He concludes his article with these words: “I hope, in the not too distant future, all the Christian churches will unite and move much nearer to Christ of the Gospels……”

“Before his life came to be controlled from January 2010 by his estranged wife of 25 years, George was attending in the church the Sunday Mass and receiving Holy Communion assisted by his secretary, Bernard by name. Unfortunately, the deadly Alzheimer’s disease struck him around 2008 and it was rather an anticlimax of his colorful, active and pro-people life which Death finally claimed on 29th January 2019. When George was normal in his functions, he assigned the work of writing his biography to a history professor named Rahul Ramagundam and the same is scheduled to be released on 3rd June 2021, George’s birth anniversary” added Michael.


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