MS Randhawa


MS Randhawa

Dr. M.S. Randhawa was born on the 2nd of February, 2009 at Zira in district Ferozepur, Punjab, India in a middle class Sikh family to S. Sher Singh Randhawa and Shrimati Bachint Kaur. He did his matriculation from Khalsa High School Muktsar in 1924 and his F.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons.), and M.Sc. (Hons.) in 1926, 1929 and 1930 respectively from Lahore. He went on to join the prestigious Indian Civil Service in 1934 after clearing his examinations in London and then served in various capacities at Saharanpur, Fyzabad, Almora, Allahabad, Agra, and Rai Barelli till 1945.

In 1945, Dr Randhawa joined the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) as its Secretary. He was associated with the ICAR through its initial years and made huge contributions to this pioneering organisation which was responsible for the Green Revolution in India. In fact, Dr. Randhawa is acknowledged as the Father of the Green Revolution in Punjab. He was the Secretary of the association till 1946.

In 1946, Dr. Randhawa was appointed as the Deputy Commissioner of Delhi, when India was on the eve of independence and when Delhi was going through a turbulent phase. Dr. Randhawa was famous for travelling to the troubled spots incognito, so he could gauge the reasons for the trouble. In 1947 Dr. Randhawa was in charge of the entire Independence Day function where Jawahar Lal Nehru delivered his famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech. Before the day of independence, Dr. Randhawa himself unfurled the flag several times to make sure everything went right. Such was his quest for perfection. It was only Dr. Randhawa who was synonymous with integrity, courage and humanism who could have handled that onerous task so well.

1947 was also a very troubled time for hundreds and thousands of people who came from Pakistan during the time of Partition. Scores of refugees were present with no money and no where to go. This was perhaps the greatest achievement of Dr. Randhawa, who firstly as the Deputy Commissioner helped countless persons resettle, and then in 1949 he was sent as the Additional Director-General (Rehabilitation) and subsequently made the Director-General (Rehabilitation), Punjab. It was during this time that he had influenced the lives of scores of people by helping rehabilitate the uprooted Punjabis. Dr. Randhawa then went to Ambala Division in Punjab as the Commissioner. He was brought back to the task of rehabilitating people in 1953 as the Development Commissioner and Commissioner Rehabilitation and Custodian, Evacuee Property, Punjab. It was during this time he was in charge of allotting land to those persons who had left behind lands in Pakistan and allotting land to them in Indian Punjab. It entailed getting records of lands from Pakistan and identifying the correct persons to allot land to. These displaced Punjabis were the very people who played a glorious role in the Green Revolution. It was a monumental task which was performed with incredible integrity and grit under the watchful eyes of Dr. Randhawa.

In 1955 Dr. Randhawa was called back to the national capital where his expertise on agriculture was required, and made the Vice-President of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Additional Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, New Delhi. It was during this time that the ICAR was ushered into the modern era and Dr. Randhawa got several books published on agriculture and horticulture. He also headed an Indian-American team and headed schemes for the development of national research programmes and programmes for the promotion of uses of fertilizers. He also headed delegations to United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation conferences in Bandung, Indonesia, Rome and London. He then served the Government of India as Advisor, Natural Resources, Planning Commission from 1961-1964 and the as special Secretary, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Govt. of India.

Dr. Randhawa in addition to the above responsibilities was also a part of another project. This was the project of setting up a new city which is now Chandigarh. He was associated from the project right from the start and in 1955 a committee of architects, town planners, engineers, horticulturists and foresters was brought together and Dr. Randhawa was made the chairman of the committee. The city of Chandigarh became Dr. Randhawa’s child and it is widely acknowledged that even though the legendary Le Corbusier was the designer of Chandigarh, but it was Dr. Randhawa who was the implementer and landscaper of the city of Chandigarh. It was due to his experience with trees and landscaping that has earned Chandigarh the title of “City Beautiful”. In Dr. Randhawa’s own words, “By my observations of the trees of India over a period of 30 years, I came to the conclusion that they do not differ from men. There are a large number of them in the world, but few are worthwhile. So my job was to select the most worthwhile among them, and I came to a list of 25, which, when planted in pure avenues or in sensible combinations, would produce enchanting landscape. It is the careful landscape scheme, based on the lifetime study of the vegetation of India, which apart from its architecture, has transformed Chandigarh into the most beautiful city of India in which nature and man’s creation are harmoniously blended.”

Dr. Randhawa became the remained the Financial Commissioner of the Capital Project Punjab from July 1966 to October 1966, and then he was appointed the Chief Commissioner of the Union Territory of Chandigarh in November 1966 and remained so till 1968. During those years the city of Chandigarh flourished like never before. He gave houses to artists and poets and countless others in easy instalments and they remain grateful to date for the foresight of Dr. Randhawa. He is also the reason why the world famous “Rock Garden” of Nek Chand exists. When it was discovered the one Nek Chand was making sculptures from waste, the officials wanted to throw out the person who was illegally occupying Govt. land, but Dr. Randhawa identified the potential in Nek Chand and got him allotted land from the Government and today the Rock Garden has become world famous and one of the main tourist attractions in Chandigarh. Another project very close to Dr. Randhawa’s heart was the establishing of the Rose Garden in Sector 16 in Chandigarh. This exceptionally beautiful rose garden is spread over an area of 17 acres and has hundreds of varieties of roses from all over the world. This rose garden was the largest of its kind in the world at that time and still continues to be the largest in Asia. Truly, while Le Corbusier gave the city of Chandigarh its design, it was Dr. Randhawa who gave Chandigarh its soul, its greenery and took care of the city in its formative years.

Not one to be content with his previous achievements, Dr. Randhawa was also working towards the establishment of India’s first agricultural university. His dream came true and he was instrumental in creating India’s first agricultural university, the Punjab Agricultural University at Ludhiana. It was conceived by him right to the last detail. He also set up a museum and art gallery at the university to depict the various aspects of rural life. The library at Punjab Agricultural University is named after Dr. Randhawa. He became the vice chancellor of the university in 1968 and was associated with the university for several years. He was also instrumental in the construction of the Anglo – Sikh Wars Memorial near Ferozepur which was completed in February 1976.

Dr. Randhawa was an avid admirer of arts and crafts and his contribution to this field cannot be forgotten. He had a very close association with the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, a premier organisation for the advancement of arts. His association with AIFACS started in 1946 when the society had its offices in temporary hutments at Parliament Street. In 1947 he was elected the Chairman of the society. He donated a number of Art books from his private collection, which formed the nucleus of the library of the society, and also gave a donation of Rs. 50,000 for the building funds of the society. Apart from the substantial help which he gave for the building fund of the society, Dr. Randhawa acquired collections of paintings of contemporary artists for the society. Of the paintings, the most valuable were those by the famous Russian painter, Nicholas Roerich, whose paintings of the Himalayas was been given worldwide acclaim and are in fact some of the most valuable paintings in the world. He was the chief editor of the magazine of the society, “Roop Lekha” which at the time was undoubtedly the best art journal in the country, and also it provided a forum to research scholars in art for publication of their original papers.

On May 6 1968, a new museum appeared on the map of India. This was the museum at Chandigarh, designed by Le Corbusier and had the largest collection of Gandhara sculptures, Rajput miniatures and contemporary paintings. This museum, like the city of Chandigarh owes its existence to the partition. After partition, some parts of the Art collection of the Lahore museum came to Punjab. When the exhibits were received, they were housed in Amritsar, then a church in Shimla and then to Moti Bagh Palace in Patiala. Dr. Randhawa got the Punjab Govt. to examine the suitability of keeping the art objects at Patiala, and finally prevailed upon the Government to build a new museum at Chandigarh. A plan for building the museum was approved, but in 1962, China attacked India and the Punjab Government decided not to go ahead with the construction of the museum. Greatly perturbed by this decision, Dr. Randhawa wrote to S. Pratap Singh Kairon, Chief Minister of Punjab and explained to him that Chandigarh though an impressive city, would remain without a soul if the people were not exposed to works of art, and finally Dr. Randhawa got the Government to continue with the construction of the museum. He donated a large number of books from his personal library to the museum’s library and they are still there to date. He also arranged for the procurement of a large number of paintings from various parts of Punjab and India and from famous contemporary artists from all parts of India. The city of Chandigarh and the artist community shall forever remain in debt to this great man because of whom the Arts Museum in Chandigarh is a premier museum in India.

Another known passion of Dr. Randhawa was that of Indian Art. He was enthralled by the paintings of the Kangra region and began a devoted study of the same and put his scientific knowledge and training to use. The result was a series of books which were outstanding in both their scholarly contents as well as in their excellent standards of print. The paintings of the Kangra region were not exposed to the people of India and were confined only to where they were made. Dr. Randhawa made efforts to bring this exotic art before the people. For this he travelled the length and breath of Himachal Pradesh, which at that time was a part of Punjab. The problem at that time was that the owners of the paintings were very possessive about these paintings and would seldom admit to having these paintings. Dr. Randhawa interviewed people like Raja Dhruvdev Chand of Lambagraon, Raja Baldev Singh of Guler. Mian Kartar Singh of Basa Waziran, Raja Anand Chand of Bilaspur, Rai Brij Mohan Singh of Nalagarh, Captain Surender Singh of Mirthal and Raja Rajinder Singh of Arki. All of them possessed family collections and agreed to allow Dr. Randhawa to view these paintings. This led to the identification of local styles of the paintings and consequently he was able to bring out the artist genealogies. Dr. Randhawa wrote several books on Kangra painting, Chamba painting and Bahsoli painting. Dr. Randhawa’s aim was to educate people in art and it was in this mission that Dr. Randhawa gloriously succeeded through his books. His books on art make a permanent contribution to Indian art-history. Dr. Randhawa’s books were reviewed not only in India but in magazines, journals and newspapers all over the world. We are annexing some of these reviews with this letter.

Dr. Randhawa was a prolific writer as well and he was well versed in English, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. He however mostly wrote in English or Punjabi. In fact, he made important contributions in the encouragement of Punjabi writing. He had written books, articles and papers on a wide spectrum of issues. From his critically acclaimed books on agriculture like “Beautifying India” and “Flowering Trees in India” to books in Biology like “Evolution of Life”, from books on Rural Development and Sociology to several books on Art, and from several books on his research on Algae to his books on the city of Chandigarh, Dr Randhawa’s effort was exceptional and all books and articles were meticulous in their content and style of writing.

Another facet of Dr. Randhawa was his scientific bent of mind and he also did valuable work as a scientist. He had specialised in Botany during his education and so later in the year 1955, he was awarded a Doctorate in Science by the Punjab University for his pioneering work on algae and especially on a particular strain of that called “Zygnemaceae”. Further, he also remained a part of several scientific organisations like National Academy of Sciences and North India Science Association.

And the list is still not finished. It goes on and on. Such was the greatness of the man. He is truly one of the greatest Punjabi and Indian who lived and dedicated his life to helping people from all walks of life.All the facts stated above are verified from reliable sources.


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