Kolkata bid a tearful farewell to noted industrialist and former Rajya Sabha member Dr Krishna Kumar Birla on Saturday morning. The end came at 7:30 am after a brief illness. He was 90.
As the news broke, a pall of gloom descended in all quarters of the society. Anxious phone calls started pouring in newspaper offices and people started thronging the Birla Park residence where the industrialist spent his last days. People from all walks of life including politicians and industrialists made a beeline there.
Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi reached the Birla Park quite early, followed by Union Minister Priya Ranjan Dashmunshi and Congress leader Subrata Mukherjee.
Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee couldn’t make it to Birla Park but she sent her party’s senior leader and MP Dinesh Trivedi with a wreath. Senior Congress leader and union external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee too sent flowers. Industrialists across the city mourned the death of Dr Birla while some who were elsewhere in the country took early flights to have a last glimpse of the person who stood as an inspiration to many.
His brother, BK Birla looked shattered, while CK Birla, Kumar Mangalam Birla and other members of the Birla family seemed distressed. It was just about a month back when the family lost Dr Birla’s wife, Manorama Devi, and it is yet to recover from that shock.
Top industrialists like ITC Ltd Chairman YC Deshwar, CK Dhanuka, Sudhir Jalan visited the Birla park.
Before the last journey, the body was kept on a flower bedecked courtyard where people paid respects. The last journey began at 3:15 pm and the cortege slowly proceeded towards the Keoratala Burning Ghat.
The last rites were performed amidst chanting of vedic slokas. Just at 4:42 pm. the funeral pyre was lit signaling the end of an era.
In a condolence message, Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, said: “In the passing away of Dr KK Birla, within days of the passing away of his wife, we have lost a couple that stood apart in high-mindedness and public spiritedness. Sri Krishnakumarji, as he was affectionately known, was an acute observer of national and international events and made important though discreet contribution to public policy including economic policy. I offer my tribute to the memory of an outstanding social engineer, an innovative newspaper owner and industrialist”.
CPI-M patriarch and former chief minister Jyoti Basu expressed shock at the death of Dr Birla. “I knew him for many years. He was not just an industrialist. I am deeply shocked and offer my condolence to members of the Birla family”, Basu said. "Amongst the businessmen, I respected him the most", said Rama Prasad Goenka. chairman emeritus, RPG Group. The 78 year old veteran industrialist and a contemporary of Dr Birla, is currently in Puri when he got the news of Dr Birla's demise.
Chairman ITC Ltd, YC Deveshwar, said: “We have indeed lost a true son of India, whose tireless efforts have benefited many sections of society. His multidimensional contributions as an Industrialist, a caring Philanthropist, an astute Parliamentarian and an eminent scholar leaves a rich legacy for many to emulate. Dr Birla’s passing away will leave a deep void in the industrial landscape of the nation.”