Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant (10 September 1887 – 7 March 1961) was an Indian freedom fighter and one of the architects of modern India. Alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabh Bhai Patel, Pant was a key figure in the movement for India’s Independence and later a pivotal figure in the Indian Government. He was one of the foremost political leaders of Uttar Pradesh (then known as United Provinces) and a key player in the movement to establish Hindi as the official language of India.
Today, as a mark of tribute, several Indian hospitals, educational institutions and foundations bear his name. To honour his exemplary services to the nation, Pant received India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1957.
Govind Ballabh Pant was born on 10 September 1887 in Khoont village on the slopes of Shyahi Devi hill near Almora, in a Brahmin family having their roots in Maharashtra His mother’s name was Govindi Bai. His father Manorath Pant a government official, was constantly on the move, and hence Govind was brought up by his maternal grandfather, Badri Dutt Joshi, an important government official locally, who played a significant part in moulding his personality and political views. He was honoured with “Proud Past Alumni” in the list of 42 members, from “Allahabad University Alumni Association”, Allahabad University.
As a young lawyer in Kashipur, Pandit Pant began active work against the British Raj in 1914, when he helped a local parishad, or village council, in their successful challenge of a law requiring locals to provide free transportation of the luggage of travelling British officials, then called “coolie begar”. In 1921, he entered politics and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.
Pant served as Union Home Minister from 1955-1961. Pant was appointed Minister of Home Affairs in the Union Cabinet on 10 January 1955 in New Delhi by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. As Home Minister, his chief achievement was the re-organisation of States along linguistic lines. He was also responsible for the establishment of Hindi as an official language of the central government and a few states.
During his tenure as the Home Minister, Pant was awarded the Bharat Ratna. on 26 January 1957 for his selfless service as an Independent activist, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Home Minister.
In 1960, he suffered a heart attack. He was treated by top doctors in India, including his friend Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal. His health started deteriorating and he died on 7 March 1961 at the age of 74, from a cerebral stroke. At that time he was still in office as the Home Minister of India.
Mourning him, Dr Rajendra Prasad, the then President of India was quoted as saying,“I had known Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant since 1922 and in this long period of association it had been my privilege to receive from him not only consideration but also affection. This is no time to assess his labour and his achievements. The grief is too intense for words. I can only pray for peace to his soul and strength to those who loved and admired him”.