Biren Mookerjee

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Sir Biren Mookerjee
Biren Mookerjee.jpg
Born 14 February 1899
Kolkata
Died 4 November 1982
Kolkata
Occupation Industrialist
Spouse(s) Lady Ranu Mookerjee

Sir Biren Mookerjee (full name Birendranath Mookerjee, more popular simply as Sir Biren; the family surname was spelt by them differently from the standard “Mukherjee.”) (Bengali: স্যার বীরেন মুখার্জ্জী) (1899 – 1982) was a leading industrialist who established the steel making facilities at IISCO, Burnpur and developed other industrial establishments.[1]

Early life[edit]

Son of pioneering industrialist Sir Rajendra Nath Mookerjee and Lady Jadumati, he studied engineering at Bengal Engineering College before proceeding to Trinity College, Cambridge, from where he did his B.A. and M.A. On return to India in 1924, he joined Martin & Co. in 1924. He was knighted in 1942.[1]

Association with steel industry[edit]

With the death of Sir Rajen Mookerjee in 1936, the mantle of industrial entrepreneurship fell on Sir Biren. He made his debut as Chairman of the Steel Corporation of Bengal, which set up the steel making facilities, adjacent to the iron making plant set up earlier, at Burnpur. SCOB was later merged with IISCO.[2] In December 1953, Sir Biren, along with other representatives of his company signed a loan agreement in Washington for US $ 31.5 million, to cover the foreign exchange requirement for the expansion of the plant. It was the first instance when the World Bank had advanced any loan to any industry in the private sector.[3] he signed another loan agreement with the World Bank in 1956. What was most remarkable was that around 75% of the requirements of expansion were met by internal cash generation.[4]

Sir Biren was an imposing leader with a dynamic personality galvanising a team at Burnpur to produce results. The team consisted of diverse elements such as J. McCracken, F.W.Lahmeyer, S.L.Moffat, I.S.Puri, and N.R.Dutt.[5]

Sir Biren faced high drama when in 1968, Ramnath Goenka of the Indian Express Newspapers Ltd. tried unsuccessfully to take over IISCO. Sir Biren had survived with government support, since he held only two per cent of the shares of the company.[6]

With persistent labour trouble in his plant in the late sixties, Sir Biren was a broken man. He said, “I see before my eyes a vast industrial complex, with which I was associated for nearly 40 years crumbling to dust.” IISCO was taken over by the government in 1972.[7] It was a somewhat sad end for a man who had led the company to its pinnacle of glory. He did not court the establishment which cost him dearly.[8]

Personal life[edit]

In 1925, Biren Mookerjee married Ranu Adhikari, daughter of Phani Bhusan Adhikari, a professor of philosophy of the Banaras Hindu University. Ranu, later Lady Ranu (1907- 2000), was one of the exquisite beauties of her time, one of Rabindranath Tagore's closest associates since her childhood days, and later became a great connoisseur of art and culture. She established the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata in 1933.[9] She and Sir Biren Mookerjee had two daughters and one son. Sunil Gangopadhyay's 2012 novel, Ranu & Bhanu is partly based on her unfinished autobiography.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali (editors), (1976/1998), Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical dictionary) Vol I, (Bengali), p 362, ISBN 81-85626-65-0
  2. ^ Srinivasan, N.R., History of The Indian Iron and Steel Company, 1983, pp 60-61, published by IISCO, Burnpur.
  3. ^ Srinivasan, N.R., p85.
  4. ^ Srinivasan, N.R., pp 88-89.
  5. ^ Srinivasan, N.R., p93.
  6. ^ Srinivasan, N.R., pp 119-120.
  7. ^ Srinivasan, N.R., p 121.
  8. ^ Srinivasan, N.R., p 134.
  9. ^ "Academy of Fine Arts". Click India. Archived from the original on 16 December 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  10. ^ "When like minds meet". The Hindu. August 3, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 

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