SS Ray passes away at 90

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  • Published 7.11.10

Calcutta, Nov. 6: Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who headed the last Congress government in Bengal between 1972 and 1977, died at his Beltala residence this evening.

He was 90 and is survived by his wife Maya.

The former chief minister, who started his career as a barrister in Calcutta High Court, had been suffering from chronic renal failure that led to cardiac arrest.

Ray’s physician Santanu Sanyal said he had been undergoing dialysis for the past six months. In late October, he was admitted to a private hospital in the city but returned home early this month. His wife Maya was by his side when he collapsed around 6.20pm today.

An ailing Ray, who had a long association with former chief minister Jyoti Basu, had come to the Assembly in January to place a wreath on the CPM patriarch’s body. Ray’s last public appearance was at Rotary Sadan on September 25 to remember legendary Mohun Bagan administrator Dhiren Dey.

The government has declared all its offices closed on Monday and requested all educational institutions to stay shut that day as a mark of respect for Ray.

“Late tonight, we requested all ICSE schools to remain shut on Monday,” said Sujoy Biswas, an office-bearer of the association of heads of ICSE schools.

The Trinamul Congress-run Calcutta Municipal Corporation has cancelled all official events scheduled for tomorrow. The railways, headed by party chief Mamata Banerjee, have postponed a programme.

In a statement, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: “I offer my condolences to Ray’s wife Maya Ray and other bereaved family members.”

Left Front chairperson Biman Bose’s condolence message said Ray was chief minister and a member of the Union cabinet of a “semi-fascist regime” at the Centre. “However, he used to maintain personal relations despite political differences.”

Ray’s body will be kept at his Beltala home between 11am and 1pm tomorrow for the public to pay their last respects before being taken to the Assembly, where Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim and other legislators will place wreaths, around 1.30pm.

From the Assembly, it will be taken to Calcutta High Court and then to the Cricket Association of Bengal, with which Ray was associated. His body will also be taken to Chittaranjan Seva Sadan near Hazra crossing but not to Writers’ Buildings from where he had ruled Bengal for five years.

“From Seva Sadan, railway minister Mamata Banerjee will lead a procession to Keoratala burning ghat with the body,” said leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee.

As news of Ray’s death spread, several political personalities, including Mamata, Calcutta mayor Sovan Chatterjee, Partha Chatterjee and state Congress chief Manas Bhuniya, reached his Beltala home.

“Manuda was my inspiration. He was an able administrator. He had sided with the Trinamul Congress till his last day. His death is an irreparable loss to me and Trinamul Congress,” Mamata said.

“We had known each other since 1970-71,” Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said. “He was an extremely able parliamentarian and an able administrator. There were differences of opinion at times but nobody could raise questions about his honesty and ability as an administrator.”

Born on October 20, 1920, to Sudhir Kumar Ray, a barrister, and Aparna Debi, daughter of Deshabandhu Chittaranjan Das, Ray studied in St Xavier’s School and Presidency College before being called to the Bar in England. At Presidency, he was captain of the cricket team.

In 1957, Ray became law minister in B.C. Roy’s cabinet before going on to become Union education minister and then chief minister of Bengal.