Former Defence Minister George Fernandes passes away

George Fernandes

Share this News:

New Delhi: Former Defence Minister George Fernandes died today. He breathed his last at Max Hospital today (29-01-2019), at the age of 88 years. He had been suffering from swine flu for last a few days. He was the Defence Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government between 1998-2004.

PM Narendra Modi tweeted, “George Sahab represented the best of India’s political leadership. Frank and fearless, forthright and farsighted, he made a valuable contribution to our country. He was among the most effective voices for the rights of the poor and marginalised. Saddened by his passing away.”

He was the founding member of Samata Party and senior leader of the Janata Dal. Later, Samata Party merged with Janata Dal United (JDU).

George Fernandes was born on 3 June 1930 in the Catholic family in Mangalore, Karnataka. His father’s name was John Joseph Fernandes and his mother’s name was Alice Martha Fernandes. He was the leader of the first trade union. He was also a journalist. He took charge of the Ministry of Communications, Industry, Railways and Ministry of Defense in the Central Government.

George Mathew Fernandes (born 3 June 1930 – 29 Jan 2019) was a former Indian trade unionist, politician, journalist,agriculturist, and member of Rajya Sabha from Bihar. He was a key member of the Janata Dal and is the founder of the Samata Party. He has held several ministerial portfolios including communications, industry, railways, and defence.

A native of Mangalore, Fernandes was sent to Bangalore in 1946 to be trained as a priest. In 1949, he moved to Bombay, where he joined the socialist trade union movement. Becoming a trade union leader, Fernandes organised many strikes and bandhs in Bombay in the 1950s and 1960s while working with the Indian Railways. He defeated S K Patil of Indian National Congress in the 1967 parliamentary elections from the South Bombay (now south Mumbai) constituency. He organised the 1974 Railway strike, when he was President of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation. Fernandes went underground during the Emergency era of 1975, while challenging Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for imposing a state of emergency,[8] but in 1976 he was arrested and tried in the infamous Baroda dynamite case.

In 1977, after the Emergency had been lifted, Fernandes won the Muzaffarpur seat in Bihar in absentia and was appointed as Union Minister for Industries. During his tenure as union minister, he ordered American multinationals IBM and Coca-Cola to leave the country, due to investment violations. He was the driving force behind the Konkan Railway project during his tenure as railway minister from 1989 to 1990. He was a defence minister in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government (1998–2004), when the Kargil Warbroke out between India and Pakistan, and India conducted its nuclear tests at Pokhran. A veteran socialist, Fernandes has been dogged by various controversies, including the Barak Missile scandal and the Tehelka affair. George Fernandes won nine Lok Sabha elections from 1967 to 2004. He died on 29 January 2019.