|Basanta Kumar De||Born:|
|Father: Brajendranath De||Mother: Nagendra Nandini De|
|Children: Barun De, Dr|
|Siblings: Kanak Nalini De, Lalit Kumar De, Prafulla Nalini De, Naba Nalini Basu, Niraj Nalini Ghose, Hem Nalini Mitra, Sarasi Nalini Datta, Nirmal Nalini Datta, Shishir De, Hemanta Kumar De, Saroj Nalini Dutt|
He was born in Balasore, Orissa. He was the second son of Brajendranath De, Esq., ICS, the first Indian Magistrate and Collector of Hooghly and Commissioner (offtg.) of Burdwan Division in Bengal and Nagendranandini De (née Bose). He was the second Indian Commercial Traffic Manager of the BNR, succeeding Sudhindranath [Sudhi] Gupta, grandson of R.C.Dutt and son of J.N. Gupta, ICS.
On his paternal grandmother’s side of the family, he was a great grandnephew of Babu Peary Charan Sarkar, an eminent Bengal Renaissance personality. Also, on his father’s side, he was a nephew of Sir Nripendra Nath Sircar, a retired Law Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council and Advocate General of Bengal. On his mother’s side he was closely related to Kiran Chandra De, Esq., ICS, Commissioner, Chittagong Division in Bengal and his wife. Also, on his maternal grandmother’s side, he was related to the Dutts of Hatkhola in Calcutta.
Much of his childhood was spent in the twin towns of Hooghly and Chinsura, where his father was posted as well as in his family’s garden house in Bandel in Hooghly district. After being initially taught by Governesses and then studying in a number of district schools in Malda and Hooghly, he completed his schooling at Hare School, Calcutta. He then completed his B.A. (Hons.) in English at Presidency College, Calcutta. In 1919 he sailed to England on H.M.S. Troopship Dufferin where he joined Trinity College, Cambridge to read English. His moral tutor at Trinity College was J.D. Anderson, esq., ICS, who was then a University Lecturer of Bengali at the University of Cambridge. He was also admitted to The Honourable Society of Middle Temple. Later, he also spent another year at the London School of Economics and Political Science, London. He remained in England from 1919 to 1921. His local guardian in England was his father’s friend, Lord Satyendra Prasanno Sinha, 1st Baron Sinha of Raipur, then an Under-Secretary of State in London.
He was recruited in to the Bengal Nagpur Railways in London in 1921 on the recommendation of B.N. Basu, then Under Secretary of State for India. His first posting was as Assistant Traffic Superintendent. As Assistant Commercial Officer of the BNR he played an important role in the building of the BNR Hotel in Puri. As a young officer posted in Kharagpore in Bengal (present day West Bengal) 1927 he witnessed the first railway workshop strike there, led by V.V. Giri. In 1931 he carried out the survey which led to the laying of the Raipur-Vizianagram to Sonepur-Bolangir railway line.
Through the 1930s he was posted as a District Commercial Officer in Waltair (present day Vishakapatnam) in Hyderabad state (present day Andhra Pradesh), Kharagpore in Bengal, Nainpur in the Central Provinces (present day Madhya Pradesh), as well as Adra in Bengal. He was posted in Adra twice, once between 1936-7 and then again from 1940-1. While he was in Adra for a second term, he was appointed as ex-officio officer in charge of the management of transportation of Congress leaders and members attending the Ramgarh Congress of 1941. In this connection he had to visit Mahatma Gandhi, in the Congress leader’s camp in Ramgarh. The Mahatma told De that he should keep one whole third class compartment empty and clean for him and his co-workers to travel in.
As part of the war effort in eastern India during the Second World War, especially after the start of Britain’s Burma Campaign, the Indian government recruited railway officers in the Indian Armed Forces. From 1942-45, De was recruited as a Major in the Corps of Engineers of the Indian army. Also, from 1942-48 he was as the Regional Controller of Railway Priorities (RCRP) under the Railway Board, based at Royal Exchange Place, Calcutta, which was initially a wartime appointment. After the Second World War ended, he was sounded out by the colonial government for the award of an OBE, but he declined to be nominated.
Due to the growing Indianisation of senior posts of nationalised public services after India’s independence in 1947, De was appointed as Traffic Superintendent General (TSG) in 1948 and was sent to the BNR’s headquarter at Garden Reach in Calcutta. In 1950, he was appointed as the second Indian Commercial Traffic Manager (CTM) (now Chief Commercial Manager) of the BNR. During the last two years of his career, he had to attend, in official capacity, meetings chaired by the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Bidhan Chandra Ray. He retired in 1952.
Retirement and after
After retirement he was offered membership of the Railway Recruitment Board in Gorakhpur, which he declined. He took the initiative to publish large segments of his father, Brajendranath De’s memoir in the Calcutta Review, a journal of Asiatic Society, Calcutta on the latter’s birth centenary in 1952. He was also an original Trustee of the Estate of Late Gurusaday Dutt, Esq., and had recommended as well as contributed to the formation of the Gurusaday Dutt Folk Art Museum at Bratacharigram, Calcutta.