Remembering Girdhari Lal Dogra

Ravi Rohmetra
Duggar land has its own brilliant and unique history. It has given birth to veteran politicians, academicians, social workers and leaders of caliber. One amongst them has been Girdhari Lal Dogra. This is the tale of a towering personality who worked selflessly for the cause of the people. He was a friend, a guide and a social worker. During his life time he was counted amongst the great personalities of Jammu.
Girdhari Lal Dogra was born in 17th July 1915 at village Bhaiya of Tehsil Hiranagar, District Kathua when Maharaja Pratap Singh was the ruler of the state. He did his B.A. and L.L.B. from the Punjab University. He began to take interest in politics during his student days. He came in contact with Mr Kichloo, an important leader of the Indian National Congress in Punjab. He became the editor of a weekly newspaper “Kissan” which was published from Jammu. He used to highlight the problems of the farmers through his paper. He married K.Kunta of Smailpur, the daughter of Pandit Prem Nath Dogra’s elder brother. During the Emergency Administration in 1947, he was appointed officer in charge administration District Kathua. He organized local resistance against the attack by the Pakistan supported “Mujahids” in adjoining Kathua. He also practiced law in the court and later became Finance Minister in the first cabinet head by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1948 and remained on this position till 1957. He also became chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, Member Finance Committee and member of the University Council of J&K University. Because of the rift in ruling N.C. there emerged a new political party named Democratic National Conference headed by G.M. Sadiq. He also became its member and took the role of an opposition member in the Legislative Assembly, from 1951 onwards, most of his lifetime was spent in the representation of the state Assembly from Hiranagar Constituency. He again became Finance Minister in 1960 and 1964. He also served as M.P. for one term getting elected to Lok Sabha in 1980 from Jammu, Poonch constituency. He was very polite and helpful. He was a towering personality. His tenure as the states Finance Minister for a long period of 27 years shall remain as a record in the Political horizon of the state. He never lost any election such was the confidence and the love he enjoyed from the public. For the concept of mobile banking, Chenab Industries and host of other innovations, Girdhari Lal Dogra played a big role-Looking to his capabilities, the Late Smt. Indra Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India had offered him Lok Sabha Speaker’s prestigious post to Dogra Ji. He is particularly remembered for the improvement of the condition of the peasants and agricultural Labourers . In 1952 he played a historical role in making the tiller of the land as owner. He was aware that the industry of tourism was vital for the economy of the state and construction of huts at tourist spots was Dogra Ji’s concept. Present day politicians need to get inspiration from this proud son of Jammu.
Girdhari Lal Dogra as a “people’s man’ was loved by all, beyond party, religion or caste barriers. He remained the state Finance Minister from 1957 to 1975, was elected Member of Parliament twice and contested and won five elections from Hiranagar. Dogra remained on key positions in both the Congress and N.C. He gave the path-breaking initiative of providing drinking water to people in the Kandi belt through tube-wells, a system which now helps meet drinking water demands in various areas of Jammu. Leaders described him as the “tallest leader of his time”, who firmly believed in and followed secularism in the true spirit and fought against communal and divisive forces in the state. Dogra as epitome of simplicity and dedication, stood for secular values throughout his life. He served the people of the state for a long time in a various capacities and always worked for poor and downtrodden sections of society.
He died on 27 November 1987 and with his death a void was created in Jammu Political set up. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.