Remembering Famous educationist Sir Ganesh Dutta Singh as remembered by Sachchidananda Sinha

Sir Ganesh Dutta Singh (13 January 1868 – 26 September 1943) was an Indian lawyer, educationist and administrator during the British Raj. He did much to improve education and health services in the state of Bihar and Orissa before the independence of India from Britain.

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Ganesh Dutta was born in February 1868, in the Patna district, to respectable middle-class parents. He started learning the English language at the age of eighteen and passed his pre-University examination in the first division in 1891, at the age of twenty-three and secured a monthly scholarship of Rs.10 and a silver medal for proficiency in Mathematics. In 1983, he passed the intermediate Examination and graduated in 1895. He obtained a Bachelor of Law Degree in 1897 when he was nearly thirty. He practiced in the District Courts for seven years and then he was enrolled as a Vakil in the Calcutta High Court in 1904. In 1916, after the establishment of the High Court at Patna, he enrolled as a Vakil in the highest judicial tribunal of his native province. He was elected as a member of the Bihar and Orissa Legislative Council in 1923, by then Governor of Bihar and Orissa. Till then Ganesh Dutta had led a more or less uneventful life. It was only when he was appointed as a Minister that the qualities, that made him so influential a member of the Provincial Government, were brought into relief.

Political Career

Ganesh Dutta was a tenacious and well-informed debater, and he came to command respect for his ability and character as a public man. When Mr. Madhu Sudan Das, the Oriya Minister, suddenly resigned the office in March 1923, Ganesh Dutta naturally stepped into office and for fourteen long years remained a Minister. He then became prominent because of his experience as a man of affairs, his strength of character, imperturbability of temper, and great tenacity of purpose in pursuing his policy.

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He was justly entitled to the credit of having placed on the statute a liberally conceived Local Self-Government Act, which was one of the best enacted under the diarchic regime, as it enfranchised the District and Municipal Boards by vesting in them the right to elect their chairman and also larger powers of administration and control. He was a strict teetotaler, he introduced the outstill system as a part of his Excise policy, which led to ebullition of feeling, in the course of discussions, on the subject, in the provincial Legislature- as it was believed to be calculated to raise a much larger revenue from amongst the poorer classes, at the cost of their health and economic condition. Although Dutta was bound under the constitutional limitation of the Minister under dyarchy, still he carried through some significant projects of the great utilitarian- such as the establishment of the Prince of Wales Medical College at Patna in 1925, the Medical School at Darbhanga and the Indian Mental Hospital at Ranchi, the Ayurvedic and Tibbi Schools at Patna, the Sanatorium at Itkiin 1926 and the Pasteur Institute at Patna in 1929.

Dutta’s tenure of office for fourteen years as Minister was not only the longest held by anyone in India or even in Britain, but was even more remarkable for his earning apart by far the greater part of his salary for charitable and educational purposes, which had made his name famous throughout Bihar as a distinguished philanthropist. As the result of unparalleled self-sacrifice on his part, he had been able to place at the disposal of the public, through the medium of Patna University, about four lakh rupees, to advance the interests of higher education in his native province of Bihar. Thus, Ganesh Dutta had won greater laurels by his munificence in the cause of education than in the sphere of administration as a Minister. His philanthropy was unique in that he had the largeness of heart to make a gift of all his life’s savings for the good of future generations of Bihar, by depriving his descendants. He was undoubtedly a greater benefactor than many others and his munificence of greater value and importance than those who have enough and to spare.


In 1933, Ganesh Dutta was conferred with the degree of Doctorate honoris causa by the Patna University as a fitting tribute to his splendid services to the cause of the educational advancement of the people of Bihar.

His simplicity of life, high character, exemplary sacrifices for objects of public utility, and enthusiasm and driving power for causes that he had made his own, are beyond praise, and readily enlist unbounded appreciation and admiration, even by those who did not approve some of his ministerial policies, and administrative acts and measures.

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Ganesh Dutta has ceased to be remembered. He as a philanthropist has and will continue to evoke the admiration of generations of people of Bihar yet unborn, so long as the Patna University will continue to exist, and scatter benefits to students and scholars from the great endowment established by him.

Thus, it may appositely be said of Ganesh Dutta, in the words of the poet, Gray, of the Elegy fame:

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere.

Heaven did a recompense as largely send;

He gained from Heaven (‘twas all he wished) a friend.

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