Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (13 May 1905 – 11 February 1977) was the fifth President of India from 1974 to 1977 and also the 2nd President of India to die in office. Chosen for the presidency by the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, in 1974, and on 20 August 1974, he became the second Muslim to be elected President of India. He is known to have issued the proclamation of emergency by signing the papers at midnight after a meeting with Indira Gandhi the same day. He used his constitutional authority as head of state to allow her to rule by decree once the Emergency in India was proclaimed in 1975.

He was the second Indian president to die in office, on 11 February 1977. His death occurred after he collapsed in his office while preparing to attend his daily Namaz prayer. He was 72. Today his grave lies right across the Parliament of India next to the Sunhari Masjid, at Sansad Chowk, in New Delhi.

In his honour a medical college Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College has been named after him at Barpeta Assam.

V. V. Giri

V V Giri
V V Giri

Varahagiri Venkata Giri (10 August 1894 – 23 June 1980), commonly known as V. V. Giri, was the fourth President of the Republic of India from 24 August 1969 to 24 August 1974.

As President, Giri subordinated the office of the President to the Prime Minister and came to be known as a “Rubber Stamp President”.

Giri was born in Berhampur in the Ganjam district of Odisha, into a Telugu Brahmin family. His father, V. V. Jogayya Pantulu, was a successful lawyer and political activist of the Indian National Congress. Giri’s mother Subhadramma was active in the national movement in Berhampur during the Non Cooperation and Civil Disobedience Movements and was arrested for leading a strike for prohibition during the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Between 1947 – 1951, Giri served as India’s first High Commissioner to Ceylon. In the General Elections of 1951, he was elected to the 1st Lok Sabha from Pathapatnam Lok Sabha Constituency in the Madras State. On being elected to Parliament, Giri was appointed Minister of Labour in 1952. His policy initiatives as minister gave rise to the Giri Approach in industrial dispute resolution.  Between 1957-1967, Giri served as governor of Uttar Pradesh (1957–1960), Kerala (1960–1965) and Karnataka (1965–1967).

Giri was sworn in as the second Governor of Kerala on 1 July 1960. As Governor, Giri’s active voicing of Kerala’s fiscal needs with the Planning Commission led to the state being allocated significantly more funds in the Third Five Year Plan.

Giri was elected the third Vice President of India on 13 May 1967, a post he held for nearly two years till 3 May 1969. Giri was the first Vice President to not complete his full term in office on account of being elevated to the office of the President and was the third Vice President to be elected to the Presidency.

Following the death in office of President Zakir Hussain on 3 May 1969, Giri was sworn in as acting President the same day. Giri resigned from his post on 20 July 1969 to contest the Presidential elections as an independent candidate. Immediately before resigning, Giri, in his capacity as Acting President, promulgated an ordinance that nationalised 14 banks and insurance companies. After the end of his term, Giri was honoured with the Bharat Ratna. Giri died in 1980.

Zakir Husain

Zakir Hussain
Zakir Hussain

Zakir Husain (8 February 1897 – 3 May 1969) was the 3rd President of India, from 13 May 1967 until his death on 3 May 1969. An educator and intellectual, Husain was the country’s first Muslim president, and also the first to die in office. He was also the shortest serving President of India. He previously served as Governor of Bihar from 1957 to 1962 and as  Vice President of India from 1962 to 1967.

Husain, then only 23, was among the small group of students and teachers who founded a National Muslim University, first founded in Aligarh on Friday 29 October 1920 then shifted to Karol Bagh, New Delhi in 1925, then after shifted again on 1 March 1935 in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi and named it Jamia Millia Islamia (a central university). He subsequently went to Germany to obtain a PhD from the Frederick William University of Berlin in Economics. While in Germany, Husain was instrumental in bringing out the anthology of arguably the greatest Urdu poet Mirza Assadullah Khan “Ghalib” (1797–1868).

He returned to India to head the Jamia Millia Islamia which was facing closure in 1927. He continued in that position for the next twenty-one years providing academic and managerial leadership to an institution that was intimately involved with India’s struggle for freedom from the British Rule and experimented with value-based education on the lines advocated by Mahatma Gandhi and Hakim Ajmal Khan. During this period he continued to engage himself with movements for educational reforms in India and was particularly active in the affairs of his old alma mater the MAO College, now the Aligarh Muslim University.

Soon after India attained independence, Husain agreed to be the Vice chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University which was facing trying times in post partition India because of active involvement of a section of its teachers and students in the movement for creation of Pakistan. Dr. Husain, again, provided leadership during a critical phase of the history of the University at Aligarh from 1948–1956. Soon after completing his term as Vice Chancellor he was nominated as a member of the Upper House of Indian Parliament in 1956, a position he vacated in 1957 to become Governor of the State of Bihar.

After serving as the Governor of Bihar from 1957 to 1962, and as the second Vice President of India from 1962 to 1967, Husain was elected President of India on 13 May 1967. In his inaugural speech, he said that the whole of India was his home and all its people were his family. During his last days, the issue of nationalization of banks was being hotly debated. The bill, in the end, received presidential consent from Mohammad Hidayatullah, (acting president) on 9 August 1969.

During his presidential tenure, Zakir Husain led four state visits to Hungary, Yugoslavia, USSR and Nepal.

He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, in 1963

Dr. Rajendra Prasad

Dr. Rajendra Prasad
Dr.  Rajendra Prasad

Rajendra Prasad ( 3 December 1884 – 28 February 1963) was the first President of the Republic of India. An Indian political leader, lawyer by training, Prasad joined the Indian National Congress during the Indian independence movement and became a major leader from the region of Bihar. A supporter of Mahatma Gandhi, Prasad was imprisoned by British authorities during the Salt Satyagraha of 1931 and the Quit India movement of 1942. Prasad served one term as President of the Indian National Congress from 1934 to 1935. After the 1946 elections, Prasad served as minister of food and agriculture in the central government. Upon independence in 1947, Prasad was elected president of the Constituent Assembly of India, which prepared the Constitution of India and served as its provisional parliament.

When India became a Republic in 1950, Prasad was elected its first President by the Constituent Assembly. Following the general election of 1951, he was elected President by the electoral college of the first Parliament of India and its state legislatures. As President, Prasad established a tradition of non-partisanship and independence for the office-bearer, and retired from Congress party politics. Although a ceremonial head of state, Prasad encouraged the development of education in India and advised the Nehru government on several occasions. In 1957, Prasad was re-elected to the presidency, becoming the only president to have been in the office twice.

Prasad acted independently of politics, following the expected role of the president as per the constitution. Following the tussle over the enactment of the Hindu Code Bill, he took a more active role in state affairs. In 1962, after serving twelve years as the president, he announced his decision to retire. After relinquishing the office of the President of India on May 1962, he returned to Patna on 14 May 1962 and preferred to stay in the campus of Bihar Vidyapeeth. He was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian award.

He died on 28 February 1963. Rajendra Smriti Sangrahalaya in Patna is dedicated to him.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (5 September 1888 – 17 April 1975) was an Indian philosopher and statesman who was the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967.

One of India’s most distinguished twentieth-century scholars of comparative religion and philosophy,  his academic appointments included the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta (1921–1932) and Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at University of Oxford (1936–1952).

His philosophy was grounded in Advaita Vedanta, reinterpreting this tradition for a contemporary understanding. He defended Hinduism against “uninformed Western criticism”, contributing to the formation of contemporary Hindu identity. He has been influential in shaping the understanding of Hinduism, in both India and the west, and earned a reputation as a bridge-builder between India and the West.

Radhakrishnan was awarded several high awards during his life, including a knighthood in 1931, the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, in 1954, and honorary membership of the British Royal Order of Merit in 1963.

Radhakrishnan believed that “teachers should be the best minds in the country”. Since 1962, his birthday is celebrated in India as Teachers’ Day on 5 September.