Rafi Ahmed Kidwai (1894-1954)

Rafi Ahmed Kidwai was born on 18 February 1894 in a middle class Zamindari family at Masauli in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh.

He joined M.A.0. College Aligarh in 1916 but left it after completing BA. It was the time of the historic sessions of the Congress and Muslim League at Lucknow, where Congress-League Pact was signed in December 1916. He participated in the meetings with his Uncle Vilayat Ali and became a regular member of the Khilafat Organisation in 1920. He was the main force behind the Non-Cooperation Movement in Barabanki district. He was jailed and sentenced to six months in June 1930 for spearheading a no-rent campaign by farmers and villagers in Rae Bareli district.

Kidwai became a Minister in Pandit G.B. Pant Cabinet in UP when Congress governments were set up in many provinces under the Provincial Autonomy Scheme in 1937. He was given charge of the Revenue and Jail portfolios. Under his stewardship, UP was the first province to do away with some of the defects of the Zamindari system. In April 1946, he became the Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He introduced many reforms in jails, which aimed at making prisoners better citizens.

After the first general elections in 1952, Nehru inducted Rafi in his cabinet and entrusted him with the portfolio of food and agriculture at a juncture where there was food rationing all over the country and supplies were limited. Undaunted Kidwai set out to apply his administrative skills to the problem. Soon man-made scarcity changed into man-released abundance. Rafi was a man of considerable learning, though not confined to mere academic knowledge. Men, not books interested him. Boldness, an imaginative approach and a human touch were his strong points. He was a man of action and lent excellent support to Nehru in the Party and the Government.

Ceaseless strenuous work shattered his health and he developed cardiac asthma. He died on 24 October 1954.