GUWAHATI, Oct 24 - He was a visionary, an expert in paper technology and a pioneer entrepreneur of undivided Assam. He singlehandedly illuminated a town of the State about a century back in 1923, overcoming all the odds. He was the man who built the Silchar Kumbhirgram Aerodrome.
He also set up a cement factory in Garopahar Hills district of the undivided Assam in the early part of the 20th century.
But, the coat of oblivion has made his contributions so obscure that he has remained an unsung hero, despite his astounding role in making Assam shine, that too, selflessly spending from his own pocket.
He was Kashinath Saikia. Over a century ago, in 1894, he was born to the family of Raibahadur Betharam Saikia of Naoboicha village in the present day Jorhat district. Betharam Saikia was the Mouzadar of Salmara Mouza of the river island Majuli.
According to his nephew Budhin Saikia and niece-in-law Mintu Moni Saikia, Kashinath Saikia set up the first electricity company about 92 years ago, in 1923 at Jorhat. This was the first electricity company of undivided Assam.
He obtained his BSc degree from Calcutta University in 1913. Then the Government of India awarded him a scholarship to study industrial chemistry abroad. But the outbreak of the World War-I in 1914, prevented him from undertaking that study.
He joined the Bengal Paper Mill instead and served it for a brief period. Then he joined a Japanese firm and went to Japan for undergoing training in paper manufacturing. Thereafter, he moved to Rengoon (now Yangoon) in Burma (now Myanmar) to join a paper mill as its head chemist.
During his tenure with the Rengoon paper mill, he invented a new process for cardboard manufacturing and got it patented in India and Germany and earned a royalty amount of Rs 65,000 from the British Government. The patent also won him the fellowship of the Chemical Society of London.
Perhaps he is the first Assamese chemist to secure a patent. He returned to Assam in 1921 with an aim at establishing a paper mill, but he failed. He founded the Jorhat Electric Supply Company, the first electricity company of the undivided Assam, in 1923.
The first water supply scheme of Jorhat was run with the power generated and supplied by his electric supply company. He also introduced the first power-driven rice mill at Jorhat.
In rendering all these services, his family lost its ancestral Mouza. He was nominated to the Assam Legislative Council as an MLC on two occasions in 1926 and in 1931.
Unlike many of our legislators and Parliamentarians, he was an articulated Member of the Legislative Council (MLC).
He died on May 8, 1962 at the age of 73 at a rented house on the Guwahati Club-Ambari Liladhar Barua Lane.