GUWAHATI, Aug 14 - Former Union minister, trade unionist and Red Cross activist Renuka Devi Barkataki passed away at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital here this afternoon. She was 84.
She was admitted to hospital last morning following an accidental fall at her home in the Panchawati Ashram compound on the GNB Road here, resulting in head injury. A GMCH spokesperson said she underwent a surgery but subsequently passed away at 1:40 pm today.
Her body was taken to the INTUC office, Freedom Fighters� Guest House, Rajiv Bhawan, and Red Cross office at Chandmari for enabling the public to pay homage. Her funeral was done at Navagraha crematorium with full state honours amid a large attendance where her daughter Meenaxi Barkataki lit the funeral pyre.
Born on November 29, 1932 to Rudra Kanta Sharma and Dharmeswari Devi of Uzanbazar, Renuka Devi Barkataki graduated in science from Cotton College. Her husband Munin Barkataki predeceased her. Her only daughter Meenaxi Barkataki is based in Germany.
Initiated into social and community works at an early age, Barkataki had been active in the Moina Parijat movement during her school days, and was the commander of the Assam Congress Seva Dal when Mahatma Gandhi visited Guwahati in 1947. She served the Congress in various capacities in her younger days. She was elected to Parliament from the Barpeta constituency as a Congress candidate in 1962 and remained with the Congress(O) when the Congress split in 1967, and became the general secretary of the Assam Congress(O). She was elected to the Assam Assembly from the Hajo constituency as an independent candidate in 1972 and she became the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
She was detained for 19 months as political prisoner during the Emergency period of 1975-1977.
With the amalgamation of the Congress(O) with the Janata Party in 1977, she became a member of the Janata Party and became the general secretary of the State unit and a member of the National Working Committee. She was elected to Parliament for a second time in 1977 from the prestigious Guwahati constituency as a Janata Party candidate and appointed Minister of State for Education, Social Welfare, Culture, and Youth and Women�s Welfare in the Morarji Desai government in 1977.
As a trade union leader, she was the vice president of INTUC Assam between 1980-1992, and president of Assam State Rural Workers Federation affiliated to the International Federation of Agricultural and Allied Unions. Till her death she was heading several trade unions connected with construction, engineering, transport, women�s labour and agricultural labour.
She had been the secretary of the Guwahati Branch of the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) since 1983 and chairman of the Indian Red Cross Society, Assam Branch since 1996. She was also nominated as the first and only woman Navaratna Director of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in 2003.