PARTĀP SIṄGH KAIROṄ (1901-1965), political leader of wide influence and chief minister of the Punjab from 1956 to 1964, was born on 1 October 1901 in the village of Kairoṅ, in Amritsar district of the Punjab, in a farming family of modest means. His father Nihāl Siṅgh, who had been active in the Siṅgh Sabhā movement, was a pioneer of women's education and had founded in his village a Sikh school for girls. When still a student of the Khālsā College at Amritsar, Partāp Siṅgh left home for the United States of America. There he had to earn his own way by working on farmla and in factories. He eventually took a Master's degree in political science at the University of Michigan. He simultaneously concerned himself with the problems of Indian freedom and worked with groups determined to advance independence, if necessary by revolutionary activity.
Partāp Siṅgh was deeply influenced by the American way of life. Mile upon mile of oranges, grapes and peaches he saw in California planted in his mind the vision of a fruit-laden Punjab. He believed that affluence on farms was within reach of the Punjabi villager only if he had an independent and vital government. Partāp Siṅgh evolved a pragmatic, determined approach to political, economic and social issues. Returning to India in 1929, Partāp Siṅgh started from Amritsar a weekly paper in English, The New Era, the first issue appearing on 13 April 1931. But he soon entered active politics and closed down the paper. He joined the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal, party of Sikh activists. He was also a member of the Indian National Congress, the main all India party associated with the independence movement. As a Congress worker he was jailed in 1932 for five years for participating in the Civil Disobedience movement. In 1937, he entered the Punjab Legislative Assembly as an Akālī nominee, defeating the Congress candidate, Bābā Gurdit Siṅgh of Sarhālī. He was general secretary of the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee from 1941 to 1946, a period of acute crisis in the freedom struggle. He went to jail again in the 1942 Quit India movement. He was president of the Punjab Congress from 1950-52; a member of the Central (All India) Working Committee from 1946-59, and was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1946.
With the achievement of Indian independence in 1947, the Congress chose Partāp Siṅgh to turn his faith and influence to the construction of the new Punjab. He held office in the elected state government continuously from 1947 to 1949 and from 1952 to 1964. First as development minister and then as chief minister, Partāp Siṅgh Kāiroṅ led the Punjab in all round progress and change. Much of his work in the government was concerned with vital details, the removal of hurdles, the creation of opportunities, and the psychology and will for work, and the belief in change. Several of his programmes carried the mark of his individuality. He was associated with relief and rehabilitation, following the mass movement in 1947 of millions of refugees from Pakistan. Over three million people were in a brief period reestablished in the Punjab in new homes and often in new avocations. Partāp Siṅgh took up the consolidation of land holdings, which was made compulsory by law, and by completing the operation at high speed laid the base on which was founded the spurt in production on farms in the 1960's. He belonged to, and was of, the Punjab village which ensured for him strong mass backing. He experimented, worked, tried everything that' was, new and possible. He became the tornado round which the new and the old clashed in contradiction and friction, and yet merged briefly and decisively in action He certainly changed the administrative structure and methods of decision making inherited from the British system.
In 1964, following the report of the commission of enquiry which had exonerated him of the bulk of the allegations made against him by his political adversaries, Partāp Siṅgh Kāiroṅ resigned his position as chief minister of the Punjab. On 6 February 1965, he was assassinated as his car coming from Delhi was waylaid near the village of Rasoī on the main highway from Delhi to Amritsar.
E. N. Maṅgat Rāi