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Rashtriya Ekta Diwas

A special tribute to a great unifier & the maker of modern India

unnamed.jpg Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

The first half of 1947 was a critical period in India’s history. The end of colonial rule was certain and so was India’s partition but what was uncertain was whether there would be more than one division. Prices were rising, food shortages were common but over and above everything else, the unity of India was under severe strain.

It was in these circumstances that the States Department came into being in the middle of 1947. Among the chief aims of this Department was to negotiate India’s relationship with the over 550 Princely states, which were as diverse as they could get, be it in size, population, terrain or economic situation. No wonder Mahatma Gandhi remarked, “The problem of the states is so difficult that YOU alone can solve it.”

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The YOU in question is none other than Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, whose Jayanti we are marking today and to whom we pay our tributes. In vintage Sardar Patel style, he went about his work with precision, firmness and administrative efficiency. Time was less and the task was herculean…but this was no ordinary person, it was Sardar Patel, who was determined not to let his nation down. One by one, he and his team negotiated with the Princely states and ensured that they all became a part of free India.

It was due to the round the clock effort of Sardar Patel that the map of India is what it is today!

Once freedom was won, VP Menon, it is said, wanted to retire from government service, only to be told by Sardar Patel that this was neither the time rest nor the time to retire. Such was Sardar Patel’s firm resolve.VP Menon was made the Secretary of the States Department. In his book ‘The Story of the Integration of Indian States’, he writes about how Sardar Patel led from the front and inspired the entire team to work assiduously. He also writes that Sardar Patel was clear- first and foremost came the interests of the people of India, there would be no compromise on that.

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On 15th August 1947, we celebrated the dawn of a new destiny but the work of nation building was far from complete. As Independent India’s first Home Minister, he set the stage for an administrative framework that continues to serve the nation be it in matters of day to day governance and protecting the interests of the people, particularly the poor and marginalized.

Sardar Patel was a veteran administrator. His own experience in governance, particularly in the 1920s, when he served the Ahmedabad municipality, was extremely handy when he worked towards strengthening independent India’s administrative framework. While in Ahmedabad, he did commendable work in furthering cleanliness in the city. He ensured clean and functioning drainage systems across the city. He also focussed on other aspects of urban infrastructure such as roads, electricity and education.

Today, if India is known for a vibrant cooperative sector, a large part of the credit goes to Sardar Patel. The roots of Amul can be traced back to his vision for empowering local communities, particularly women. It was Sardar Patel who also popularized the idea of cooperative housing societies, thus ensuring dignity and shelter for many.

Two traits synonymous with Sardar Patel are trust and integrity. The farmers of India had unparalleled faith in him. Afterall, he was a Kisan Putra, who led from the front during the Bardoli Satyagraha. The working class saw him as a ray of hope, a leader who would speak up for them. Traders and industrialists preferred to work with Sardar Patel because they felt here was a stalwart who had a vision for India’s economic and industrial growth.

His political peers too trusted him. Acharya Kripalani remarked that whenever they faced an issue and if Bapu’s guidance was not available, they would turn to Sardar Patel. When political negotiations were at their peak in 1947, Sarojini Naidu called him “the man of decision and man of action.”

Everyone trusted him, his words and his actions. Sardar Patel continues to be respected across caste, creed, faith, age!

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This year’s Sardar Jayanti is even more special. With the blessings of 130 crore Indians, the ‘Statue of Unity’ is being inaugurated today. Situated on the banks of the Narmada, the ‘Statue of Unity’ is among the tallest in the world. ‘Dharti Putra’ Sardar Patel will stand tall in the skies, to guide us and inspire us.

 

I congratulate all those who have worked day and night to ensure that this grand statue in tribute of Sardar Patel becomes a reality. My mind goes back to 31st October 2013, when we laid the foundation stone for this ambitious project. In record time, a project of such scale has become ready and this should make every Indian proud. I urge you all to visit the ‘Statue of Unity’ in the times to come.

The ‘Statue of Unity’ is a symbol of both the unity of hearts and the geographical integrity of our motherland. It is a reminder that divided, we may not be even able to face ourselves. United, we can face the world and scale new heights of growth and glory.

Sardar Patel worked with astonishing speed to dismantle the history of imperialism and create the geography of unity with the spirit of nationalism. He saved India from Balkanization and integrated even the weakest of limbs into the national framework. Today, we, the 130 crore Indians are working shoulder to shoulder to build a New India that is strong, prosperous and inclusive. Every decision is being taken to ensure that the fruits of development reach the most vulnerable, without any corruption or favouritism, just as Sardar Patel would have wanted it.

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Patel: Life, Message and His Eternal Relevance

“Work is worship but laughter is life. Anyone who takes life too seriously must prepare himself for a miserable existence. Anyone who greets joys and sorrows with equal facility can really get the best of life.”

i2017103014 *Guru Prakash

This statement can easily be mistaken as a thoughtful musing of a spiritual saint who has renounced the world, and has dedicated his life to a greater cause. It is difficult to believe that the aforementioned is one amongst many non-political quotes of the iron man of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

 EARLY LIFE & PEASANT STRUGGLE

Born as one amongst five brothers and sisters in a peasant family of Ladbai and Jhaveribhai Patel in village Nadiad in Kaira district of Gujarat, Vallabhbhai was set for a far greater cause of independence and integration of independent India. In his formative years, his mother has had a profound impact on his psychology. Like in a normal rural setting, the mother would gather all her children and narrate stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata.  While it impacted the spiritual quotient of young Patel, it was his father who introduced him to the world of peasantry. Young Vallabhbhai used to accompany his father to the fields and eventually became an expert in land tilling and cattle tending, two important aspects of cultivation. Such was his affection to his peasant ancestry that once an American journalist asked him about his cultural activities, to which he retorted, “Ask me another. My culture is agriculture”.

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The first spate of struggle that brought Patel to public life was primarily his journey as a peasant leader. His foray into public life and eventually into the freedom movement was possible through successful satyagrahas in Barod and Kheda, wherein he through his exceptional skills in leadership and consensus building brought the British government on knees to agree to the demand for the withdrawal of exorbitant increase in revenue.

 Statesmanship and Political Acumen

Sardar Patel belongs to the legion of leadership who effectively contributed both to the freedom struggle, and guided the project of national reconstruction following independence.

We worked hard to achieve our freedom; we shall have to strive harder to justify it”.

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Patel was clearly conscious of the fact that independent India needed a steel frame to run its civil, military, and administrative bureaucracy. His faith in institutional mechanisms like having an organized command based army and a systemized bureaucracy proved to be a blessing. It was Patel who sent Indian navy to the port of Lakshadweep at an appropriate time, as Pakistan was equally keen to occupy the strategically important islands. One can only imagine what would have been the plight had our neighbours succeeded in her plans. He also pre-empted the relevance of Independent Tibet as a buffer state between India and China, as can be found in his correspondence with Pt. Nehru.

 RSS and Sardar Patel

In a letter dated July 16th, 1949 to TR Venkatarama Sastri, Sardar Patel says, “I was myself keen to remove the ban at the earliest possible opportunity…. I have advised the RSS in the past that the only way for them is to reform the congress from within, if they think the congress is going on the wrong path”.

789_Sardar_PatelIn another correspondence the second sarsanghachalak of RSS MS Golwalkar writes to Sardar Patel, “I have decided to meet friends like Venkatarama ji etc. After meeting him and after attending to preliminary details with regard to our work, I shall do my best to call on you. I have learnt with sorrow that there has been some deterioration in your health. This indeed has given me much anxiety. The country is in so much need of your able guidance and service. I pray god to grant you long and healthy life. I hope till the time I shall be able to meet you; you would have much improved in your health. Some innermost feelings of heart are inexpressible through the medium of language. I am having such experience while I am writing this letter to you.

The communication establishes the fact that Sardar was open to the idea of ‘conversation without confrontations’. There is a pertinent need to move beyond rhetoric; which can only be made possible through independent research on the subject.

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“Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is perhaps the only pragmatist in the Gandhi, Nehru, Patel trio who were the most important people especially in the run-up to independence and immediately afterwards. Most Indians do not realize that the map of India would not look anything like it does today had Patel not contributed to it. Without him, large chunks of India would have broken away through malicious intent. He almost single-handedly prevented this balkanization from happening. The one place where Patel could not entirely implement his wise policies is Kashmir, and we are paying the price for that even today. Next to Gandhi, and sometimes even better than the Mahatma, Patel understood the grassroots ethos and culture of India. If he would have lived even for a decade after independence, possibly many of India’s persistent issues would have been resolved”, observes Hindol Sengupta, author of the upcoming Patel biography The Man Who Saved India.

 

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* The author is working as a Senior Research Fellow at India Foundation, New Delhi. Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.

Sardar Patel’s Economic Ideas

*Puja Mehra  aa.jpg

Sardar Patel dominated Indian politics from 1917 to 1950. First, he was at the forefront of the freedom struggle. Then, after Independence in 1947, as Deputy Prime Minister, he held the crucial portfolios of Home, States and Information and Broadcasting. The ‘Iron47.jpg Man’ and a founder of modern India, he restructured the Indian bureaucracy after the transfer of large number of officials to Pakistan, integrated the princely States into the Indian union, and had an important role in shaping the Indian Constitution.

Following territorial consolidation, the immediate goal was for the Government, industrialists and labour to participate in a great national effort for recovery and reconstruction. The objective was to bring an improvement in the living standards of countrymen. The British had taken what they had to, leaving behind, in his words, only their statues. Many of the instruments of economic control that had been put in place by the British government to gear the Indian economy towards the war effort were still operating. So, imports remained severely restricted, and foreign currency earned from India’s exports for the war had still not been transferred by the Bank of England to the Reserve Bank of India. As a result, a sizeable sterling balance had accumulated, but war-damaged England was in no position to settle the dues. Inflation had spiralled out of control. Speaking at the meeting of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) at Indore in May 1949, Sardar Patel declared his intention of rejuvenating the Indian economy. He said, “Our long period of slavery and the years of the recent war have drained the life-blood of our economy. Now that we have taken over power, onus is on us to rejuvenate it; new blood has to be poured in drop by drop,”

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Partition added to the vulnerabilities and thus restoring business confidence was paramount. Ahead of Partition, Calcutta’s worried businessmen had wanted to move out of the city that they had operated out of for generations. Sardar took the lead in dissuading them and asked them to stay on. He said in Kolkata, “I advised them to stay on because I was certain that no power on earth could take Calcutta away from India.” The factories there had been dependent on jute grown in what was now Pakistan. The neighbour refused to honour agreements; even jute that had been paid for in advance was not delivered. Sardar Patel realised that India had no time to lose and gave a call for self-sufficiency. Speaking at a public event in Delhi in January 1950, he asserted, “If they cannot guarantee to implement agreements, we had better not depend on them. Let us grow the jute and cotton and the food grains we need.”

Sardar Patel’s thoughts and approach to India’s economic challenge were shaped, to a great extent, by the historical setting at that time and also by his role of a nation-builder and a founder of India’s political democracy. Self-reliance was among the chief tenets of his economic philosophy, on which, his views were closer to those of Pandit Nehru than Mahatma Gandhi’s, who championed self-sufficiency at the village level.

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The role he envisaged for the government was that of a welfare state, but realised that other countries had taken up the task at more advanced stages of development. He was unimpressed with the slogans raised for socialism, and spoke often of the need for India to create wealth before debating over what to do with it, how to share it. Nationalisation he rejected completely; clear that industry ought to be the sole preserve of the business community. Nor was he a great believer in planning, especially of the kind practised in the developed and industrialised countries.

He was not for controls. The indifference was, in part, because there simply wasn’t enough staff to implement them. He was working with an administration capacity depleted owing to the departure of a disproportionate number of officers that had opted to go to Pakistan and the posting of senior civil servants in the newly-established embassies across the world. Addressing the Chief Ministers of the States in April, 1950 he said, “We run the administration of the country with one-fourth of the service which was in existence when we took over. Fifty percent of the people whose presence was enough to keep law and order and make subordinates work with efficiency, and even overtime, are gone.”

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To him, the profit motive was a great stimulant to exertion, not a stigma. He wholly approved of it, and advocated it for even the non-capitalist classes, the middle classes, the labour and even the agriculturists. That does not mean he did not recognise concentration of wealth as a social problem and unethical. He did, and in fact, appealed for a higher sense of civic consciousness and national duty to transcend all motives. His argument was that it was not merely ethical and patriotic, but even economically pragmatic, to channelise hoarded wealth in economic undertakings, where the returns were certain to be richer. Besides, what good could the stashes be if the country’s economic problems led to chaos. He constantly advised against greed. To the labour, he said, participate in creating wealth before claiming a just share, and advocated Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy on labour- employer relationships. The Mahatma’s methods, he said, could bring labour its legitimate reward through constitutional means.

He wanted to see India industrialise quickly. The imperative being to reduce dependence on external resources. A modern army required equipment that only machines could produce: apart from arms and ammunition, uniforms and stores, jeeps and motor cars, aeroplanes and petrol. But machinery was not going to solve the “great disease” of idleness in the thickly populated country. “Millions of idle hands that have no work cannot find employment on machines”, he said while while addressing the Chief Ministers’ meet in April 1950. Being primarily a farming country, agricultural revival was of primary importance. His promise to industry was for no “impediments, bottle-necks or red-tape” as he said in a radio broadcast on Pandit Nehru’s birthday 0n 14th November 1950.

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In the same broadcast, he championed investment-led growth and said, “Spend less, save more, and invest as much as possible should be the motto of every citizen.” He appealed to every segment of the society – lawyers, farmers, labours, traders, businessmen and government servants for saving every ‘anna’ that could be spared and to place their savings in the hands of the government for utilisation in nation-building enterprises. In the same address, he emphasised on saving every spare penny and said, “We must have capital, and that capital must come from our own country. We may be able to borrow from international markets here and there, but obviously we cannot base our everyday economy on foreign borrowing.” This was a call for voluntary savings, and for savers to choose their preferred means of investment.

Sardar Patel’s approach was balanced, pragmatic and liberal. Economics was an “intensely practical science” for him. Short cuts and arbitrary policies of temporary palliatives or artificial reductions in prices or stimulation of investment were not acceptable to him.  He wanted Indian economy built on surer foundations of increased production, industrial and agricultural, and increased wealth.

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*Puja Mehra is a Delhi-based journalist.

Mass Awareness to mark Sardar Patel’s incredible role in India’s Integration

Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, 2017 to celebrate Sardar Patel’s Birth Anniversary on 31st October

*Deepak Razdan  55.jpg

Iron Man of India’s freedom struggle, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, lent his steely strength to India’s consolidation after Independence, in full measure. A new nation was born. The 220px-Sardar_patel_(cropped).jpgchallenge of protecting its unity was evident. With amazing skill, the Sardar accomplished the task, and became Architect of the Unified India. On 31st October, therefore, the nation celebrates his birth anniversary as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, rejoicing over his precious legacy.

Surpassing the celebrations in recent years, the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas this year is going to be a much bigger affair. The day will be marked by taking of pledges to uphold the nation’s unity, mass mobilization, paramilitary march past, Run for Unity, poster and quiz competitions and exhibitions to highlight the Sardar’s role at the critical juncture in India’s history.

There will be celebrations at the national level and across the country. Preparations are in full swing. The Union Home Minister, Mr Rajnath Singh, has written to Chief Ministers to make suitable arrangements for the celebrations. The occasion is really pious, as the nation not only has to mark its gratitude to a formidable personality of Indian freedom struggle, but at the same time educate and update the new generation about him.

The Sardar was a father figure, the father of India’s political integration. He oversaw the merger of several small States into the Indian Union. Several States under his guidance and forceful persuasion combined to form bigger entities, and then merged into the Indian Union. Regionalism gave way to nationalism, as he asked people to think big, and be strong. Every part of India celebrates today what the Sardar worked for during the early days after Independence.

In the national Capital, the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas will begin with floral tributes at the Sardar’s statue by the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, on Sardar Patel Chowk on Sansad Marg. The Prime Minister will then flag off a Run for Unity in the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, in which about 15,000 students, and people from all walks of life, ex-Servicemen, well-known athletes and NSS volunteers will participate. Sports personalities including Ms P V Sindhu (Badminton), Ms Mitali Raj (Cricket) and Sardar Singh (Hockey) will be present at the flag-off.

The Run for Unity will take place from National Stadium and pass through  C-Hexagon, India Gate – Shah Jahan Road Radial – India Gate, and cover a distance of 1.5 km. Experienced Coaches from the Sports Authority of India will supervise the Run.

Railways, Culture, Tourism, Information and Broadcasting and Housing and Urban Affairs Ministries, along with several other Departments of the Central Government are associated with carrying out programmes to spread the message of unity. In the Central Park of Connaught Place in the Capital’s heart, and at Rose Garden on Shanti Path in Chanakyapuri, there will be exhibitions of the Sardar, who was known for his strength of determination. Shehnais will be played to give a festival colour at the celebrations.

All India Radio and Doordarshan will have special programmes to highlight the Day and a film “Sardar” will be screened on Doordarshan. New editions of six books on Sardar Patel will be released and they will be available as e-books.

The Government observes 31st October all over the country as a day of special occasion, to foster and reinforce the Government’s dedication to preserve and strengthen unity, integrity and security of the nation by celebrating it as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas (National Unity Day) to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the founding fathers of the Republic of India, who held offices of the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India.

At the last year’s Run for Unity on 31st October, 2016, the Prime Minister had said “Today we are seeing the tricolour from Kashmir to Kanyakumari; from Attock to Cuttack; from the Himalayas to the ocean. We can see the tricolour across the length and breadth of the nation; and the credit goes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.”

The same day, Mr Modi inaugurated a permanent digital museum based on Sardar Sahib’s life near Pragati Maidan. To instil the Sardar’s message of unity in every Indian, he launched ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat‘ initiative to build bonds between people of various States of India. The PM also released a stamp to commemorate the anniversary of Sardar Patel. Celebrating the Sardar’s extraordinary vision and strategic astuteness, a year earlier, the PM said at the 2015 Run for Unity, “After Chanakya, it was Sardar Patel who could stitch a united India.”

Born to a small land-owner of Karamsad village near Anand on 31st October, 1875, the Sardar was named Vallabhbhai Zaverbhai Patel. By his sheer hard work as a young pleader, he saved money to proceed to England for higher legal education. In due course, he grew up to be a fearless barrister known for his tough looks and ruthless pursuit of public causes.

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Childhood of Sardar Patel

Conducting the Bardoli farmers’ movement on revenue rates as its Supreme Commander in 1928, he asked the peasants to be prepared for long suffering.

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Finally, the Sardar’s leadership succeeded in forcing the Government to negotiate and withdraw the revision in the rates. At a village meeting, a peasant addressed him and said “You are our Sardar.” Bardoli had brought Vallabhbhai to the national scene.

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As a fitting tribute to the builder of Indian unity, a 182 metres (597 feet) high Statue of Unity is under construction facing the Narmada Dam, 3.2 km away on the river island called Sadhu Bet near Vadodara in Gujarat. Designed by well-known sculptor Ram V. Sutar, the statue is planned to be spread over 20,000 square meters of project area and will be surrounded by an artificial lake spread across 12 km of area. The construction of the statue started on 31st October, 2014, after a formal launch of the project a year earlier. It would be the world’s tallest statue when completed.

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*Deepak Razdan, is a senior journalist and at present Editorial Consultant, The Statesman, New Delhi.

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