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A thought for the Great Sardar - The Indian Express

Jagmohan ()
30 October 1997

Title: A thought for the Great Sardar
Author: Jagmohan
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: October 30, 1997

At a time when India is virtually writing a new chapter of chaos, Sardar
Patel's constructive services to the nation should have been warmly
recalled during the special session of Parliament held to celebrate 50
years of India's Independence. Unfortunately, that was not done. It only
shows how little the present-day Indian ethos respect 'the doer' as
compared to 'the talker'.

No one in modern India has achieved so much in such a short time as Sardar
Patel whose birth anniversary falls on October 31.

Before his departure from India, Lord Mountbatten wrote to Sardar Patel on
June 19, 1948: "There is no doubt that by far the most important
achievement of the present Government is the unification of the States into
the Dominion of India. Had you failed in this, the results would have been
disastrous. But since you succeeded, no one can see the disastrous
consequences that you avoided. Nothing has added to the prestige of the
present Government more than the brilliant policy you have followed with
the States."

Nehru was undoubtedly a great leader and a many-splendoured personality.
But irresolute practicality' he was nowhere near Sardar Patel. According
to Hudson, the author of Great Divide, Lord Mountbatten once observed: "I
am glad Nehru has not been put in charge of the new States' Department,
which would have wrecked everything."

Sardar Patel was certainly one of the greatest constructive geniuses that
the country has known. He has often been compared with Chancellor Bismarck
who effected German unification in the late nineteenth century. But Patel's
achievements in the integration of States were far more remarkable.
Bismarck wove only about a dozen States into German fabric. Patel had to
handle 561 States of a wide variety. While the former resorted to the
policy of "blood and iron', the latter brought about a "bloodless revolution".

Patel first conceived a grand design and then proceeded to materialise it
on the ground. He approached the princes with an appeal to patriotic
sentiments. He reminded them: "We are at a momentous stage in the history
of India. By a common endeavour, we can raise the country to a new
greatness, while lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities.'

At the same time, Patel took care not to allow any grass to grow underneath
his feet. He scotched Nawab of Bhopal's idea of grouping a few States and
securing a separate dominion status. And when compulsive denigrators of
India, like Winston Churchill, tried to complicate the Hyderabad problem by
propping up the divisive game of the Nizam, "an old and faithful ally of
the Empire", Patel responded clearly and firmly: "It is only in goodwill
spirit and not on the malice and venom of Mr Churchill's tongue, that an
enduring relationship can be built between India and Britain and other
members of the Commonwealth". The message went home and browbeating of
India stopped.

Being an 'implementation man' par excellence, Patel was aware of the
crucial role which the Civil Services had to play in tackling the great
many problems which India had to face at the time of Partition and, later,
as a nascent democratic republic. He fully appreciated the need for a
sound and stable administrative set-up. He organised new All India
Services. In a letter to Nehru, on April 27, 1948, Patel said: "An
efficient, disciplined and contended service assured of its prospect as a
result of diligent and honest work is the sine qua non of a sound
administration under a democratic regime even more than under an
authoritarian rule. The service must be above party."

What is happening now negates practically all the norms and principles on
which Patel had constructed the edifice of public services. From Patel's
India to the present-day India, there has been a steep decline, be it in
effecting national integration or upholding national honour or ensuring
high standards of public service.

Will the notion in general and the ruling elites in particular take a leaf
out of Sardar Patel's book, do some serious soul-searching and take some
positive and practical steps to reconstruct the country's crumbling edifice
and provide solid and sound foundation to it?

(The writer is an MP and former Governor of J&K)

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