October 31, 2010

Today is Sardar Patel Jayanti. It has really been a Divine Blessing for our country that we had with us at the time of independence both as leader and as part of our government a super human being like Vallabhbhai Patel.


August 1947 was a challenging month. While it heralded the liberation of Mother India after centuries of thralldom, the joy of freedom was eclipsed by the trauma of a bloody partition, and the uprooting of millions from their hearths and homes.


Sardar Patel assumed office in Pandit Nehru’s cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister in August 1947. But his stewardship was available to the country for less than three and a half years. He passed away in December, 1950. And yet the amount of work he was able to discharge was really phenomenal. As V.P. Menon, Sardar Patel’s outstanding colleague, writes in his book, Integration of the Indian States :


“One of the largest unresolved problems facing it (India) was the presence of 554 Princely States within its boundaries. The British Government had announced that with their departure these States would become independent. It was widely feared that the new Dominion would break up on this account.”


V.P. Menon’s above quoted book carries an elaborate write up on the author titled “V.P. Menon: An Appreciation”. This has been written by eminent journalist M.V. Kamath. In this he observes :


“Let us note that even under the British, India was not a single political unit. The country was divided into two distinct parts: one was British India; the other was princely India, though the latter acknowledged Britain as the paramount power. 


The prince did not inherit his gaddi as of right but rather as a gift from the paramount power”.


“This paramountcy was to lapse when the British left India. It was at that point in historic time that efforts were first made to unite India fully, completely and indisputably under one umbrella. The man who engineered this was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel”.


In memory of this great soul Gujarat has planned to raise a Statue of Unity, 392 feet tall, which may make it the tallest statue in the world, larger than New York’s Statue of Liberty. 


Gujarat is presently observing the 50th anniversary of its formation. This statue of unity is being installed as part of works being undertaken in this year of Swarnim Gujarat. The site chosen by Chief Minister Narendra Bhai Modi for this monument is Sadhu Bet, about 3.2 Kilometers from Narmada Dam.   


One of the distinctive traits of Narendra Bhai’s leadership in Gujarat has been his imaginativeness. Last week, all MPs and MLAs from Gujarat witnessed at the C.M. residence a slide presentation titled ‘Vaanche Gujarat Abhiyan’ (‘Gujarat reads’ campaign). This is a new facet of the State Government’s innovative programmes for Swarnim Gujarat.


The abhiyan aims at preparing its citizens to cultivate reading habits and become better equipped for the needs of this knowledge century.


The movement is spreading by means of Talks on ‘The book I like’, Best reader Competition, Book Marches (Granth Yatra) etc. These programmes are being conducted across schools and colleges. In the 26 districts of the state and 8 municipal corporations, committees have been formed by inviting teachers, professors, writers and other academicians to join them. There are 34 committees with 30-40 members in each who have taken upon themselves to take this movement to the grassroots. There is also a central committee consisting of 143 members, composed of school principals, college principal, secretaries, prominent writers etc. headed by the CM and vice-chaired by the Education Minister. 54 NGOs are currently partnering with the Government of Gujarat to take this initiative further.  


A new idea initiated is that of Tairta Pustak (Floating books). People are asked to buy a book, read it, put his name down on it and circulate it to others (like a chain letter). Once the book has been read by 12 persons, it can be donated to a library which labels it as a ‘Floating book’. Since the initiation of this practice, some 50000 floating books have been donated.


New community libraries are being established. Age old and closed libraries are being revived and the existing libraries are being strengthened as part of this campaign.In schools, students, perhaps for the first time will be allowed to borrow books from the library during this Diwali vacation. More and more citizens are being encouraged to develop Granth Mandirs (libraries) in their own homes.


L. K. Advani

New Delhi

31 October, 2010

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