Ek Bharat Sreshtha Bharat–Taking the legacy of Sardar Patel forward

Dr Nunglekpam Premi Devi
Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat Programme was launched on 31st October on the occasion of 140th birth day anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in 2015. It aims to enhance interaction & promote mutual understanding between people of different States and Union Territories. The idea is that knowledge of different cultures, traditions and practices of different States and Union Territories will lead to an enhanced understanding and bonding between the States and thereby strengthen the unity and integrity of India.
A glimpse into the life of Sardar
Sardar Vallabbhai Patel was a barrister who served India as the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister from 1947 to 1950. He was one of the leading figures of India’s struggle for independence and when the British left, the guiding force of National integration. Born in Nadia, Gujarat on 31st October 1875, Patel studied hard to become an advocate and he earned a reputation as a fierce and skilled lawyer. His early life saw immense struggles. He fought against Veth system -forced unpaid labour or servitude of Indians to Europeans, organized relief efforts in the wake of bubonic plague and famine in Kheda and abandoned his career and material ambitions in the service of his motherland.
Apart from his well documented and well known role as a freedom fighter, Patel worked extensively for social reforms-against alcoholism, untouchability, caste discrimination, recognition and payment of teachers employed in schools and for the empowerment of women. He was elected as Ahmadabad’s municipal president in 1922, 1924, and 1927, in which he personally undertook efforts for improvement in city’s infrastructure, increase electricity supply, extension of drainage and sanitation system throughout the city. He established refugee centers across the district, mobilized volunteers, and arranged for supplies of food, medicines, and clothing, as well as emergency funds from the Government and the public.
Sardar worked closely with all sections of people and with a galaxy of tall leaders from across India.  He was well respected because of his forthrightness, uprightness and demeanor. His impact was pan India and even his adversaries admired his grit and determination. He was a disciplined soldier of the motherland who worked as an ideal leader and a follower. His love and respect for Mahatma and Nehru was mutual. In the documented discussions between these leaders, one notices great learning, decorum in debate and mutual love. Reading about those times one does get a feeling that those were the days of true giants.
Immediately after independence, Patel became the key figure in uniting and laying the foundation of an independent and proud Nation. His efforts led to the successful integration of over 560 princely States into the Indian Union. Shortly after Mahatama Gandhi’s assassination, he suffered a major heart attack but somehow recovered from it having lamented silently for the loss of his mentor. Still his health started declining and he died on December 15, 1950. He achieved much in the short period of a little over 3 years as India’s first Home Minister. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1991. His birthday, 31 October 2014, is celebrated as ‘Rashtriya Ekta Divas’ and a grand ‘Statue of Liberty has been built recently in Gujarat in memory of one of the tallest leaders India has ever produced.
The challenge before a culturally rich and diverse India is to remain united and to resolve internal differences peacefully and in a spirit of brotherhood.
Tolerance and brotherhood are values that are ingrained in our country but we cannot take them for granted. They have to be recognized, cherished and celebrated. We need to hand over the spirit of freedom struggle and Nation building that we inherited from our forefathers to our children. There is no better way to do it than remembering the life and times of Sardar Patel, studying his ideas and following his footsteps.