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Sardar Patel, Reservations and Socialism

A tribute to Iron man Of India on “Unity day” 31.10.1917

“What the country needs is not parrot like cry of socialism, but unity and strength

Sardar Patel ‘Iron man Of India’- Sardar Patel was an important member of Constituent Assembly, Deputy Prime Minister and the first Home Minister of independent India. He along with Gandhiji, DR. Rajendra Prasad and Nehru captained and pulled the nation out of darkness and stormy times preceding and following the transfer of power.

He was down to earth a realist, a born Kisan and a traditionalist. He was The iron man of India with strong will power, sturdy commonsense, indomitable courage, incorruptible integrity, austere and simple living unlike today’s politicians. He led a life full of suffering and sacrifice. Devotion to duty was the hallmark of his character.[xvii] He was a strict disciplinarian. He was blunt and quite outspoken. He never minced words. He believed more in deeds than in ritualism. Despite  his personal reservations, Patel always gave due respect to Nehru.

With his mature thinking and realism, he handled many gigantic problems and complex state affairs like unification of India within  a very short period, broken law and order machinery at the time of transfer of power, expeditious evacuation of millions of Hindus and Sikhs caught in the Communal holocaust in West Pakistan, or vexatious issue of the division of assets between India and Pakistan, or smooth integration of Indian States by pacifying the Princess of 560 and old princely States.

Integration of India

It goes to the credit of Sardar Patel ‘the  Integration of India out of nearly 560 princely states against all odds immediately after the Independence after the British left India handing over the authority of governing them to the rulers of princely states and giving them freedom to decide, whether they wanted to join India or Pakistan.   The whole world was watching with curiosity the developments and was suspicious about its success to pull on. Visionary Patel along with his team worked tactfully day and night to integrate those princely states into India.

Patel along with his team succeeded in uniting 560 and odd princely states under Government of India in splendid manner and almost within a year. The events of four years from 1947 to 1951 were very hectic, and full of toils anxieties. It was the cooperative efforts of the entire team from top to bottom working with a unity of purpose under the leadership and inspiration of Sardar.

First President of India Rajendra Prasad wrote in May 1959“That there is today an India to think and talk about, is very largely due to Sardar Patel’s statesmanship and firm administration.” His name should be written in gold in Indian history. It is unfortunate that the nation has forgotten/ignored him and his contributions and has shied away from giving him his rightful place.

Sardar’s views on socialism and reservations

Sardar Patel was opposed to the Parrot cry of socialism” and lashed out against socialists for their agitation on an issue, which he considered, was hampering unity and strength of the country. Patel had an apprehension as early as 1934 that borrowed methodology of socialism could be misused to establish fascism.

He is reported to have remarked on 2nd January 1948 at Shillong before a mammoth gathering. “By experience, I am convinced that what is necessary for us is to learn how to produce more wealth (created by ones own labour) and thereafter think what to do with it. What the country needs is not parrot like cry of socialism, but unity and strength”. Patel asked the people to think, why England took a long time to become socialistic and why America made no mention of it even now.

When the original Constitution framed in 1950, the words, “Socialism” or “Socialist democracy” were not mentioned. The word “Socialist” as qualifying the Republic was added in 1975, through 42nd Amendment Act by Indira Gandhi’s government, giving it almost the highest place in the name of equality and Remove PovertyProgram. Since then 42 years have passed.

Some people feel that inserting these terms in the Constitution limits policy choices. Even during debates in Constituent Assembly, the chairman of Drafting Committee Dr. B. R. Ambedkar rejected insertion of the term, ‘socialist’ into preamble – “What should be policy of the state, how the society should be organized in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by people themselves according to time and circumstances.”

India’s tryst with Socialism –  It is said that, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not of an idea, whose time has come”, and “Today’s theory and socio-political structures could be tomorrow’s big mistakes”. Both these, sayings fit well with India’s experiment with the ideology of “Socialism”.After the World War-II, socialism was the wave that swept the entire world. War made almost democratic government to play the role of a guardian, as far as its economy was concerned.

Objectives of Socialism – The principle of “Laissez faire” was the guiding principle of governance during the 19th century. USA became world’s largest economy having highest per capita income rate. Many European States emerged as great imperial powers. After World War I, it turned many countries to totalitarian regimes.  Italy became a fascist nation and Nazism grew in Germany.

Wave in favour of social-justice – World War-I was the turning point. War made every democratic government to play the role of a guardian, as far as its economy was concerned. At that time, it was not only a political or economic ideology, but also a radical philosophical alternative, which assured to create a new integrated, casteless, classless egalitarian society, free of discrimination and inequality.

Socialism was supposed to destroy all inequalities of race, sex, power, position or wealth and to distribute equitably social, material and political resources of the nation. Socialism meant to place in full or in parts means of production and distribution under State’s ownership or control, as against private ownership and free enterprise. It believed in planned development for removing poverty and leading the nation to prosperity. In socialist countries, Government assumes the responsibility of protecting its citizens from the shocks of everyday life from womb to tomb. The first one to opt for totalitarian regime was Soviet Russia. By the time, World War-II was over, socialism was the wave, that swept the entire world.

After Independence in 1947 – As was the trend, in 1947, Socialism and Socialist democracyhave been the buzz words. India could not remain immune from its influence. Many of its political leaders were greatly influenced by the principle of socialism. They, under the leadership of Pundit Nehru were in favour of pursuing policies based on social justice. According to them, in order to achieve a just and equitable socio-economic order and to remove poverty before long, bending towards socialism was necessary.

Unity and strength not “Parrot cry of socialism – However, at that time itself, visionary and able statesman like Sardar Patel lashed out against those, who believed that there could be no justice, unless its economy was based on social economy. Or that freedom was meaningless without economic equality and social justice. He was sure, what the country needs is not “Parrot cry of socialism”, but unity and strength.

Sardar Patel considered socialist propositions purely theoretical and academic, far away from reality. He said, Unlike many, who indulge in ‘Parrot cry of socialism’, I have no property of my own. Before you talk of socialism, you must ask yourself, how much wealth you have created by your labour. If you have created nothing, the parrot would have flown, and the cage would be empty. By experience, I am convinced that what is necessary for us is to learn how to produce more wealth and thereafter, think what to do with it.”

Sardar Patel asked the people to realize why England took a very long time to become socialist and why America made no mention of it even now.

Gandhiji also appreciated socialist leaders desire to bring about improvement in living standard of masses. But advised them first to come together, think what was in the best interest of the country and set people on to constructive work. He told Manu Gandhi on 15th April 1947, Socialism is a term of modern age, but the concept of socialism is not new. Lord Krishna preaches the same doctrine in Gita. One needs to have in one’s possession, only what one requires. It means that all men are created by God and therefore, entitled to an equal share of food, clothing and housing. He said, Socialism will not come by occupying positions of power and by delivering speeches from the platform.

Giving practical advice to do selfless service to the people and to ensure the straightest and quickest way to achieve a socialist order, Gandhiji said, If you wish to establish socialism, there is only one way, in which it can be done. Go and live among the poor in villages, live as they live, be one with village people, work for eight hours daily, use only village made goods and articles even in your personal lives, remove illiteracy among village people. Gandhiji also upbraided the Communist party workers for, Instead of having faith in India and drawing inspiration from its unrivalled culture, you wish to introduce Russian civilization here, as if Russia was your motherland.

Constitution of India and Socialism — In 1950, when the Constitution was framed, the words, Socialism or Socialist democracy were not included in it in order to keep a balance between the views of towering personalities like Gandhi, Patel and Nehru. The Constitution of India only mentioned To secure to all its citizen economic justice and equality of status and opportunity.

The influence of the socialistic principles is visible in the Constitutional directives to the Government to:

  • Provide adequate means of livelihood to all its citizens,
  • Distribute material resources for common good
  • Avoid concentration of wealth and means of production in the hands of a few,
  • Right to work,
  • Equal pay for equal work, to both men and women,
  • Living wages for all workers, protection of workers especially children,
  • Humane conditions of work, and
  • Provide for right to education and public assistance.
  • “Democratic socialism” under Pt. Nehru

Developments on the front of socialism after the death of Sardar Patel – Along with the socialist influence, Pt Nehru, after the death of Sardar Patel, favoured the creation of public sector. It was considered to be a historical need at that time to speed up nation’s development. Because private enterprises neither had the resources, nor the skill, nor inclination to invest heavily in infrastructure, where returns come much later and a huge amount of money locked up without immediate gains. The Government alone had the resources and will to build an infrastructure for development through planned schemes. All industries of basic and strategic importance and those in nature of public utility services were reserved by the Government for the public sector.

Jai Prakash Narayan, a staunch supporter of socialism, at that time, criticized Pandit Nehru’s concept of mixed economy and said, “You are trying to ride two horses, which may be possible in circus, but not in historical evolution. You want to go towards Socialism, but you want Capitalists to help in that. You want to build Socialism with the help of Capitalism. You are bound to fail in that”. Nehru’s concept of mixed economy, in which central planning lived within a kind of free market ex-skeleton, later on developed all the weaknesses of socialism and capitalism, with none of the advantages of either. Under the mixed economy, businessmen and industrialists,who had access to authorities and the authorities, who had the power to give permits and licenses, flourished.

Planned economy – Many plans were developed under planned schemes to transform the backward society into a society of equals in a short time. The original inspiration for planned economy came from the Soviet Union. In short, nations following the path of socialism has made six specific mistakes: –

  • They have adopted an inward looking, import substituting path, rather than an outward looking, export promoting route, thus denying itself the chance to share the world’s prosperity of the 70s and 80s,
  • It has set up a massive, inefficient and monopolistic public sector, to which it denied the autonomy of working,
  • It has over-regulated private enterprise, thus diminished competition in home market,
  • It has discouraged foreign capital and denied itself the benefit of technology and world class market,
  • It has pampered organized labor responsible for lowest productivity of labor and capital, and
  • It has ignored primary education at the cost of higher education

Under Indira Gandhi regime – The word “Socialist” as qualifying the Republic was added in 1975, through 42nd Amendment Act by Indira Gandhi’s government, giving it almost the highest place in the name of equality and “Remove Poverty”.

Failure of socialist policies in solving nation’s problems – Under the leadership of Mrs. Gandhi socialistic plans and policies were followed in such a way, that it had done more damage than good. It developed tentacles of corruption, scams, scandals and callousness in almost every sphere.  It created the politics of appeasement and vote banks, destroyed the work culture, and encouraged separatism everywhere in the society.

Parties used the term ‘Garibi Hatao’ to woo different submerged sections of society like Dalits, tribals, minorities, backward castes, unemployed youths etc and create a large vote bank themselves. Politicians defined and interpreted it in their on own way, and created confusion and division amongst different sections of society. They were not so much interested in tackling the key issues like population explosion, terrorism, unemployment, inflation, jobs especially in the spectrum of slowing economy, law and order, development of educational systems, development of infrastructure for the convenience of public at large. Their main interest lies in creating vote banks.

On the whole, the concept of socialism has created in reality a closed, centralized and unproductive systems. It has suppressed sustainable growth of the nation as a whole. Indian society. In the name of Welfare State and social-justice, the Government acquired extraordinary powers to exercise arbitrary control over massive resources. It centralized the planning, controls and ownership, which led those in authority to abuse of power and “Grab more power” attitude.

Arbitrary State Control – The Government acquired extraordinary powers to exercise arbitrary control over massive resources.  It closed its economy to the world, nationalized industries and services, initiated rigid controls on the private sector and created monopolies in the public sector. An unfettered market system led to grave economic inequalities, which got transformed into political inequalities. It developed tentacles of inefficiency and red tapism, corruption, scams, scandals and callousness in almost every sphere. It did not wipe out poverty, nor created an effective distributive system, nor equality, but it had led almost to the loss of economic liberty.

Demoralizing effect on people, reduced them to the size of pygmies – In the name of socialism, it created a domineering State controlling the smallest detail of the economic and social life of the people. Reduced People to the size of pygmies. Though in theory, sovereignty rested in the people of the nation, they found themselves absolutely helpless. They have been enslaved by politicians, planners and bureaucrats.  It jammed the wheels of morality and conscience. The excessive control made people gradually lose their motivation for hard work.

Divided people into uncompromising compartments – Politics of social-justice has divide people into uncompromising water-tight compartments. And then attempted to woo different sections of society separately like Dalits, tribals, minorities, backward castes, youths, salaried employees in government or public sectors etc.

A large number of politicians are not so much interested in tackling the key issues like population explosion, terrorism, unemployment, inflation, jobs especially in present spectrum of slowing economy, law and order, development of educational systems, development of infrastructure for the convenience of public at large as in creating vote banks.

Opinion of Intelligentsia – A group of intelligentsia regard concept of socialism as good as an ideology, but in real life-situations as one of the most misused terms in present-day political circles.  a major portion of such policies was proved to be the examples of bookish socialism and had little relation to the burning problems of the country. The experience on this front indicated that probably the objective of social justice was unrealistic. It jammed the wheels of morality and conscience.  By 1990, India also realized like many other countries – what it was practicing so far was a phony, fake and tainted social justice.

It created the politics of appeasement and vote banks, destroyed the work culture, and encouraged separatism everywhere in the society. It was realized, though quite late, that Democratic socialism itself is a contradiction in terms, as a socialist society or a planned economy cannot be democratic.  The uneven distribution of economic power and benefits through manipulations of polity had created major distortions and problems for the smooth administration / governance.

Milovan Djilas, a Yugoslavian revolutionary and writer, who predicted the fall of communism and fought both Tito and Stalin, concluded on the basis of his experience, The suppression of classes would be the first step towards the extinction of society… There can be no society without classes. The problem is how to create a balance between the classes, to prevent some from getting rich at the expense of others and to prevent the oppression of one class by another. It must be recognized, however, that it will never be possible to establish an ideal equilibrium among different social classes…The future ideology of the reformist left must not become a barrier to the achievements of capitalism such as efficiency and the profitability of business. The central problem is, how to distribute wealth without disrupting economic activity, while at the same time building a society based on human solidarity…. This idealism should not be confused with the chimera of establishing a society with rigid and permanent forms – I believe the more varied a society is, the better and more creative it will be. There will always be injustice and inequality in the world, which will be the task of the social democrats to combat.

Mr. Paul Johnson, a historian of 20th century says, The more the State grows and impedes the free exercise of market forces, the more the quality of information deteriorates, more likely decisions based on such them would be wrong. A Polish communist Government planner says, In this crazy system, we do not know, the true cost of anything. We do not know which factories are efficient and which are hopeless. So we are continually reinforcing failure and punishing success.

Mr. Subramanyam says, The hypocrisy of socialism developed along with centralization of authority, denigration of democratic institutions and strangulation of Panchayat Raj institutions as part of one integrated political process in the country. J Krishnamurthy said, Working for social welfare is to fill water into a pail that has holes. The more water is poured in it, the more it pours out and the pail remains empty.

The experiences on Socialism along with principle of secularism, equality etc are not very encouraging. The problem of socialism is of performance, not of faith, and the price paid by the nation for this faith has been efficiency and its future prosperity.  It reminds Sardar’s teaching, that need of the hour is hard-work, Unity and strength not “Parrot cry of socialism”

Sardar’s views on the issue of Bureaucracy

After Independence, many national leaders wanted to abolish the bureaucracy after Independence, it was Sardar, who advised them at Bombay in October 1947. he said, We have only a small number of Civil Servants left. Many people say that they are working in their old way. But those, who have experience of administration, know under what circumstances and how much they are working. Outsiders can not appreciate their work. Many of them, loyal workers and patriots are working with us night and day. All that we have been able to achieve, whether it be in the sphere of states or in Kashmir or another theatre, has been possible only because of their loyalty and whole hearted support.” 

Nehru is on record to have said: “But of one thing I am quite sure that no new order can e built up in India, so long as the spirit of ICS pervades our Administrative Public Service.  That spirit of authoritarianism is the ally of imperialism and it cannot coexist with freedom.  It will either succeed in crushing freedom or will be swept away by itself.  Only with one type of State, it is likely to fit in and that is the Fascist type.  Therefore, it seems quite essential that the ICS and similar services must disappear completely, much before we can start real work on a new order.” (Jawarlal Nehru, An Autobiography, London, the Bodley Head, 1953, p.443.)

Sardar Patel, the then Home Minister, however, held an opposite view.  He foresaw the dire necessity of “All India Services” in independent India.  Therefore, he convened a “Provincial Premiers Conference” in October, 1946 to take a decision on All India Services.  While presiding over the Conference, he said: “My own view as I have told you, is that it is not only advisable, but essential, if you want to have an efficient service, to have a Central Administrative Service, in which, we fix the strength as the Provinces would require them and we draw a certain number of officers at the Centre, as we are doing at present.  This will give experience to the personnel at the Centre leading to efficiency and administrative experience of the district, which will give them an opportunity to contact with the people.  They will thus keep themselves in touch with the situation in the country and their practical experience will be most useful to them.  Besides their coming to the Centre will give them a different experience and wider outlook in a larger sphere.  A combination of these two experiences will make the service more efficient.  They will also serve as liaison between the Provinces and the Government and introduce certain amount of freshness and vigor in the administration, both at the Centre and in the Provinces.  Therefore, my advice is that we should have an All India Service.” (Sardar Patel, Proceedings of the Premiers’ Conference, October, 1946).

Again speaking in the Constituent Assembly, he warned: “There is no alternative to this administrative system…The Union will go, you will not have a united India, if you have not a good All India Service, which has the independence to speak out its mind, which has a sense of security that you will stand by your work..   If you do not adopt this course, then do not follow the present Constitution.  Substitute  something else…This Constitution is meant to be worked by a ring of service, which will keep the country intact.  There are many impediments in this constitution, which will hamper us.  But in spite of that, we have in our collective wisdom come to a decision that we shall have this model, which in the ring of a service will be such that will keep, the country intact.. these people are the instrument.  Remove them and I see nothing, but a picture of chaos all round the country.” (Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol. X, No.3, October 10, 1946.)

Despite the strong arguments put forward by Sardar Patel, it was not an easy job to gain provincial acceptance for the proposed All India Services. Some important national leaders like Nehru, G.B. Pant, etc., and a few states like Punjab, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir were very critical of it.  They preferred to have their own `Superior Services’.  However, All India Services were pushed down their reluctant throats by Vallabhbhai Patel. (The Hindu, October 25, 1946, p. 4.)

The vision of Sardar Patel in continuing this institution proved to be a step in the right direction even after 70 years of independence. The Setalvad team said, “The Indian scene has changed in many ways since then. But in this respect, the change that occurred over the years serves only to confirm all that Sardar Patel said with prophetic insight many years ago. It should be needless to affirm the continued validity of all the objectives underlying the All India Services and yet in a country, in which the Constitutional parts are possessed with pre-emptive desire to assert their separations, such an affirmation is solely needed. The value of a system considered necessary for the administrative unity of the country despite the ubiquity of congress Party rule and found indispensable for securing fair-play and competence in administration, despite the acute awareness of their need in the most potent political figures at a time, when their power was untrammeled and their right ran through the length and breadth of the land, can in the less favourable conditions of today be ignored only at the cost of perilous consequences. Continuity also demands a system which can maintain links in administrative behaviour throughout the country, while political changes visit different States and the Centre.” (ARC,Report of the Study Team on Centre-State Relationship, (Chairman: M.C. Setalvad), Government of India, 1967.)

The ARC also observed, ”Not only do the original considerations for which the All India Services was set up in the beginning hold good even today, but they apply with greater force today and make it necessary that a service structure like the IAS should continue for foreseeable future.” (ARC, Report on Personnel Administration, August 1967, p.61)

B.B. Misra felt concerned at the abolition of other All India Services. He said, “It was the ICS and IP that remained unaffected and continued to act as unifying force. Most of the other All India Services were abolished. Considerations of national unity, the positive need of India’s all round development and the attainment of a minimum uniform standard in administration were allowed to go by default.”46 Thoughts of Misra read with the analysis brought out under sub-title, “The Need for Additional All India Services”. Leads to the conclusion that the country has erred in not allowing continuation of All India Services in other areas of national interest. However, as the saying goes “It is better to be late than never”, it is time that a beginning is made to set up All India Services for Health, Water, Power, Education and Judiciary, immediately. This should not be a difficult task as the Rajya Sabha has already passed a resolution to that effect, at least for Health, Water and Power, and it can always pass a bill for other two remaining subjects, viz., education and Judiciary.”(B.B. Misra, Administrative History of India, 1834-1947: General Administration, London, Oxford University Press, 1970, p.143.)

On the eve of Independence, when the entire administration exhibited the signs of wear and tear, Sardar Patel had warned the nation, India is passing through the most critical and troubled days of her long and checkered history and strong, efficient, experienced broad minded administrators were badly required at that hour to save the nation from the impending crisis . Today, 70 years after the independence, position is the same, because of vote-bank policy, caste-based reservations and politics of vendetta. Nation again shows the signs of wear and tear. It is good to remember today Sardar Patel’s views on important issues and contributions to the nation and pay attention to what he had said 70 years ago.


October 31, 2017 - Posted by | Reservation/Affirmative action program |

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