Vallabhbhai Patel (1875-1950), was the keel that the boat of the freedom struggle needed so as never to tip over, the ballast that the ship of state required to stay steady, move safe. No country can ignore its heroes, the ones who shaped its destiny. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was one such iconic personality who shaped India’s destiny in a far-reaching manner.
Preventing balkanisation of the country:
After India attained Independence, Patel fashioned the country’s political integration with the swiftness of a military commander and the deftness of a visionary leader. Present-day India owes immeasurable debt to the vision, tact, diplomacy and pragmatic approach of the Sardar in preventing the Balkanisation of the country.
He was instrumental in the merger of more than 560 princely states with the Union of India after the country’s partition. What makes this achievement very remarkable is that it was achieved without any bloodshed.
Adopting different approaches, as warranted by the situation, Patel gave friendly advice in some cases, persuaded the rulers to see reason in others and even used force as in the case of Hyderabad. It is remarkable that he fashioned a unified country at a time when the rulers of the princely states were given the option of joining either India or Pakistan or remaining independent.
The Nizam of Hyderabad nurtured ambitions of remaining independent of India and issued a firman to that effect. At the same time, he let loose razakars and even toyed with the idea of merging Hyderabad with Pakistan, although there was no geographical continuity between the two.
Travancore also declared that it would remain independent and the Nawab of Junagarh announced accession to Pakistan. Sardar Patel secured the accession of Junagarh in a swift action code-named “Operation Polo”. Hyderabad was integrated with the rest of India in just four days.
In a masterful display of statesmanship, Patel ensured the smooth integration of the troubled domains by not allowing the situation to deteriorate into civil unrest. There was neither bloodshed nor rebellion as he went about the task of building a strong India with a missionary zeal. He said, “the safety and preservation of these states as well as of India demand unity and mutual cooperation between its different parts. By common endeavour we can raise the country to a new greatness while lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities”.
Patel was the greatest unifier of India. There is, perhaps, no parallel in modern history to this achievement. Acknowledging the monumental contribution of Patel in nation building, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “History will call him the builder and consolidator of new India.”
Creator of All India Patel Administrative Service:
Patel was also instrumental in the creation of the All India Administrative Services which he described as the country’s “Steel Frame”.
In his address to the probationers of these services, he asked them to be guided by the spirit of service in day-to-day administration. He reminded them that the ICS was neither Indian, nor civil, nor imbued with any spirit of service.
His exhortation to the probationers to maintain utmost impartiality and incorruptibility of administration is as relevant today as it was then. “A civil servant cannot afford to, and must not, take part in politics. Nor must he involve himself in communal wrangles. To depart from the path of rectitude in either of these respects is to debase public service and to lower its dignity,” he had cautioned them on April 21, 1947.
His biggest asset was his down-to-earth disposition. He exemplified what the Father of the Nation had said about leadership: “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles. But today it means getting along with people”.
He was chosen by Gandhi to lead the Kheda campaign. “Many were prepared to follow me, but I could not make up my mind as to who should be my deputy commander. Then I thought of Vallabhbhai,” Gandhi said.
The trust that Gandhiji reposed in Patel was not misplaced. Gandhiji’s trusted lieutenant not only became an organiser par excellence but also a people’s leader.
He earned the title of “Sardar” after spearheading a no-tax campaign by peasants at Bardoli in Gujarat.
He also led the relief and rehabilitation operations when Gujarat was ravaged by floods and worked tirelessly during a plague outbreak in Ahmedabad.
The remarks Patel made during the Quit India Movement are also relevant today. He said: “We have to shed mutual bickering, shed the difference of being high or low and develop the sense of equality and banish untouchability. We have to live like the children of the same father”.
It is unfortunate that there has been no proper recognition of Patel’s monumental contribution in unifying the country at its most critical juncture in history.
The invaluable contribution of Sardar Patel in building a modern and unified India needs to be remembered by every Indian as the country marches ahead as one of the largest economies in the world.
Connecting the dots:
Discuss the contribution of Sardar Patel from unification of the country to creation of all India services.
TOPIC: General Studies 3:
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Saubhagya scheme: Critical analysis
The government recently announced 100% household electrification scheme, Saubhagya.
It aims to tackle the next link for electrification, where until now most efforts focused at the village or hamlet level.
The objective of the Saubhagya scheme is to “provide energy access to all by last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining un-electrified households in rural as well as urban areas to achieve universal household electrification in the country.”
The Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (‘Saubhagya’) launched recently claims to ensure electrification of all willing households in the country.
It promises to provide a free electricity connection to all willing Below Poverty Line households and to all others on a payment of ?500 (which shall be recovered by the power distribution companies/power departments in 10 instalments along with electricity bills).
Definition and the gap:
The Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), launched in July 2015, aimed to electrify all un-electrified villages by May 2018.
Under DDUGJY, the government managed to electrify 14,701 villages while 2,760 villages remain un-electrified; out of these, work is still in progress in a total of 2,611 villages.
However, out of the 14,701 villages, only in 8%, i.e. 1,198 villages, do all households have connectivity. Even if we take into consideration the fact that so many villages have been “electrified”, the next point of contention is the definition used.
According to the definition, a village is considered to be electrified if 10% households have an electricity connection and related basic infrastructure. Furthermore, even in these 10% of households, there is no promise of minimum hours of supply.
Given that 90% of households may not have power supply and of those 10% with electricity not having a regular supply, we can’t consider such a village to be electrified in a meaningful way.
Benefits of Saubhagya scheme:
Costs for wiring unconnected homes varies based on how far the user is from the grid, and, unfortunately, the last to be connected are likely to be the farthest away and most sparsely populated. Saubhagya averages at only about Rs4,000/home, inclusive of a metre and limited in-home wiring.
The scheme can help plug the gaps and address the issues of entry barrier, last mile connectivity and release of connections.
A free electricity connection may provide some relief as far as the financial burden is concerned.
It expects the poor to pay the bills without providing any subsidy to ease their burden. Even to the best of their abilities the poor would often not be in a position to pay regular electricity bills, which in turn could result in disconnection.
It can guarantee neither regular electricity supply nor continuation of those connections in case of non-payment. However, expecting poor households to bear the recurring burden of bills as per the prevailing tariff of DISCOMs is unimaginable.
Even if all households are provided a connection, there would still be the problem of regular supply. Industry estimates suggest that this scheme would potentially require an additional 28,000 MW and additional energy of about 80,000 million units per annum, which is roughly 7% of India’s current installed power capacity. The problem is graver still in interior rural India. Considering the huge lapses as far as electricity availability is concerned, managing this additional demand would prove to be challenging.
Such models of service provision, even for a public good, risk inefficient consumption. It also limits the provider’s ability or appetite to scale and sustain.
Adding a wire to the home, as the scheme proposes, is only part of the issue being addressed.
What one really needs is quality service (ideally 24×7) for meaningful electrification. This means we have to either strengthen or change the distribution companies (discoms) to ensure we meet this part of the social contract of electricity.
The first need is to execute the physical wire to the homes. Hopefully there are enough skilled contractors to handle the enormity of the task—India’s 40 million unconnected homes is roughly triple the next two countries’, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Insufficient capital outlay can be supplemented by state budgetary support or special Central grants. Thinking holistically, there is money available. Instead of subsidizing (oil company’s under-recovery for) kerosene, the same money could progressively be re-allocated for rural electrification—a greater amount annually than the Saubhagya budget.
Under Saubhagya, microgrids are perhaps the biggest theoretical loser, but better coordination can reduce such conflicts. They can be complementary instead of competitive, especially for remote locations. This requires serious discussions on microgrid designs.
Discoms have historically been wary of adding “expensive” and non-remunerative consumers. Their worries needs to be addressed. Retail tariffs for residential users should be updated to meet the marginal costs of supply, to cover the incremental (mainly fuel) costs of generation procured by discoms.
The policy statement echoes the commitment to facilitate economic growth and social development, but it only addresses the issue partly. There are many more reforms which must be brought in.
Connecting the dots:
What is the objective of Saubhaya scheme. Discuss it needs. Despite being ambitious, it solves the electricity problem of the country only partly. Critically analyze.