Sardar Patel’s politics of unifying India can be an inspiration in times of disunity

By |2018-11-23T10:42:39+00:0022nd November, 2018|

On the 9th November in Copenhagen, Sir Michael David Evans, a Professor of Public International Law and Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences and Law at the University of Bristol, was delivering a lecture on human rights issues. When I had the opportunity to ask him about his opinion on Brexit, he said that in his entire life he had not witnessed anything that had divided the British society as much as the issue of Brexit. Grandparents versus grandchildren, friends against friends, husbands against wives, brothers, sisters, siblings, etc. He mentioned that it was tragic to see the society so split and divided on this issue, which will have huge repercussions, historically speaking, for Great Britain.

Take America under Donald Trump. The political climate there too is enduringly divisive, and a political conversation between the Democratic and Republican camp is next to impossible thanks to President Trump’s divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. It resembles to some extent the debating atmosphere in Britain on the subject of Brexit.

Sadar Patel avoided the devastating consequences of wars that princely states would have fought forever, and by avoiding those wars, India today has reached the climax of becoming the fastest growing economy in the world.

On the 31st October, a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, on Patel’s 143th birth anniversary. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. The statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is now the tallest statue in the whole world, measuring 600 feet in height, or to be exact, 182 metres. It is plated with 1,850 tonnes of bronze and the core of the statue is made up of 210,000 cubic metres of cement concrete, held together by 18,500 tonnes of reinforced steel and 6,500 tonnes of structural steel. It is now, precisely speaking, 50 metres taller than China’s Spring Temple Buddha, which is now the second tallest statue in the world. Buddha, too, is considered an important figure in the Indian sub-continent, so it was not a matter of competition as such.

The credit for performing this marvellous engineering work goes to a firm originally founded by two Danish engineers, Henning Holck-Larsen and Søren Kristian Toubro. The engineering firm Larsen and Toubro is often referred to in India as L &T and today, it is among the five largest fabrication companies in the world. The Statue of Unity, built by L&T, is double the height of the Statue of Liberty in New York, and the project of constructing the Statue of Unity took a record short time of just 33 months.

The news of Sardar Patel’s statue has travelled far and wide, and one often meets the disparaging remark of how a poor country like India can afford to waste its tax-payers’ money on such a useless vanity project. When millions of farmers are poor and need water for agriculture in the adjacent area, and with other pressing social and economic problems, some say that the money spent could have been used for other useful projects. To them, it is an addition to the symbolic pride which has little relevance in India in the 21st century.

What the proponents of the above argument forget is that India, with its more than 560 small princely states, would have ended up in long wars of conflict, had it not been for the unifying work of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel during the struggle for achieving independence from the British rule. Finally, the world gets to know the enormous amount of work which was involved in creating one country, one constitution, which makes it feasible for a young aspiring boy from Kashmir today in 2018 to seek a job more than 2000 kilometres down south and live a satisfying life. This is only possible because Patel succeeded in uniting all these states under one central government.

At the moment, India has around 780 spoken and written languages, there are more than two dozen states with their own official languages, and according to a new census recently published, 52% of India’s urban youth are now bilingual and 18% speak three languages.
Linguistically speaking, India is one of the most tolerant countries in the world with many official languages, and today the young Indians, because of Sardar Vallabhbhai’s unifying project, are more multilingual than their elder generation.

The Indian youth, if any at all, really understand the value of unity, while the present barrage of opportunistic politicians keep raising issues of reservations, casteism, regionalism, secessionism, etc., to gain votes. If these divisive tactics are successful, they will have worse consequence than what Balkanization had in the former Yugoslavia, resulting in the death of more than 200,000 people and displacing even more. That region is still not politically stable, and political bickering and division is affecting the economy and social welfare in the entire region. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel succeeded in unifying a region with a much larger population than that of the Balkan region, comprising Bosnia-Herzgovina, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia.

Sadar Patal avoided the devastating consequences of wars that princely states would have fought forever, and by avoiding those wars, India today has reached the climax of becoming the fastest growing economy in the world. India needs more unity if it wants to be an economically successful society, which has to accommodate a population of one million new arrivals at the job market every single month.

With regards to the economic cost of building the tallest statue in the world, it is plausible that if Taj Mahal can get approximately 8 million tourists a year, then surely the tallest statue in the world can draw a few millions every year, adding revenue and much needed jobs in the state of Gujarat. Besides that, there will be jobs created because restaurants and hotels will be opened in the region, offering further employment opportunity for the young population of the Narmada valley tribal people, who were generous enough to accept the project.

Yes, the cost is a towering 420 million dollars, but it is definitely justifiable if the Statue of Unity becomes a touristic success, and let us be honest, the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel speaks more about the present India than Taj Mahal, which, in spite of its wonderful construction, does not have a narrative that unites India. In fact, it divides India as there are conflicting stories of exploitation of workers, and it speaks of a time when women had little say in the family, nor could they challenge a man’s desire to decide how many children they wanted to give birth to.

Sometimes by using diplomacy and at other times by threatening with military force, Sardar Patel succeeded in persuading kings and small princely states to accede to India and thereby create more opportunity for the youth and ensure peace as a precondition for creating the economic miracle that India is today.

India owes a lot to Sardar Patel and he truly was a much needed and much admired Indian iron man, without whom India would have been Balkanized today. Ironically speaking, the Western world needs a Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who can unite their societies, be it Great Britain or USA, the need for a politician who unifies is pressingly high.

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