31st October is observed as National Unity Day or Rashtriya Ekta Diwas to commemorate the birth anniversary and reflect on the contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
National Unity Day or Rashtriya Ekta Diwas 2023
- 31st October is observed as National Unity Day, also known as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
- This day was introduced by the Government of India in 2014 and serves as a reminder of the contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the political integration of post-independent India and in bolstering the unity and integrity of India.
- The Day reflects upon and appreciates the diverse aspects of Indian society, such as religions, languages, cultures, and traditions along with underscoring the importance of unity in diversity.
Early Life of Sardar Patel
- Patel was largely self-taught, became a lawyer, and was known for his precise legal skills. After losing his wife, he went to London in 1910 to study law.
- After returning to India, he settled in Ahmedabad and became a prominent criminal lawyer. In the initial years, he was indifferent to Indian politics. But, later, he started getting influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, and by 1917 he embraced Gandhi’s principle of Satyagraha (Non-violence).
- Patel played a key role in organizing mass campaigns against British policies and served as the municipal commissioner and president of Ahmedabad from 1917 to 1928.
Contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in India’s Freedom Struggle
Some of the major contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in India’s freedom struggle can be seen as follows:
Kheda Satyagraha, 1917
- As a prominent local leader in the Kheda district of Gujarat, the contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel lie in supporting and assisting Mahatma Gandhi in organising and leading the Satyagraha.
- He provided strong leadership and direction to the local community, encouraging them to join the protest against the British-imposed unjustified tax on land revenue.
- He organised meetings, rallies, and other forms of public engagement to build support for the protest.
- He engaged in talks with government officials to find a peaceful and just resolution to the farmers’ issues.
Non-Cooperation Movement, 1920-22
- The contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the Non-cooperation Movement was indeed significant and made a lasting impact on the independence struggle in Ahmedabad and Gujarat.
- He recruited approximately 300,000 members and raised 1.5 million rupees for the Non-cooperation Movement.
- He played a key role in promoting the boycott of British goods in the region. He also organised bonfires to burn British-made goods as a symbolic act of protest against British colonial rule.
- He advocated the use of Khadi as a symbol of economic and cultural self-sufficiency.
Bardoli Satyagraha, 1928
- The contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the Bardoli Satyagraha earned him the popular epithet ‘Sardar,’ which means ‘leader’ or ‘chief’.
- During the Bardoli Satyagraha, Sardar Patel stood in solidarity with the people of Bardoli who were suffering from the devastating effects of famine along with the burden of increased land taxes imposed by the British.
- The dual crisis of food scarcity and higher taxes had caused immense hardships to the local population.
- After discussions with the village representatives and gaining a thorough understanding of the issues faced by the people, Sardar Patel initiated the revolt.
- The central strategy of Bardoli Satyagraha was complete denial of tax payments to the British. This non-violent resistance was so impactful that it came to be marked as a significant episode in India’s struggle for independence.
Leadership in the Indian National Congress
- Sardar Patel was an active and influential member of the Indian National Congress (INC). He served in various leadership roles within the INC and participated in numerous freedom movement activities.
- The contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to the Indian National Congress INC was in the presidency of the 46th session (Karachi Session). It called upon to ratify the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. This session is known for passing a resolution of Fundamental Rights.
- In 1934, he assumed the role of the Chairman of the Central Parliamentary Board.
Civil Disobedience Movement 1930-34
- Sardar Patel actively took part in the Salt Satyagraha, a nonviolent protest against the British monopoly on salt production and distribution.
- Gandhi and Patel were arrested following the Dandi March and Sardar Patel was put on trial. During the course of the movement, Patel promoted boycotts of British goods, refusal to pay taxes, and nonviolent protests and strikes.
- He aligned himself with Gandhi in advocating for individual disobedience, and as a result, he was arrested and sentenced to prison for around 9 months.
Quit India Movement, 1942
- During the Quit India Movement of 1942, Sardar Patel played a significant role in organising protests and strikes against British rule.
- Sardar Patel delivered compelling and electrifying speeches throughout India, inspiring and mobilising people to join mass protests, engage in acts of civil disobedience, boycott tax payments, and stage civil service shutdowns.
- He implemented strategies to safeguard national leaders from arrest along with spearheading fundraising campaigns to support the movement.
Contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Unification of India
Contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel lie in the unification of India, in the years following its independence from British rule.
Here are some of his key contributions towards this direction:
Integration of Princely States: After India gained independence in 1947, there were more than 560 princely states that were not directly under British control. Sardar Patel was tasked with the enormous challenge of integrating these princely states into the newly formed Indian Union.
Through a combination of diplomacy, persuasion, and coercion he succeeded in bringing these states under the umbrella of the Indian government. This process ensured the territorial integrity and unity of India.
Administrative Reforms: Sardar Patel played a crucial role in creating a unified administrative structure for the newly independent India.
He was instrumental in creation of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), which became the backbone of India’s civil services. He, himself, called it the ‘steel frame’ of India.
Promotion of National Integration: He promoted the idea of India as a single nation, and emphasised that despite its diversity, the country must stand united.
Immense contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel fetched him the epithet of the “Iron Man of India”.
To recognise his roles towards national integration, a towering statue of Sardar Patel, known as the “Statue of Unity”, has been erected in Kevadia, Gujarat.
Other Contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
- Constitutional role: He headed various constitutional committees, such as Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Committee on Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas, Provincial Constitution Committee.
- Positions held: Sardar Vallabhai Patel was the first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India.
Honors and Accolades
- Iron Man of India: He has been awarded the title of the “Iron Man of India” for his unparalleled roles in ensuring unity and integrity of India.
- Bharat Ratna: In 1991, he was posthumously honoured with the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in the country.
- National Unity Day: In 2014, the Indian government inaugurated Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, or National Unity Day to commemorate Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary.
- The Statue of Unity: A statue of Sardar Patel was unveiled on October 31, 2018 in Kevadia, Gujarat on the occasion of his 143rd birth anniversary. This statue is known as the Statue of Unity and boasts of being the tallest statue in the world.
- Sardar Sarovar Dam: The Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat, built across the Narmada River, is named in his honour.
- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy: Located in Hyderabad, this prestigious institution for training police officers is named after Sardar Patel.
Contributions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel lent him such a legacy that is deeply ingrained in India’s history and continues to be celebrated through these commemorations and institutions that bear his name. His contributions to India’s independence, unification and nation-building have left an indelible mark on the country.