Iron Man of India’s freedom struggle, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, lent his steely strength to India’s consolidation after Independence, in full measure. A new nation was born. The challenge of protecting its unity was evident. With amazing skill, the Sardar accomplished the task, and became Architect of the Unified India. On 31st October, therefore, the nation celebrates his birth anniversary as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, rejoicing over his precious legacy.
Surpassing the celebrations in recent years, the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas this year is going to be a much bigger affair. The day will be marked by taking of pledges to uphold the nation’s unity, mass mobilization, paramilitary march past, Run for Unity, poster and quiz competitions and exhibitions to highlight the Sardar’s role at the critical juncture in India’s history.
There will be celebrations at the national level and across the country. Preparations are in full swing. The Union Home Minister, Mr Rajnath Singh, has written to Chief Ministers to make suitable arrangements for the celebrations. The occasion is really pious, as the nation not only has to mark its gratitude to a formidable personality of Indian freedom struggle, but at the same time educate and update the new generation about him.
The Sardar was a father figure, the father of India’s political integration. He oversaw the merger of several small States into the Indian Union. Several States under his guidance and forceful persuasion combined to form bigger entities, and then merged into the Indian Union. Regionalism gave way to nationalism, as he asked people to think big, and be strong. Every part of India celebrates today what the Sardar worked for during the early days after Independence.
In the national Capital, the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas will begin with floral tributes at the Sardar’s statue by the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, on Sardar Patel Chowk on Sansad Marg. The Prime Minister will then flag off a Run for Unity in the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, in which about 15,000 students, and people from all walks of life, ex-Servicemen, well-known athletes and NSS volunteers will participate. Sports personalities including Ms P V Sindhu (Badminton), Ms Mitali Raj (Cricket) and Sardar Singh (Hockey) will be present at the flag-off.
The Run for Unity will take place from National Stadium and pass through C-Hexagon, India Gate – Shah Jahan Road Radial – India Gate, and cover a distance of 1.5 km. Experienced Coaches from the Sports Authority of India will supervise the Run.
Railways, Culture, Tourism, Information and Broadcasting and Housing and Urban Affairs Ministries, along with several other Departments of the Central Government are associated with carrying out programmes to spread the message of unity. In the Central Park of Connaught Place in the Capital’s heart, and at Rose Garden on Shanti Path in Chanakyapuri, there will be exhibitions of the Sardar, who was known for his strength of determination. Shehnais will be played to give a festival colour at the celebrations.
All India Radio and Doordarshan will have special programmes to highlight the Day and a film “Sardar” will be screened on Doordarshan. New editions of six books on Sardar Patel will be released and they will be available as e-books.
The Government observes 31st October all over the country as a day of special occasion, to foster and reinforce the Government’s dedication to preserve and strengthen unity, integrity and security of the nation by celebrating it as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas (National Unity Day) to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, one of the founding fathers of the Republic of India, who held offices of the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India.
At the last year’s Run for Unity on 31st October, 2016, the Prime Minister had said “Today we are seeing the tricolour from Kashmir to Kanyakumari; from Attock to Cuttack; from the Himalayas to the ocean. We can see the tricolour across the length and breadth of the nation; and the credit goes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.” The same day, Mr Modi inaugurated a permanent digital museum based on Sardar Sahib’s life near Pragati Maidan. To instil the Sardar’s message of unity in every Indian, he launched ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’ initiative to build bonds between people of various States of India. The PM also released a stamp to commemorate the anniversary of Sardar Patel. Celebrating the Sardar’s extraordinary vision and strategic astuteness, a year earlier, the PM said at the 2015 Run for Unity, “After Chanakya, it was Sardar Patel who could stitch a united India.”
Born to a small land-owner of Karamsad village near Anand on 31st October, 1875, the Sardar was named Vallabhbhai Zaverbhai Patel. By his sheer hard work as a young pleader, he saved money to proceed to England for higher legal education. In due course, he grew up to be a fearless barrister known for his tough looks and ruthless pursuit of public causes.
Conducting the Bardoli farmers’ movement on revenue rates as its Supreme Commander in 1928, he asked the peasants to be prepared for long suffering. Finally, the Sardar’s leadership succeeded in forcing the Government to negotiate and withdraw the revision in the rates. At a village meeting, a peasant addressed him and said “You are our Sardar.” Bardoli had brought Vallabhbhai to the national scene.
As a fitting tribute to the builder of Indian unity, a 182 metres (597 feet) high Statue of Unity is under construction facing the Narmada Dam, 3.2 km away on the river island called Sadhu Bet near Vadodara in Gujarat. Designed by well-known sculptor Ram V. Sutar, the statue is planned to be spread over 20,000 square meters of project area and will be surrounded by an artificial lake spread across 12 km of area. The construction of the statue started on 31st October, 2014, after a formal launch of the project a year earlier. It would be the world’s tallest statue when completed.
About: Shri Deepak Razdan, is a senior journalist and at present Editorial Consultant, The Statesman, New Delhi.Views expressed in the article are author’s personal.