Sardar Patel: An Icon of Selfless Social Service
(Sardar Patel Anniversary: 31st October)
Known as the ‘Iron-man’ because of his strong determination and indomitable courage Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was from childhood itself humane. After coming in contact with Gandhiji, his heart became even more compassionate towards the distressed people.
The first task in social service he did was to abolish the system of agrestic serfdom or bonded labor in the state of Gujarat. Bonded laborers had to work the whole day without taking food and water for the landowning farmers who would send them back without giving wages. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel became eager to free the distressed class from the torturous system of bonded labor and with his political status as the Secretary of the Gujarat Sabha, he started stern proceedings against this system. Fearing his strong will power and efforts, British Raj declared ‘forced servitude of Indians to Europeans’ as unlawful in Gujarat.
During this period, Kheda, a town of Gujarat was hit by famine and the people were dying of starvation. On top of this, the British government was sternly demanding the Land revenues. Seeing this injustice, Sardar Patel’s heart was deeply hurt and he united the people of Kheda to launch an agitation against the Land Revenue. Under his able leadership, the peasants of Kheda became victorious and the forced Revenues were cancelled. To organize relief efforts, he travelled from village to village to make arrangement for the naked, hungry people to provide them with food, clothes and in process spent a considerable part of his wealth on the famine-struck people. During the period when Gandhi started the Non-cooperation movement and swadeshi movement, Sardar Patel left his thousands of rupees salaried job. In reality, only those persons become great, only those persons get long-lasting fame who raise above selfish motives and start the service of mankind beholding God in all.
Many students left schools and colleges inspired by the swadeshi movement, then for their education, Sardar Patel set up many national educational institutions including Gujarat Vidyapeeth.
When he was Mayor of Ahmedabad Municipality Gujarat was affected by
disastrous flood. Villages were swept away, many houses were ruined, and the people starved to death. Then Sardar Vallabhai Patel, with the help of 2000 volunteers rescued the stranded people and animals wading through waist-deep water carrying boxes and sacks on their heads. Seeing his devoted service, the British government (though he was against the government) gave him 15 million rupees to help the famine-affected people. With the help of this money, Sardar Patel made arrangement for the hungry and homeless to provide them with food, clothes, and homes.
Along with being a dedicated social servant Sardar Patel was also an honest and dutiful political leader. For serving the nation, many times he was sent to jail subjected to torture, and in spite of facing all difficulties, he remained as firm as a rock.
Pujya Bapuji says, “When a man having sincerity, confidence, and goodness moves ahead holding the flag of progress in his hand, then who would dare to come in his way? At your will mountains will crumble up.”