Nehru Death Anniversary
By Dhiraj Kumar
Dear Nehru ji,
I have never met you, have only seen you in photographs and videos, have only heard of you in legends and stories. You were long gone, in 1964, decades before I was born. Today on your death anniversary wanted to write to you to tell you of the India of today, India of 2021, the India you envisioned, the India whose strong foundations you laid down. Negative campaigns against you have not stopped even in the 21st century but laying a foundation of a building is easy in 1947 but setting the rock-solid bedrock of the country is extremely difficult. We are the proud citizens of a country to which you were the first Prime Minister. The institutions you created stand tall even after decades and here is a shortlist of their achievements.
IITs: You had established five globally recognized Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) by 1961, with the first IIT at Kharagpur. I am happy to inform to that today we have 23 IITs spanning from Kharagpur to Dharwad, churning out world-class students each year. You had the vision to set up an institute in India akin to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, which India could be proud of. At the first convocation at IIT Kharagpur, your prophetic words were: “Here in the place of that Hijli Detention Camp stands the fine monument of India, representing India’s urges, India’s future in the making. This picture seems to me symbolical of the changes that are coming to India”.
Indian Armed Forces: Nothing makes us prouder than the valor and bravery of the Indian Armed forces. You inherited a small force of the army during the partition and without the advanced resources of today, you fought wars with Pakistan and China with foot soldiers and limited airpower. Today the Indian Army proudly is the largest standing army in the world, with active and reserve troops, also involved in peacekeeping missions across the world. We have established decisive victories against our enemy countries with our army, navy, and air force, be it in the 1965 war, 1967 war, 1971 war, 1984 Siachen, and the 1999 Kargil war.
Kashmir: Though Kashmir is very controversial even today and successive governments have not been able to solve it, it is you who rushed the army and air force to Kashmir and cornered Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir to sign the Instrument of Accession papers to accede into India on 26th October 1947. Your leverage with Sheikh Abdullah tilted the local population to accept India over Pakistan. Without you perhaps there would not have been a Kashmir. Yes, we are still lingering with the Kashmir issue, but an India without its Kashmir cannot be imagined. Between you and Sardar Patel, both made a wonderful team to govern India, be it Kashmir or the accession of the princely states into India, you were a partnership to which one can only aspire in today’s times.
IIMs: The world-renowned Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are one of the figments of your imagination, the first IIM launched in Calcutta in collaboration with the MIT Sloan School of Management, United States, the Ford company, and Indian industry, and the second one in Ahmedabad, both in 1961. Today we have 20 IIMs spanning from Ahmedabad to Jammu. These institutes were established at a time when India was an engineering-obsessed nation with management students less in demand. Thankfully today thousands of MBAs pass out each year, reaching the corners of the world and establishing their presence on the global stage.
BARC: Established on 3rd January 1954, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) formerly known as Atomic Energy Establishment near Mumbai is India’s most premier nuclear research facility. You established BARC with the vision to explore nuclear science, chemical engineering, material sciences & metallurgy, electronic instrumentation, biology and medicines, supercomputing, high energy, and plasma physics for the Indian nuclear program and related areas. The original mandate given by you was for sustainable and peaceful applications of nuclear energy. You also launched Apsara which was India’s first nuclear reactor in 1956 and the Tarapur Atomic Power Station which started construction in 1961 under the aegis of the BARC which was commissioned in 1969. BARC was also pivotal in India’s nuclear program in 1974 in Pokhran I and in 1998 in Pokhran II and till today contributes to the nation’s needs.
ISRO: How does India thank you for your vision to put India at the forefront of space exploration. You established the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) in 1962 under the exceptional Vikram Sarabhai to formulate the Indian Space program. This great institution eventually became the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969. From the first rocket sent in 1964 to the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan missions, to sending satellites of other countries on our missions, ISRO has come a very long way since 1962. You made India one of the top five space exploring countries because technology, experience, and experiments cannot be gained in a few years, it needs decades of hit and trial, which we got due to an earn start in the 1960’s.
DRDO: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was started by you in 1958 with the sole aim of developing defense technologies covering various fields, like aeronautics, armaments, electronics, land combat engineering, life sciences, materials, missiles, naval systems and even building fighter jets for the armed forces. Over the decades, DRDO launched the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme powering the Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul, Nag, Brahmos, Nirbhay, Shaurya, and many more missiles to safeguard India. Today, over 52 laboratories, 5000 scientists, and 25000 support staff run this incredible organization that you began 63 years ago.
SAIL: Today the world’s 20th largest and India’s largest steel producer Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) had its origins from the Hindustan Steel Limited (HSL) which was set up on 19 January 1954. The first steel plant under HSL was the Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) that was launched in 1955 followed by the transformation of the village of Bhilai for the next steel plant. Today SAIL operates integrated steel plants in Bhilai, Rourkela, Durgapur, Bokaro, Burnpur, Salem, and Bhadravathi. With a whole list of awards and achievements, SAIL stands tall as a leading producer of steel in the world.
ONGC: In 1955, your government decided to develop the oil and natural gas resources in the various regions of the country as part of the Public Sector development and incorporated the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) on the eve of Indian independence on 14th August 1956. Today that company has become a “Maharatna” company and is ranked as the most profitable PSU under the Government of India. ONGC has discovered 7 out of the 8 producing Indian Basins, adding over 7.15 billion tonnes of In-place Oil & Gas volume of hydrocarbons in Indian basins.
LIC: You founded the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) which was established on September 1, 1956, when the Parliament passed the Life Insurance of India Act that nationalized the insurance industry in India. Your vision of the institutional framework of insurance made LIC the most trusted brand even today after 65 years of inception. As per Google, the Life Insurance Corporation of India had a total life fund of ₹28.3 trillion as of 2019. That is the trust of the people of India in the institution you created.
AIIMS: You may not be aware, but these are the horrible times of a virus called Covid-19, hospitals have become a lifeline for pandemic hit patients and you conceptualized the largest hospital in India- The All-India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in 1956. Under your guidance, health minister Amrit Kaur lead the foundation of a hospital that even today is the most trusted health service institution in India. Projected as of 2025, India will have a total of 22 AIIMS operating in various parts of the country helping millions of patients from rural and urban India alike.
Atomic Energy Commission: One of the earliest institutions that you formed was the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) which was set up on 10 August 1948 under the Department of Scientific Research with the first chairman in the incredible Homi Bhabha. The major objective was to organize research in atomic science in the country, train atomic scientists in the country, promote nuclear research in the commission’s laboratories in India, and undertake the prospect of atomic minerals in India and extract such minerals for use on an industrial scale. During the nuclear deal agreement with the United States under PM Manmohan Singh, AEC played a crucial role in getting nuclear sanctions lifted.
State Bank of India: The State Bank of India (SBI) is the banker to the Government of India and a financial behemoth that is the 43rd largest bank in the world. Your government took control of the erstwhile Imperial Bank of India in 1955, with the Reserve Bank of India taking a 60% stake, renaming it State Bank of India. Like the brand LIC, brand SBI is the most trusted banking choice for the people of India to open and transact their banking needs. With a revenue of US$ 54 billion, SBI stands as the tallest financial institution in India.
Bhakra Nangal Dam: Described as “New Temple of Resurgent India” by you in 1946 when you laid the foundation stone of the mighty Bhakra Nangal Dam in 1955 with a bucket of concrete into the dry riverbed of the Sutlej river. In 1963, you dedicated the largest dam of the time to the nation you said, “This dam has been built with the unrelenting toil of man for the benefit of mankind and therefore is worthy of worship. May you call it a Temple or a Gurdwara or a Mosque, it inspires our admiration and reverence”. Today this dam is the third largest reservoir in India.
Foreign policy: The most distinguished service that you personally carved was the foreign policy of India. As a learned and scholarly prime minister, you had the divine knowledge of foreign affairs and the situation of the world post the second world war. The Panchsheel principles conceptualized by you guide the foreign policy of namely Coexistence, respect for the territorial and integral sovereignty of others, nonaggression, non-interference with the internal affairs of others, recognition of the equality of others, even today.
You created many more institutions that have stood the test of time. Nehru ji, India’s tryst with destiny continues, the one you ignited on the midnight of 14th-15th August 1947.
(Dhiraj Kumar is an author and writer and he is writing his first book. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @authordhiraj.)