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Dharamvir Singh:  The architect of Doordarshan 

By Prabhat Kishore

Communication has always been of prime importance. With the advent of television in 1927, Indians also dreamed for this service and after independence  television service was started in Delhi as a part of All India Radio (AIR) in 1959. For its expansion across the country, its management was separated from AIR and independent new body named   “Doordarshan (DD)” was constituted. One of the architects of the ambitious Doordarshan service was – Shri Dharamvir Singh.

Dharamvir Singh was born on 10 June 1932 in Barh in Patna district. His native village is Simra  Bilgawan on the banks of Son river under Bhojpur district. His father Shri Devsharan Singh (Former Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council) was a renowned Congress leader and freedom fighter at the national level and was an  advocate  at Barh Sub-Divisional  Court. Dharamvir Singh graduated from Bihar National College, Patna under Patna University. He was a meritorious student from the very beginning and along with studies, he also had special interest in journalism,  sports and social works. He was selected by Sarat Chandra Bose as a member of the “International Brigade” to go for the independence of Indonesia  in 1947. He was a member of Bihar Lawn Tennis Council in 1952 and Secretary of Bihar Table Tennis Association from 1954-67. He was also associated with New Patna Club, Delhi Golf Club and Delhi Gymkhana for a long time.

In the company of his father, Dharamvir Singh inclined towards active politics. In 1967, he was elected for the first time from the 193-Bakhtiarpur Vidhan Sabha constituency in Patna district and became the secretary of the Congress Legislature Party. In the election held on 21 February 1967, Dharamvir Singh (20772 votes) contesting on Indian National Congress ticket defeated Independent Shri Ramlakhan Rai (18221 votes) and Shri R.S. Singh (15317 votes) of Jan Kranti Dal in a tough contest. Again in 1969, he was elected from the  193-Bakhtiarpur Assembly Constituency and became the Chief Whip of the Congress Legislature Party. In this election held on 9 February 1969, Indian National Congress candidate Dharamvir Singh (19578 votes) defeated Ram Lakhan Rai (17896 votes) of Samyukta Socialist Party and Ramchandra Singh Chouhan (15364 votes) independent. In 1970, he was inducted for the first time in the Bihar Cabinet as Minister of State for Labor, Information and Tourism.

On the special initiative of the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi, Dharamvir Singh contested for the Fifth Lok Sabha in 1971 on Indian National Congress (R) ticket  from the 34-Barh  Lok Sabha constituency. Outgoing MP and former Union Minister Smt. Tarkeshwari Sinha was contesting against him as an  Indian  National Congress (Organization) candidate. The Fire-brand stalwart Smt. Tarkeshwari Sinha had won four consecutive elections namely- the First Lok Sabha (3-Patna East constituency in 1951), the Second Lok Sabha (28-Barh constituency in 1957), the Third Lok Sabha (34-Barh  constituency in 1962)  and the fourth Lok Sabha (34-Barh constituency in 1967). Dharamvir Singh (184484 votes) created a new history in this area by securing 48.10 percent votes defeating an invincible MP like Smt. Sinha.

After being elected to the Lok Sabha, he resigned from the membership of the Bihar Legislative Assembly, on which the flamboyant socialist leader Bhola Prasad Singh was elected in the by-election. Mrs. Gandhi was highly impressed with Dharamvir Singh and he was inducted into the Union Cabinet in 1971 as Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting, in his first inning as a Member of Parliament, a position he held till 1977.

Several remarkable works have been performed in the Ministry during his tenure, the most notable event was the formation of “Doordarshan”. On 1 April 1976, television broadcasting was separated from the radio network and replaced by the name “Doordarshan”. In 1972, television service was started in the second city of the country, Mumbai. Prior to this, the service of television broadcasting was available only in the   national  capital Delhi. By the year 1975, television service had expanded to seven cities of Bharatvarsha. During his tenure, he made a lot of efforts to promote artistic films as well as commercial and devotional films like “Jai Santoshi  Maa”. All India Radio Annual Awards were started in 1974. He led  several Indian delegations abroad.

During the election of the Sixth Lok Sabha in 1977, there was a wave of Janata Party due to the student movement in the whole country. Bihar was the center of this movement. Congress could not get a single seat in Bihar due to the anger of the people stricken by the Emergency. On Indian National Congress ticket, Dharamvir Singh got only 101945 votes and lost to a newcomer Shyam  Sundar Gupta (372227 votes), the Mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation. In 1979, a separate political party named Congress (I) was formed by Smt. Indira Gandhi, but  Dharamvir Singh decided to remain in the original party.

Due to mutual tussle and personal arrogance, the Janata Party government could not survive for its full term. In the mid-term elections to the Seventh Lok Sabha in 1980, Dharamvir Singh contested  from the 18-Barh  Lok Sabha constituency as a candidate of the Indian National Congress (Urs) led by Shri Devraj  Urs, the then Chief Minister of Karnataka. He defeated Smt. Kamla Devi (160801 votes) of Janata Party and Ramraj Pd. Singh (102566 votes) of Indian National Congress (Indira) by securing 192407 votes on his own capacity. He held many important positions in the National and Parliamentary Party of the Congress. He later aligned himself with Sharad  Pawar-led Congress (S) and became the party’s national general secretary. After Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav left the party to join Congress (I), Dharamvir Babu  was also given the responsibility of the post of President of Bihar unit of Congress (S).

In 1984, for the Eighth Lok Sabha, Dharamvir Singh contested again from the 18-Barh  Lok Sabha constituency on  Indian National Congress (S) ticket. In the election, he got full support of socialists like Karpoori Thakur. But he again fell victim to the sympathy wave triggered by the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and lost the election to a controversial figure like Prakash Chandra alias Baby, son of Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav, who was contesting on Indian National Congress (Indira) ticket. Shri Prakash Chandra got 384719 votes out of total cast of 610745, while Shri Singh had to be satisfied with only 161983 votes. The people of the Barh area continued to repent of his defeat till the end. In 1986, at the National Convention of Congress (S) in Mumbai, Dharamvir Singh proposed the merger of Congress (S) with Congress (I) in his capacity as General Secretary, which was accepted unanimously.

The entire life of Dharamvir Singh was dedicated to the nation. He wanted to see India as a great nation. The only goal of his life was to make the country self-sufficient and prosperous and to bring harmony in the society. He was constantly striving to achieve his goal. He was an articulate and fighting man. He was a strong supporter of the politics of honesty and remained unmarried throughout his life for the fulfillment of this motto. He was a skilled politician and a strong orator. His charitable life inspired him to travel to European countries. Dharamvir Singh was no  match in the field of journalism. The editorials and articles written by him on various national as well as international burning issues in newspapers and magazines like Weekly Dinaman etc. had  fascinated the public. He was the flagbearer of the communication revolution in India.

On 5 April 1989, in the midst of the discussion on his election to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra, Dharamvir Singh went to Mumbai where he held detailed talks with the then Chief Minister Sharad  Pawar on various issues. But on 06 April 1989, he suddenly passed away in a suspicious condition in Mumbai. A wave of mourning ran across Bihar and this shining star of Indian politics disappeared from the national horizon forever.

(The author is a technocrat & academician)

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