The president of India is the executive head of State and First Citizen of India. The executive powers vested in the President are to be exercised on the advice of the council of Ministers responsible to the parliament. The 42nd amendment to the Constitution has made it obligatory on the part of the President to accept the advice of the Council of Ministers.
The president of India indirectly elected through "Electoral College" consisting of Elected members of both the Houses of Parliament & elected members of the Legisletive Assemblies of the states. According to the 70th Amendment Act, 1992, the expression "States" inckudes the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The total voting strength of the parliament is equal to the total voting strength of all state asemblies together. The Supreme Court of India inquires all disputes regarding President's election. After electing the president takes OATH in presence of Chief Justice of India, or in absence of Chief Justice, senior most judge of SC.
In case the office falls vacant due to the death, resignation
or removal, the Vice-President acts as President. If he is not available then Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court, if not then senior most judge of the Supreme Court
shall act as the Persident of India. The election is to be held within 6 month of
In Presidential elections history V. V. Giri is the only person who won the election as an independent candidate in 1969. And Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy was elected unopposed as no one else filed nomination for the post of the President in 1977.
Elegibility to Contest Election for the President
- He/She must be a citizen of India.
- Completed 35 yrs of age
- Eligible to be a member of Lok Sabha
- Must not hold any Govt. Post. except (President, Vice-President, Govornor of any State, Minister of Union or State)
An elected president is elegible to hold his/her office for the 5yrs term. And as per the Article 57 there is no upper limit on the no. of times a person can become President. He/She can give resigation to Vice President before his/her full term.
Impeachment (Article 61)
The President can be impeached only on the ground of violation of Constitution (This impeachment procedure called Quasi-judicial procedure). The impeachment procedure can be initiated in either House of the Parliament. The charge must come in the form of a proposal which must be signed at least one-fourth of the total membership of that house. Before the resolution could be passed, a fourteen days notice must be given to the President. If after the notice, the House passes the resolution by a majority of not less than two-third
membership of that House, the matter will be referred to the other House. After the charges are framed by one house, the other House investigates them. At this time President has the right to defend himself either in person or through his lawyer. If after the investigation, the other house passes the resolution by not less than two-third majority of that House, the President stands impeached from his office from the date on which the motion is so passed.
Powers of President
- Appoints PM, ministers, Chief Justice and judges of Supreme Court and High Courts, chairman and members of UPSC, Comptroller and Auditor General, Attorney General, Chief Election Comissioner and other members of Election Commission, Governors, Members of Finance Commission, Ambassadors etc.
- He/ She directly administers the Union Territories through the Lt. Governor, Commissioner or Administrator.
- The President's pardoninf power comprises a group of analogous powers like pardon, reprieve, remission, respite and communication.
- Appoint the Chief Justice and judges of Supreme Court and High Court
- Represents country in international forums.
- Sends ambassadors and receives diplomats.
- International treaties and agreements are concluded on his behalf.
- All money bills can originate in Parliament only on recommendadation of President.
- No demand for a grant can be made except on his recommendation.
- He/She can make advances out of the Contingency Fund of India to meet any unforseen expenditure.
- Appoints Finance Commission (after every 5yrs) that recommends distribution of taxes between Union and State Govts.
- He is the Supreme Commander of the Defense Forces in India.
- Appoints Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force.
- Declares wars and concludes peace subject to the approval of the Parliament.
- The President can promulgate 3 types of Emergencies: (i)National Emergency (Article 352), (ii)State Emergency (President Rule Article 356), (iii)Financial Emergency
- Addresses the first session after general elections and at the commencement of the first session of each year.
- Can send messages to both the Houses, whether with respect to a Bill pending in the Parliament or otherwise.
- Can summon and prorogue the sessions of the 2 houses & can dissolve Lok Sabha..
- Can address both the houses jointly or separately.
- He/She can appoint any member of the Lok Sabha to preside over its procedings when both the offices of Speaker and the Deputy Speaker fall vacant simultaneously.
- Nominate 12 members of Rajya Sabha.
- Nominates 2 members of Anglo-Indian community in Lok Sabha if they haven't recieved adequate representation.
- Can enact laws through ordinance when the parliament is in recess (Article 123). These ordinances must be passed by parliament within 6 weeks of reassembly.
- His/Her prior recommendation or permission is needed to introduce certain types of Bills boundaries of a State, a Money Bill etc.
Shri Pranab Mukherjee (25 July 2012 - till date)
Father's Name: Late Shri Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee
Mother's Name: Late Smt. Rajlakshmi Mukherjee
Date of Birth: December 11, 1935
Place of Birth: Mirati, Kirnahar, District:
Father's Name: Late Shri Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee
Mother's Name: Late Smt. Rajlakshmi Mukherjee
Date of Birth: December 11, 1935
Place of Birth: Mirati, Kirnahar, District: Birbhum, West Bengal
Marital Status: Married
Spouse's Name: Smt. Suvra Mukherjee
Children: Two sons and one daughter
Educational Qualifications: M.A. (History), M.A. (Political Science), LL.B., D. Litt. (Honoris Causa), Educated at Vidyasagar College
Family Background: Father was a freedom fighter, was imprisoned for more than 10 years, participated in all Congress movements from 1920, was a member of AICC, and West Bengal Legislative Council (1952-64), President, District Congress Committee, Birbhum (WB).
- Elected to Rajya Sabha (July 1969)
- Union Deputy Minister, Industrial Development (Jan 1973-Jan 1974)
- Union Deputy Minister, Shipping and Transport (Jan 1974-Oct 1974)
- Union Minister of State, Finance (Oct 1974-Dec 1975)
- Re-elected to Rajya Sabha (2nd term) (July 1975)
- Union Minister, Revenue and Banking (Independent Charge) (Dec 1975-Mar 1977)
- Deputy Leader, Congress Party, Rajya Sabha (1978 -1980)
- Member, Congress Working Committee (INC) (27 Jan 1978-18 Jan 1986)
- Treasurer, All India Congress Committee; Treasurer, Congress (I) Party in Parliament (1978-1979)
- Member, Central Parliamentary Board, AICC (1978-1986)
- Union Minister, Commerce and Steel and Mines (Jan 1980-Jan 1982)
- Leader of the House, Rajya Sabha (1980-1985)
- Re-elected to Rajya Sabha (3rd term) (Aug 1981)
- Union Cabinet Minister, Finance with additional charge of Ministry of Commerce and Supply (Jan 1982-Dec 1984 and Sept-Dec 1984)
- Chairman, Campaign Committee of AICC for Conducting National Election to Parliament (1984-1991), (1996) and (1998)
- Chairman, Economic Advisory Cell, AICC (1987-1989)
- Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission (June 1991-May 1996)
- Union Cabinet Minister, Commerce (Jan 1993-Feb 1995)
- Re-elected to Rajya Sabha (4th term) (1993)
- Union Cabinet Minister, External Affairs (Feb 1995-May 1996)
- Member, Business Advisory Committee, Rajya Sabha (1996-2003)
- Member, Committee on Privileges, Rajya Sabha; Member, Committee on Rules, Rajya Sabha (1996 -2004)
- Member, Consultative Committee for External Affairs (1996 -1999)
- Chairman, Departmentally related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forest (1997)
- Re-elected to Rajya Sabha (5th term); Former Chairman, Central Election Coordination Committee, AICC (1999)
- General Secretary, AICC; Former Member, Congress Working Committee (INC) (1998-1999)
- Chairman, Departmentally related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs; Former President, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee; Former Member, Central Election Committee, AICC (June 1998-May 2004)
- Elected to 14th Lok Sabha (13 May 2004)
- Union Cabinet Minister, Defence (23 May 2004-24 Oct. 2006)
- Leader of the House, Lok Sabha (25 May 2004)
- Union Cabinet Minister, External Affairs (25 Oct 2006-23 May 2009)
- Ministry of Finance (additional charge) (24 Jan 2009-23 May 2009)
- Re-elected to 15th Lok Sabha (2nd term); Former Leader of the House, Lok Sabha (20 May 2009)
- Former Union Cabinet Minister, Finance (23 May 2009-26 Jun. 2012)
- Mid-term Poll, 1969;
- Beyond Survival: Emerging Dimensions of Indian Economy, 1984;
- Off the Track, 1987;
- Saga of Struggle and Sacrifice, 1992; and
- Challenges Before the Nation (On Indian National Congress), 1992.
Awards: Padma Vibhushan, 2007.
Countries Visited: Widely travelled
Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil (25 July 2007 - 24th July 2012)
Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil was born on December 19, 1934 in Nadgaon village of Jalgaon District, Maharashtra.
Smt. Patil assumed office as the 12th President of India on July 25, 2007. She is the first woman to have been elected to this august office.
Immediately prior to election as the President of India, Smt. Patil was the Governor of Rajasthan from November 8, 2004 till June 21, 2007.
Education: Smt. Patil received her early education from RR Vidyalaya, Jalgaon and later obtained her Master’s degree in Political Science and Economics from the Mooljee Jetha College, Jalgaon. Later, she obtained the degree of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) from Government Law College, Bombay (Mumbai). While in college, she took active part in sports, excelled in table tennis and won several shields at various Inter-collegiate tournaments. Even as an MLA, she pursued her studies as a law student.
Smt. Patil started her professional career as a practicing lawyer at the Jalgaon District Court and simultaneously devoted herself to various social activities, especially, for the upliftment of poor women.
At the young age of 27 years, she successfully contested her first election to the Maharashtra State Legislature from the Jalgaon Assembly constituency. Subsequently she was continuously elected four times as MLA from the Edlabad (Muktai Nagar) constituency till 1985. Thereafter, she served as a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha from 1985 to 1990 and later elected as a Member of Parliament to the 10th Lok Sabha in the 1991 General Elections from the Amravati constituency. She enjoys the unique distinction of not having lost a single election that she contested till date.
Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil in her long stint in Maharashtra has held various positions both in the Government and the Legislative Assembly of Maharashtra. She was :
Deputy Minister, Public Health, Prohibition, Tourism, Housing and Parliamentary Affairs, Government of Maharashtra from 1967 to 1972
- Cabinet Minister, Social Welfare, Government of Maharashtra from 1972 to 1974
- Cabinet Minister, Public Health and Social Welfare, Government of Maharashtra from
1974 to 1975
Cabinet Minister, Prohibition, Rehabilitation and Cultural Affairs, Government of Maharashtra from 1975 to 1976
- Cabinet Minister, Education, Government of Maharashtra from 1977 to 1978
Cabinet Minister, Urban Development and Housing, Government of Maharashtra from 1982 to 1983
Cabinet Minister, Civil Supplies and Social Welfare, Government of Maharashtra from 1983 to 1985.
- While in the Opposition, she also served as the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative
Assembly of Maharashtra from July 1979 to February 1980.
While in the Rajya Sabha, Smt. Patil was the Deputy Chairperson, Rajya Sabha from 1986 to 1988 and also served as the Chairperson, Rajya Sabha from 25.7.1987 to 2.9.1987 when Dr. R. Venkataraman got elected as President of India. She was also the Chairperson, Committee of Privileges, Rajya Sabha and Member, Business Advisory Committee, Rajya Sabha from 1986 to 1988. While in the Lok Sabha, Smt. Patil was the Chairperson, House Committee.
In her long public life, she has been associated with several institutions in wide ranging capacities. She served as Chairperson, Maharashtra State Water Pollution Control Board from 1982 to 1985. She was also the President, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) from 1988 to 1990. Besides holding the position of Director and Vice-Chairperson, National Federation of Urban Cooperative Banks and Credit Societies, she also served as Member, Governing Council, National Cooperative Union of India and Chairperson, 20-Point Programme Implementation Committee, Government of Maharashtra.
Smt. Patil has represented India in various international fora. She attended the International Council on Social Welfare conferences at Nairobi and at Puerto Rico. She was a Member of the AICC(I) delegation to Bulgaria in 1985 and represented as Member, Commonwealth Presiding Officers Conference in London in 1988. She led the Indian delegation to the Conference on the ‘Status of Women’ in Austria and was a delegate at the World Women’s Conference, Beijing, China in September 1995.
Social and Cultural Activities:
Throughout her public life, Smt. Patil has worked actively for the welfare of women and children and the underprivileged sections of society. For their benefit, she established several institutions for them. To name a few, she had set up (i) hostels for working women in Mumbai and Delhi, (ii) an Engineering College at Jalgaon for rural youth, (iii) the Shram Sadhana Trust which takes part in multifarious welfare activities for development of women, (iv)an Industrial Training School for the visually handicapped in Jalgaon, (v) schools for poor children of Vimukta Jatis (Nomadic Tribes) and for children of Backward Classes in Amravati District and (vi) a Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Farmers’ Training Centre) at Amravati, Maharashtra. She played a pioneering role in setting up the Mahila Vikas Mahamandal, a Maharashtra State Government undertaking for the development of women.
She was instrumental in organizing music, computer and sewing classes for the poor and needy women at Amravati, Maharashtra. Smt. Patil also organized the Women’s Home Guard in Jalgaon District and was their Commandant in 1962.
DR. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (25 July 2002 TO 25 July 2007)
Born on 15th October 1931 at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, specialized in Aeronautical Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology. Dr. Kalam made significant contribution as Project Director to develop India's first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III) which successfully injected the Rohini satellite in the near earth orbit in July 1980 and made India an exclusive member of Space Club. He was responsible for the evolution of ISRO's launch vehicle programme, particularly the PSLV configuration. After working for two decades in ISRO and mastering launch vehicle technologies, Dr. Kalam took up the responsibility of developing Indigenous Guided Missiles at Defence Research and Development Organisation as the Chief Executive of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). He was responsible for the development and operationalisation of AGNI and PRITHVI Missiles and for building indigenous capability in critical technologies through networking of multiple institutions. He was the Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and Secretary, Department of Defence Research & Development from July 1992 to December 1999. During this period he led to the weaponisation of strategic missile systems and the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in collaboration with Department of Atomic Energy, which made India a nuclear weapon State. He also gave thrust to self-reliance in defence systems by progressing multiple development tasks and mission projects such as Light Combat Aircraft.
As Chairman of Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) and as an eminent scientist, he led the country with the help of 500 experts to arrive at Technology Vision 2020 giving a road map for transforming India from the present developing status to a developed nation. Dr. Kalam has served as the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, in the rank of Cabinet Minister, from November 1999 to November 2001 and was responsible for evolving policies, strategies and missions for many development applications. Dr. Kalam was also the Chairman, Ex-officio, of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet (SAC-C) and piloted India Millennium Mission 2020.
Dr. Kalam took up academic pursuit as Professor, Technology & Societal Transformation at Anna University, Chennai from November 2001 and was involved in teaching and research tasks. Above all he took up a mission to ignite the young minds for national development by meeting high school students across the country.
In his literary pursuit four of Dr. Kalam's books - "Wings of Fire", "India 2020 - A Vision for the New Millennium", "My Journey" and "Ignited Minds - Unleashing the power within India" have become household names in India and among the Indian nationals abroad. These books have been translated in many Indian languages.
Dr. Kalam is one of the most distinguished scientists of India with the unique honour of receiving honorary doctorates from 30 universities and institutions. He has been awarded the coveted civilian awards - Padma Bhushan (1981) and Padma Vibhushan (1990) and the highest civilian award Bharat Ratna (1997). He is a recipient of several other awards and Fellow of many professional institutions.
Dr. Kalam became the 11th President of India on 25th July 2002. His focus is on transforming India into a developed nation by 2020.
Shri K. R. Narayanan (25 July 1997 TO 25 July 2002)
Shri Kocheril Raman Narayanan assumed office as President of India on July 25, 1997. Shri Narayanan was born on October 27, 1920 in the village of Uzhavoor in Kottayam district, Kerala.
Education: Shri Narayanan received his education from the University of Travancore where he obtained an M.A. degree in English Literature standing first in the University. Later, he obtained B.Sc. (Econ.) degree from the London School of Economics with First Class Honours specialising in Political Science.
Professional Career: Shri Narayanan started his career as a Lecturer in the University of Travancore (1943). Later he took to journalism and worked with The Hindu, Madras (now Chennai) and Times of India, Bombay (now Mumbai - 1944-45). While a student in London, he served as the London Correspondent of "Social Welfare", a weekly from Bombay edited by Shri K.M. Munshi (1945-48).
Shri Narayanan joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1949 and served in Indian Embassies in Rangoon, Tokyo, London, Canberra and Hanoi and held different positions in the Ministry of External Affairs.
In between he taught Economic Administration at Delhi School of Economics from 1954-55 and was also the Joint Director of the Orientation Centre for Foreign Technicians.
Shri Narayanan also served as India's Ambassador to Thailand (1967-69), Turkey (1973-75), the People's Republic of China (1976-78) and Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs (1976).
Public Life: After retirement from the Foreign Service in 1978, Shri Narayanan was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in January 1979 and held the post till October 1980.
Shri Narayanan was sent as a political appointee to be India's Ambassador to the United States of America from 1980-84.
After completing his term as Indian Ambassador to USA, Shri Narayanan entered politics and won three successive General Elections in 1984,1989 and 1991 from his Parliament Constituency of Ottapalam in Kerala. He was Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) from 1985 to 1992.
During this period he was Union Minister of State for Planning (1985), External Affairs (1985-86) and Science and Technology, Atomic Energy, Space, Electronics and Ocean Development and Vice-President, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (1986-89).
Shri Narayanan was elected Vice-President of India and served in this position from 21st August, 1992 till he assumed the office of the President of India in July 1997. He was ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) during this period.
Shri Narayanan has been a Member of various Indian delegations to :
- United Nations General Assembly (1979)
- The UN Security Council in November 1985 on Namibian Independence
- Conference of Non-aligned Nations at Harare (1986) and
- The Special Session of the UN General Assembly in May 1986 on the critical situation in Africa
Shri Narayanan has been associated with several institutions in diverse capacities.
He was President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations; President, Indian Institute of Public Administration; President, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Cultures, Calcutta; Patron of the International Award for Young People - India.
Shri Narayanan has also served as Chairman of
(i) The Jury of the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding; (ii) The International Jury for the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development; (iii) The Advisory Committee for the Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Award; (iv) The Jury for International Gandhi Award for Leprosy; (v) The Jury for Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar; (vi) The Jury for Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Award for Social Understanding and Upliftment of Weaker Sections; (vii) The Jury for Dr. B.R. Ambedkar International Award for Social Change; (viii) The Jury for G.D. Birla Awards for Humanism, India's Heritage and Culture and Rural Upliftment; and (ix) The Jury for Communal Harmony Awards.
ACADEMIC DISTINCTIONS AND PURSUITS:
A scholar and writer, Shri Narayanan has authored four books viz.,
(i) "India and America : Essays in Understanding" of which a new edition was reissued in 1998; (ii) "Images and Insights"; (iii) "Non-alignment in Contemporary International Relations" (Joint Authorship); and (iv) "Nehru and His Vision".
He has also contributed a number of articles on social, political, international and literary matters in various magazines and periodicals.
Shri Narayanan is a Member of the Universal Academy of Cultures, Paris; Honorary Fellow of London School of Economics; Honorary Fellow, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore; Honorary Fellow of Centre for Development Studies, Kerala. He was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship in 1970-72 for study of Pandit Nehru's Non-alignment.
The President received the World Statesman Award of The Appeal of Conscience Foundation, New York in 1998.
Shri Narayanan has received several degrees and honours. These are : Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), University of Toledo, USA; Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa), Australian National University; Australian National University has instituted an annual "K.R. Narayanan Oration"; Honorary Professor of Bishkek Humanities University (Kyrghyz Republic); Vachaspati (D. Litt) (Honoris Causa), Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi; Doctorate (Honoris Causa), University of San Marcos, Peru; Doctorate of Letters (Honoris Causa), Tribhuvan University, Nepal; Doctorate of Political Science (Honoris Causa), Bilkent University, Turkey.
Shri Narayanan is the Visitor of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and several other Central Universities. He has also been the Chancellor of Delhi University, Punjab University, Pondicherry University, Assam University, North Eastern Hill University and Gandhigram Rural Institute (Deemed University); Visitor of Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University Institute of Journalism, Bhopal; Visitor of Madras School of Economics. He is also visitor of Viswa Bharati University, established by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.
Shri Narayanan has delivered Convocation Addresses at several Universities in India and abroad.
The President has gone on State Visits to Peru, Brazil, Nepal, Germany, Portugal, Luxembourg and Turkey, Austria, France, China, Singapore and Mauritius.
SPECIAL AREAS OF INTEREST/HOBBIES:
Political thought and international affairs, education; philosophy of science and social applications of science and technology; Poetry, Literature and the fine arts; Folk and Classical Music; Walking. Shri Narayanan is Patron of various social, cultural and sports organisations.
Shri Narayanan is married to Smt. Usha Narayanan. Smt. Narayanan has a Masters Degree from the Delhi School of Social Work, Delhi University and her field of specialization is 'Juvenile Delinquency'. Smt. Narayanan is closely involved in social welfare activities for women and children. As National President of KARUNA, an all-India organization for the welfare of women and children from 1985 to 1992, she was responsible for building Working Girls' Hostels and Day Care Centres, Potters' Cooperatives and Sericulture projects in Kerala. She is actively associated with women's organisations in India.
In addition to interest in landscaping, gardening, orchid cultivation, Ikebana and Bonsai, Smt. Narayanan has also translated Burmese short stories into English. Most of them have been published in the national fortnightly journal "Frontline". A collection of her translations of Thein Pe Myint's Burmese Short Stories was published as a book entitled "Sweet and Sour" in December, 1998. Smt. Narayanan has also worked with All India Radio for many years, translating and broadcasting news and talks for the External Services of A.I.R.
Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma (25 July 1992 TO 25 July 1997)
EDUCATION AND ACADEMIC DISTINCTIONS:
Dr. Sharma received his education at St. John's College, Agra, Allahabad University, Lucknow University, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, Lincoln's Inn and Harvard Law School. He took his M.A. Degrees in English Literature, Hindi and Sanskrit standing first in the University. He obtained his LL.M. from Lucknow University once again standing first in the University. He obtained his Ph.D. in Law at Cambridge. Dr. Sharma was awarded the Chakravarti Gold Medal for Social Service by Lucknow University.
Dr. Sharma taught Law at Lucknow University and at Cambridge University. While at Cambridge, Dr. Sharma was Treasurer of the Tagore Society and the Cambridge Majlis. Called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn, he was later a Fellow at Harvard Law School. He has been elected Honorary Bencher and Master of Lincoln's Inn and Honorary Fellow, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. The University of Cambridge has honoured him with degree of Doctor of Law (Honoris Causa).
Dr. Sharma was Pro-Chancellor, Sagar University (1956-1959). During his tenure as Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra, he was Chancellor of 22 Universities in those States and also Rector of the University of Hyderabad.
During his tenure as Vice-President of India he was Chancellor of Delhi University, Punjab University, Pondicherry University, Gandhigram Rural Institute (Deemed University), and Visitor of Makhanlal Chaturvedi Rashtriya Patrakarita Vishwavidyalaya Sansthan, Bhopal. He was also Chairman of the Central Sanskrit Board.
Dr. Sharma has delivered Convocation Addresses at (1) Madras University, (2) Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Puttaparthy (Deemed University) (in 1987 and in 1992), (3) Agra University, (4) Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Tirupati, (5) Bombay University, (6) Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay (Deemed University), (7) Gandhigram Rural Institute (Deemed University), (8) Sardar Patel University, (9) Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, (10) Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi, (11) Telugu University, Hyderabad, (12) Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya, Indore, (13) Goa University, Panjim, (14) University of Roorkee, (15) Indira Gandhi National Open University, (16) All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, (17) Dibrugarh University, (18) Meerut University, (19) Himachal Pradesh University, (20) Hyderabad University, (21) Gujarat Vidyapeeth, (22) National Law School of India University, Bangalore, (23) Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth and (24) Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.
Dr. Sharma was accorded the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) from (1) Vikram University; (2) Bhopal University; (3) Agra University; (4) Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati; (5) Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya, Indore and University of Sofia, Bulgaria. He was also accorded the degree of Doctor of Social Sciences (Honoris Causa) from the University of roorkee, the degree of Doctor of Civil Law (Honoris Causa) from the University of Mauritius (Port Louis), the degree of Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) from Meerut University, the degree of Doctorate (Honoris Causa) from Kiev State University, Ukraine, the degree of 'Vachaspati' from the Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth (Deemed University), New Delhi, the degree of Doctorate (Honoris Causa) from Bucharest University, Romania, the degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) from Agra University and the degree of 'Mahamahopadhyaya' (Honoris Causa) from the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati.
Dr. Sharma was President of: (i) Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi; and (ii) Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, and Chairman of: (i) the Jury for the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, and (ii) the International Jury for the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development.
Dr. Sharma started his legal practice in 1940 in Lucknow.
Dr. Sharma participated in the historic Quit India Movement during the national struggle for freedom, and in the merger Movement in Bhopal, and underwent imprisonments.
Dr. Sharma was Chief Minister of the erstwhile Bhopal State (1952-1956), Cabinet Minister, Government of Madhya Pradesh, holding the portfolios of Education, Law, Public Works, Industry and Commerce, National Resources and Separate Revenue (1956-1967) and was thereafter Union Minister for Communications (1974-1977).
Dr. Sharma was Vice-President of India and Chairman of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) from September 3, 1987 till he assumed office of the President of India in 1992. Earlier he has been the Governor of three States: Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra.
Dr. Sharma was President of the (i) Bhopal Congress Committee (1950-52) and (ii) Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (1967-68): General Secretary, Indian National Congress (1968-72); Member, (i) All India Congress Committee for more than 32 years (1952-84) and (ii) Congress Working Committee for about 20 years.
Dr. Sharma was the President of the Indian National Congress in 1972-1974.
Dr. Sharma was Member, Bhopal Legislative Assembly (1952-1956); Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly (1956-1971); Fifth Lok Sabha (1971-1977) and Seventh Lok Sabha (1980-1984). His participation in matters concerning Parliament was resumed when he assumed office as Vice-President of India and ex-officio Chairman of the Council of State (Rajya Sabha), and continues in his office as President of India.
Dr. Sharma led several official delegations to International Conferences including a Parliamentary Delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference at Oslo in 1980; a Special Delegation of veteran freedom fighters to Moscow in August, 1987 for the celebrations of the 40th Anniversary of India's Independence during the Festival of India in USSR, also led a Special Delegation of veteran freedom fighters to Jalalabad (Afghanistan) to pay homage to Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1988.
The title of 'Rashtra Ratnam' (Jewel of the Nation) has been conferred upon Dr. Sharma by His Holiness the Shankaracharya of Sringeri. The title of "Dharmaratnakara' has been conferred on him by the Pontiff of Shravanbelagola.
The International Bar Association has presented to Dr. Sharma the Living Legends of Law Award of Recognition for his outstanding contribution to the legal profession internationally and for commitment to the Rule of Law.
Shri R Venkataraman (25 July 1987 TO 25 July 1992)
Born on December 4, 1910 in the village of Rajamadam, Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu, Shri Venkataraman married Smt Janaki Venkataraman in the year 1938. They have three daughters. Educated locally and in the city of Madras, Shri Venkataraman obtained his Master Degree in Economics from Madras University. He later qualified in Law from the Law College, Madras.
Shri Venkataraman was enrolled in the High Court, Madras in 1935 and in the Supreme Court in 1951.
While practicing Law, Shri Venkataraman was drawn into the movement for India's freedom from Britain's colonial subjugation. His active participation in the Indian National Congress's celebrated resistance to the British Government, the 'Quit India Movement of 1942', resulted in his detention for two years under the British Government's Defence of India Rules.
Shri Venkataraman's interest in the Law continued during this period. In 1946, when the Transfer of Power from British to Indian hands was imminent, the Government of India included him in the panel of lawyers sent to Malaya and Singapore to defend Indian nationals charged with offences of collaboration during the Japanese occupation of those two places.
In the years 1947 to 1950, Shri Venkataraman served as Secretary of the Madras Provincial Bar Federation.
Shri Venkataraman acquired, early in his legal career, an abiding interest in the law pertaining to labour. On his release from prison in 1944, Shri Venkataraman took up the Organisation of the Labour Section of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee. He founded, in 1949, the Labour Law Journal which publishes important decisions pertaining to labour and is an acknowledged specialist publication. Shri Venkataraman came to be intimately associated with trade union activity, founding or leading several unions, including those for plantation workers, estate staff, dock-workers, railway workers and working journalists. Shri Venkataraman also took a direct and keen interest in the conditions of agricultural workers in his home district of Thanjavur.
Law and trade union activity led to Shri Venkataraman's increasing association with politics. He was elected in 1950, to free India's Provisional Parliament (1950-1952) and to the First Parliament (1952-1957). During his term of legislative activity, Shri Venkataraman attended the 1952 Session of the Metal Trades Committee of International Labour Organisation as a workers' delegate. He was a member of the Indian Parliamentary Delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in New Zealand.
Shri Venkataraman was also Secretary to the Congress Parliamentary Party in 1953-1954.
MINISTERIAL AND OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES:
Although re-elected to Parliament in 1957, Shri Venkataraman resigned his seat in the Lok Sabha to join the State Government of Madras as a Minister. There Shri Venkataraman held the portfolios of Industries, Labour, Cooperation, Power, Transport and Commercial Taxes from 1957 to 1967.
During this time, he was also Leader of the Upper House, namely, the Madras Legislative Council.
Shri Venkataraman was appointed a Member of the Union Planning Commission in 1967 and was entrusted the subjects of Industry, Labour, power, Transport, Communications, Railways. He held that office until 1971.
In 1977, Shri Venkataraman was elected to the Lok Sabha from Madras (South) Constituency and served as an Opposition Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
In 1980, Shri Venkataraman was re-elected to the Lok Sabha and was appointed Union Minister of Finance in the Government headed by Smt Indira Gandhi. He was later appointed Union Minister of Defence.
Shri Venkataraman was also, variously, member of the Political Affairs Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee of the Union Cabinet; Governor, International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Asian Development Bank.
U.N. COMMITTEES AND CONFERENCES:
Shri Venkataraman was a Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in 1953, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961. He was Leader of the Indian Delegation to the 42nd Session of the International Labour Conference at Geneva (1958) and represented India in the Inter Parliamentary Conference in Vienna (1978). He was a Member, United Nations Administrative Tribunal from 1955 to 1979 and was its President from 1968 to 1979.
ACADEMIC HONOURS AND AWARDS:
Shri Venkataraman has received the Doctorate of Law (Honoris Causa) from University of Madras, the Doctorate of Law (Honoris Causa) from Nagarjuna University. He is Honorary Fellow, Madras Medical College; Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Roorkee; Doctor of Law (Honoris Causa) from University of Burdwan. He has been awarded The Tamra Patra for participation in the freedom struggle, the Soviet Land Prize for his travelogue on Shri Kamraj's visit to the Socialist countries. He is the recipient of a Souvenir from the Secretary-General of the United Nations for distinguished service as President of the U.N. Administrative Tribunal.
The title of "Sat Seva Ratna" has been conferred on him by His Holiness the Sankaracharya of Kancheepuram.
Shri Venkataraman was elected Vice-President of India in August, 1984.
He was, simultaneously, Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), the Second Chamber of the Indian Parliament. As Vice-President of India, he was Chairman of the Jury for the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding and of the International Jury for the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development. He was Vice-Chairman of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund; Trustee, Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust; President, Indian Institute of Public Administration; Chancellor, Gandhgram Rural Institute; Chancellor, Delhi University; Chancellor, Punjab University and President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
Having been elected to the Office of the President of India, Shri Venkataraman was sworn in on July 25, 1987. He is the Eighth President of the Republic of India.
Giani Zail Singh (25 July 1982 TO 25 July 1987)
GIANI ZAIL SINGH, whose ascendancy in the service of the nation can be traced from the humblest of origins, combines rare qualities of head and heart. The Giani's innings in public life have been long and varied - freedom fighter, social reformer, champion of the down-trodden, State Congress Leader, successful Chief Minister and Union Home Minister. Truly, he was a relentless fighter against princedom, feudalism and foreign domination in the pre-independence days, a tireless crusader against communalism, economic disparities and social injustice, a true friend of the down-trodden and the economically weak. Tall, handsome and immaculately dressed Giani Zail Singh was a firm believer in democratic traditions, most unassuming, a God fearing man and true son of the soil. No wonder that he has been able to carve out a distinguished niche for himself in Indian public life.
Giani Zail Singh, was born on May 5, 1916 in village Sandhwan in Faridkot District in a family of artisans, taken to agriculture. His father Sardar Kishan Singh owned about fifty-six acres of land which was inter shared by Giani Zail Singh and his two brothers. He comes from common stock and was born in a mud house in a remote village having no pull or patronage. Stitching clothes, crushing stones, ploughing in fields, laying roads, digging wells and making swords on the part of Gianiji gave him a rare insight into the psyche of the common man - his problems and aspirations. Also as a form of basic education, he has gone through the Quran, Geeta, Ramayana, besides an intensive study of the Sikh Scriptures.
Displaying precocity from his early childhood, Gianiji cultivated literary tastes. By the time most of the boys of his age had passed their matriculation examination, he had completed the study of Sikh Religion, Sikh History and Sikh Scriptures. He grew to be a Giani which means a Scholar. He was very well versed in Hindi and Urdu. Though not well-versed in the nuances of the English language, the valuable example which he furnishes of the power of self help, of patient purpose, resolute working and steadfast integrity illustrate the efficiency of self respect and self reliance in enabling men of even the humblest rank to work out for themselves and honourable competency and a solid reputation.
The martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and his companions, valiant freedom fighters, on March 23, 1931, moved the young Giani who was then only 16. The story of Giani Zail Singh's ordeals started with setting up of the branch of the All India Congress in the State of Faridkot in 1938. Giani Zail Singh was proclaimed and treated as an ordinary criminal. The Maharaja regarded the opening of the Branch of the Congress as a challenge and the man who did it as an arch enemy. So it was that Gianiji having founded the Congress in the State of Faridkot found himself behind prison bars for five years. He was kept in solitary confinement throughout his imprisonment. Even after his release, Gianiji was harassed and he had to spend sometime outside the State. During this period he canvassed support for the freedom movement in his State. During the same period he was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's message of non-violence.
In 1946, Gianiji was back in his State to resume the freedom struggle on the lines initiated by Mahatma Gandhi - Father of the Nation. The whole State of Faridkot rose to a man on the question of hoisting the National Flag. But a reign of terror was unleashed by the Maharaja. Hearing of this high-handedness from Gianiji and some of colleagues Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru decided to visit Faridkot to hoist the Tricolour. This brought Gianiji into close contact with Panditji and ever since that day, Panditji kept his benign eye on the young and promising freedom fighter.
Setting up a parallel Government in Faridkot was the most perilous adventure of Giani Zail Singh's life. Giani Zail Singh was held guilty of leading the revolt against the Raja's Government and taken into custody. Then occurred the famous Jeep Episode - a tyrannical response to Gianiji's quest to end the princely and feudal tyranny. Gianiji was bound hand and feet to a jeep and was threatened that he would be dragged along the streets unless he relented. But ultimately good sense prevailed and the threat was not carried out.
When Faridkot State was merged into the State of Patiala and East Punjab States Union, Giani Zail Singh made historic contributions in removing socio-economic injustice of farm labourers, small cultivators and tenants in his capacity as a Minister for Revenue and Agriculture. The conferment of proprietary rights on the actual tillers and the abolition of absentee landlordism and the legislative steps ensuring the security of tenancy and the rights of tenants to share the lands declared as "surplus" after land-ceiling, are all to the credit of Gianiji. The protection given in PEPSU against State ejectments by landlords is till today a shining landmark in the post-freedom history of agrarian reforms in India.
On November 1, 1956, when PEPSU was integrated with Punjab it opened a new chapter in the life of the peasants and workers and the common people. In 1956, Giani Zail Singh became a Member of Rajya Sabha and the Senior Vice-President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. He injected new fervour among the partymen and struggled selflessly to ensure thumping victories for the Congress in Punjab in 1962 General Elections to Punjab Vidhan Sabha and the Lok Sabha. He was taken as a Minister in the Government headed by the late Sardar Pratap Singh Kairon but in 1962, he sacrificed that office when the Chinese aggression brought new challenges in its wake.
During 1962 to 1972, Giani Zail Singh waged an uncompromising battle against the forces of communalism, reaction and exploitation for about ten long years in Punjab. As a President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, the spirit he was able to infuse in the rank and file of the Congress against heavy odds, triumphed with decisive and overwhelming majority for the Congress in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections and the 1972 Punjab Vidhan Sabha poll.
In March, 1972, he was elected unanimously by the Punjab Congress Legislative Party to be the Chief Minister of Punjab. For an unprecedented spell of stability for five years and three months, Giani Zail Singh accelerated the pace of Green Revolution and industrialization in the State and strengthened the forces of secularism by promoting the unity of the people of all faiths.
Under his dynamic stewardship Punjab saw prosperity, stability, vitality, unity and solidarity. Inspired by the Leadership of Shrimati Indira Gandhi, Gianiji worked with dedication to make the Punjabis realize their dream of a better life.
With the advent of the multiparty governments at the Centre and in certain States including Punjab towards the middle of 1977, Giani Zail Singh had to brave a fresh spate of difficulties, hardships and harassment. The trials and tribulations, however, failed to break his spirit or to deprive him of the love of the common masses. He was elected to the Seventh Lok Sabha in January, 1980, from the Hoshiarpur Constituency in Punjab with a thumping lead of over 1,25,000 votes over his nearest rival, and became Home Minister in Government of India in Smt. Indira Gandhi's Cabinet.
As a Union Home Minister, Giani Zail Singh made a notable contribution in maintaining law and order, handling the Assam agitation and dealing firmly with communal riots in the country. He used his vast administrative experience spanning over more than three decades as Minister in PEPSU and Punjab and as the State Chief Minister to his great advantage. In attending to almost all the major problems facing the nation today, he has shown rare qualities of a seasoned statesman. The most striking, however, is his role in the Assam Crisis. He used all his skill in bringing round the agitation leaders to the negotiating table. His personal intervention at the crucial moments during the talks brought him many laurels, and greatly helped create a congenial climate for mutual discussions. As Home Minister he has abundantly shown his keen alertness to the numerous problems facing the nation. He has been able to strengthen the national integration and has shown tenacity in curbing violence of all types.
Giani Zail Singh was elected to the highest office of the President of India on July 15, 1982 and took the oath of office on July 25, 1982.
Giani Zail Singh believes in the efficiency of politeness in expression and penetrative understanding of human relations and problems. This has, however, never impaired his firmness on basic principles of approach and the fundamentals of the policy and programmes. A refined sense of humour, backed by his intense love for children and the suffering humans in all parts of the country, is his inbuilt safeguard against tensions and malice in his public conduct.
Shri Neelam Sanjiva Reddy (25 July 1977 TO 25 July 1982)
Shri Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was born on May 18, 1913 and died on June 1, 1996.
SHRI NEELAM SANJIVA REDDY, the sixth President of India, was a veteran statesman and administrator. He held many eminent positions in public life both before and after independence. Born in a peasant family at Illuri village in the Anantapur District (Andhra Pradesh) on May 19, 1913, Shri Sanjiva Reddy had his early education at the Theosophical High School at Adyar in Madras and later joined the Arts College at Anantapur.
In 1931, the young Sanjiva Reddy gave up his studies to take part in the freedom movement. His student days were marked by Youth League and other nationalist activities. In fact, he first came into limelight when he participated in a student satyagraha.
At the age of 25, Shri Reddy was elected Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Provincial Congress Committee and remained in that office for 10 years. He was in prison for a greater part of the period 1940-1945. In March 1942,he was released for a while but in August, the same year he was re-arrested and kept in Amraoti jail in Madhya Pradesh along with Shri Prakasam, Shri Satyamurti, Shri Kamaraj, Shri Giri and others till 1945.
In 1946, Shri Reddy was elected to the Madras Legislaltive Assembly and became the Secretary of the Madras Congress Legislature Party the following year. In 1947, he became a Member of the Indian Constitutent Assembly.
From April 1949 to April 1951, he was Minister for Prohibition, Housing and Forests in the composite state of Madras. In 1951, he resigned this office to contest the Election for the Presidentship of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee which he won. It was during this period that Shri Reddy suffered a terrible tragedy in the death of his five year old son in a motor accident. This shocked him so deeply that he resigned the APCC Presidentship. Later, however, he was prevailed upon to withdraw his resignation.
In 1952, he was elected Member of the Rajya Sabha. In 1953, he accepted the post of Deputy Chief Minister in the Cabinet of the late Shri T. Prakasam, even though he was elected the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party. He was again elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1955 and became Deputy Chief Minister in Shri B. Gopala Reddi's cabinet.
Shri Reddy became the first Chief Minister to the new State of Andhra Pradesh which was formed following the reorganization of the States in October, 1956. In 1959, he resigned the Chief Ministership to take over the Presidentship of the Indian National Congress. On the expiry of his term of office in March, 1962, he again became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. In February 1964, he voluntarily resigned the office of Chief Minister in order to set high standards of public life. He was, however, re-elected as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party but he recommended to the Governor to invite Shri K. Brahmananda Reddy, a colleague of his to form a new Ministry.
On June 9, 1964, Shri Reddy was appointed a Member of the Union Cabinet formed by Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri and took over the portfolio of Steel and Mines. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in November, 1964.
Shri Reddy was Union Minister of Transport, Civil Aviation, Shipping and Tourism from January 1966 to March 1967 in the Cabinet formed by Shrimati Indira Gandhi. In the General Elections in 1967, he was returned to the Lok Sabha from Hindupur constituency in Andhra Pradesh. He was elected Speaker of the Lok Sabha on March 17, 1967, an office that won him unprecedented acclaim and admiration.
Shri Reddy resigned the Speakership of the Lok Sabha on the 19th July, 1969 to contest the Presidential election on the basis of his nomination as a nominee of the Congress filed by Shrimati Indira Gandhi. It is now common knowledge that after filing this nomination Shrimati Indira Gandhi subsequently organized his defeat in the elections by unethical means.
After 1969, Shri Reddy devoted his time to agriculture, which has always remained his first love. However, on May 1, 1975 he entered active politics again by addressing a public meeting at Hyderabad along with Shri Jayaprakash Narain. In March 1977, he fought the Lok Sabha election from Nandyal constituency in Andhra Pradesh as a Janata Party candidate. He was the only non-Congress candidate to get elected from Andhra Pradesh.
Shri Reddy was unanimously elected Speaker of the Lok Sabha on March 26, 1977. He relinquished this office on July 13, 1977 to file his nomination for the Presidentship of the Indian Union. He was unanimously sponsored as the consensus candidate for the Presidentship by all political parties, a rare even in recent political history. He was declared elected unopposed on July 21, 1977.
The degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws was conferred on Shri Sanjiva Reddy by the Sri Venkateshwara University in 1958.
Shri Sanjiva Reddy married Shrimati Nagarathnamma on June 8, 1935 and they had one son and three daughters.
Dr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (24 August 1974 TO 11 February 1977)
Born on May 13, 1905 at Hauz Qazi area of Old Delhi with a silver spoon in his mouth, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was one of those few Muslims who by virtue of his service to the country under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi reached the pinnacle of honour as the President of the Indian Republic, the fifth in the roll.
Shri Fakhruddin's grandfather, Shri Khaliluddin Ali Ahmed, of Kacharighat near Golaghat town in the Sibsagar district, Assam, married in one of the families who were the relics of Emperor Aurangzeb's bid to conquer Assam. Ali Ahmed's father Col. Zalnur Ali, of the Indian Medical Service, had to leave Assam while he was a bachelor doctor following an incident in Shillong. Col. Ali and one of his Assamese contemporaries, Col. Sibram Bora, were allotted seats at a function in the Shillong Club away from the European guests. The two Assamese Colonels boycotted the function in protest against the segregation meted out to them. This naturally enraged the European bosses who transferred Col. Zalnur Ali to distant North-West Province. This provided him with an opportunity to come in contact with the Nawab of Lohari in Delhi whose daughter he married. Here was born Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.
Educated first in the Bonda Government High School in U.P., Fakhruddin matriculated from the Delhi Government High School then under the Punjab University. He was sent to England for higher education in 1923 in order to groom him for the I.C.S., though his mother was opposed to his son being sent abroad. He joined the Catherine College of Cambridge University and was called to the Bar from Inner Temple of London. He could not compete for the I.C.S. examination due to illness. On return to India he started legal practice in the Lahore High Court in 1928. In October that year, Col. Zalnur Ali, accompanied by his Barrister son, Fakhruddin, paid a visit to Gauhati ostensibly to look after his paternal property which included a few hundred acres of land in and around Gauhati. Obviously, the Ahmed family's link, snapped on the Colonel's posting in N.W.P. was thus re-established after several years. Two years later Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed revisited Gauhati and came in contact with the leaders of the Congress in Assam and in 1931 enrolled himself as its primary member. This was a turning event in the life of Ahmed.
During his stay in England he met Jawaharlal Nehru in 1925 whose progressive ideas impressed him very much; in fact, Nehru became his mentor and friend from the thirties onwards. (Lord Bulter, one of the luminaries of the Tories was a classmate of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed). Once Ahmed joined the Indian National Congress he steadfastly adhered to it though his co-religionists in the Muslim League tried to persuade him to join the latter. As a Congressman, Ahmed Saheb actively participated in the freedom movement. To begin with, he offered individual satyagraha on 14 December, 1940 for which he was imprisoned for a year under Section 5 of the DIR. Again, in the 'Quit India Movement' he was arrested on 9 August, 1942 while he was returning after attending the historic session of the AICC meeting held at Bombay and detained as a security prisoner for three and a half years till April 1945. In the Congress organization he occupied several positions of responsibilities. He remained a member of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee since 1936 except for a small break. He retained the membership of the AICC from 1947 till 1974. He was elected to the Assam Assembly for the first time in 1935 and became the Minister of Finance, Revenue and Labour in the Congress Coalition Ministry formed by the late Gopinath Bardoloi on 19 September, 1938. In the first spell of his Ministerial office Ali Ahmed demonstrated his acumen and ability in administrative sphere. His initiative in introducing the Assam Agricultural Income Tax Bill, the first of its kind in India, that levied taxes on tea garden lands in the Province and his pro-labour policy in the labour strike in the British-owned Assam Oil Company Ltd. At Digboi irked the European planters and their henchmen who considered that the measures of the Congress Coalition Government were revolutionary and, therefore, constituted a danger signal to the interests of the British commercial community. But Ali Ahmed did not heed to such opposition and went ahead with the measures which brought him and the Bardoloi Ministry a good deal of popular applause. However, the Bardoloi Ministry had to resign on 16 November, 1939 on the war efforts issue, but that Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was an able administrator was established.
After Independence he was elected on Congress ticket to the Assam Assembly on two terms (1957-1962) and (1962-1967). Earlier, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha (1952-1953) and thereafter became Advocate-General of the Government of Assam. Though Ali Ahmed occupied a senior position in the Chaliha Ministry from 1957 he was asked by Jawaharlal Nehru to join his Cabinet at the Centre in January 1966. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Barpeta constituency in 1971. In the Central Cabinet he was given important portfolios relating to Food and Agriculture, Cooperation, Education, Industrial Development and Company Laws. His induction to the Central Cabinet was perhaps because of his close link with, and loyalty to the Nehru family and also for his acumen in administration.
In the Congress hierarchy Ali Ahmed enjoyed an enviable position being a member of the Congress Working Committee for several years. In the Great Split of the Congress (1969), Ali Ahmed remained with Indira Gandhi, may be his deep-rooted association with the Nehru family made him adhere to Indira Gandhi's leadership till his death. He was elected to the highest post of the land - the Presidentship of the Indian Republic on 29 August, 1974, but his tenure in the office was cut short (1977) by his sudden death due to a heart attack which he suffered on his return from a tour of the South-East Asian countries only a day before. In the wake of the Emergency Ali Ahmed became the target of criticism of his detractors. It was alleged that he put his signature as President to the order on promulgation of Emergency on 25 June, 1975 at the behest of the Prime Minister, though he assured at the time of his election to Presidentship that he would not be a yes-man of the Cabinet. Notwithstanding this criticism, Ali Ahmed's personality, integrity and ability in administration were never questioned.
Suave and sober, Ali Ahmed seldom allowed anger and prejudices to get better of him, at the same time, he did not compromise with unprincipled issues. These traits of his character were apparently the key to his success in the public life and enabled him to acquire a respectable position in the society. Towards the end of his political career, he was, however, accused of being communal by certain quarters, but this accusation was hardly warranted. Mention of an incident in this connection would perhaps be relevant. In 1935, when Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Nazimuddin and a few starwarts of the Muslim League came to Assam to campaign against Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed who was pitted by the Congress against a Muslim League candidate in the Assembly poll, a common friend at the instance of Sir Mohammad Saadullah suggested that Fakhruddin Saheb should pay a courtesy call to the Muslim League leaders at Gauhati. Liaquat Ali, however, reacted to the suggestion somewhat tersely saying that he would not shake hands with a Kafir meaning Ali Ahmed. Thus, the suggestion was scotched. It is apparently difficult to believe that he could be communal with a long record of service to the country under the banner of the Congress. It is, nonetheless, a fact that he tried to bring to the Congress fold a number of Aligarh Muslim University educated youths of his community whose communal outlook was a public knowledge. If this had created an impression in certain quarters that Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was communal, that was entirely a different matter. But his love for the country and faith in secularism were profound and therefore, were not in doubt in the least.
Though politics was Ali Ahmed's forte, his deep interest in sports and other extra-mural activities was well-known. Himself a tennis player and golfer, he was elected President of the Assam Football Association and the Assam Cricket Association for several terms; he was also the Vice-President of the Assam Sports Council. In April, 1967 he was elected President of the All India Cricket Association besides being a member of the Delhi Golf Club and the Delhi Gymkhana Club since 1961. His love for music and finer arts was no less; he was deeply interested in poetical works of Ghalib. His travels in the USSR, the USA, the UK, Japan, Malaysia and many Arab countries as a Minister and afterwards as the President of India widened his urbane outlook that endeared him to all sections of the people, irrespective of caste, creed and avocation. Elegantly dressed he was always courteous but firm in what he considered to be just and fair and presented himself as a Moghul, as it were, which quality he perhaps inherited from his maternal side.
At forty Ali Ahmed married Abida (21) of a respectable family of U.P. educated in Aligarh Muslim University. When negotiations for the wedding were under way Ahmed was undergoing a jail term in Jorhat as security prisoner. At a certain stage of the negotiations Abida's family wanted to know what the prospective bride groom was doing. The answer came from one of the relatives of the would-be bridegroom: Fil hal to jail men Hai (At present he is in jail). But Destiny so ordained that Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Abida were happily married on 9 November, 1945. Begum Abida Saheba was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1981 from a U.P. constituency in a by-election.
Ali Ahmed passed away on 11 February, 1977 in the Rashtrapati Bhavan leaving behind wife, two sons and a daughter.
Shri Varahagiri Venkata Giri (3 May 1969 TO 20 July 1969 and 24 August 1969 TO 24 August 1974)
Shri Varahagiri Venkata Giri was born on 10 August, 1894 at Berhampore in Ganjam district at that time in the Madras Presidency and now in Orissa. He came of a rather well-off Brahmin family. His father Shri V.V. Jogaiah Pantulu was a prosperous lawyer at Berhampore and the leader of the local Bar. He also took a prominent part in the nationalist movement. In the twenties he joined the Swarajya Party founded by Pandit Motilal Nehru and Chittaranjan Das and was a member of the Central Legislative Assembly from 1927 to 1930. He was also elected to the Madras Legislative Council after the introduction of the Act of 1935. Jogaiah was also interested in the Bengal Nagpur Railway Workers' Union. The example of his father and the family atmosphere naturally influenced the mind and career of V.V. Giri. Shri V.V. Giri was married at an early age. The name of his wife is Saraswati Bai.
After his early education in his home-town Giri went to Ireland and joined the University of Dublin for higher studies. It was here that he came under the spell of the freedom struggle in Ireland and drew his inspiration from De Valera. He became associated with the Sinn Fein Movement and came in close contact with De Valera, Collins, Pearee, Desmond Fitzgerald, MacNeil, Connolly and others. Giri was called to the Bar during World War I and returned to India in 1916.
Giri returned to India not only as a militant nationalist but deeply concerned about the well-being of the working people. The Irish Trade Union Movement had impressed him a good deal and when he returned to India he started taking a keen interest in the labour movement. Giri started practice in his home-town Berhampore but he also took an active part in the nationalist movement. He joined the Home Rule League and also the Indian National Congress. When Gandhi launched his Non-Cooperation Movement, Giri gave up his lucrative practice at the Bar and plunged himself into the movement. He was arrested and suffered imprisonment for a short period.
As early as 1922 he identified himself closely with the organization of the working classes and became a trusted lieutenant of N.M. Joshi. From that time onwards his main sphere of work was the Trade Union movement. To this day he is proud above all else of being a trade unionist. His identity and deep affinity with the working people is the main-spring of his strength. In 1923 he became one of the founders of the All India Railwaymen's Federation. He was twice elected President of the Trade Union Congress, in 1926 and 1942. As a leading trade unionist he attended many international gatherings. In 1927 he attended the International Labour Conference at Geneva. He also attended the Trade Union Congress at Geneva. In 1931-1932 he attended the Second Round Table Conference in London as the Workers' Representative.
During the Civil Disobedience Movement in the early thirties Giri, as a prominent labour leader, did much to organize trade unions in support of the nationalist movement. He was a member of the Indian Legislative Assembly from 1934 to 1937. In a house dominated by stalwarts like Satyamurty, Bhulabhai Desai, Jinnah, Govind Ballabh Pant, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Asaf Ali and others, Giri soon made his mark as a forceful speaker, specially on labour questions.
In the 1936 General Election in Madras, after the introduction of the Act of 1935, Giri was put up as the Congress candidate in Bobbili against the Raja of Bobbili, the most powerful political personality in the Madras Presidency. The Raja of Bobbili was the leader of the Justice Party and the Chief Minister of the Province; and the constituency was the traditional family strong-hold. The contest was like David tackling Goliath. In this contest between a feudal leader and a popular leader, the victory of the people's man heralded a decisive turning of the political tide. After the election when C. Rajagopalachari formed the Congress Ministry in Madras in 1937, V.V. Giri was naturally taken into the Cabinet and given the portfolio of Labour. Again after the General Election of 1946 in Madras Giri was taken into the Cabinet formed by T. Prakasam and given the portfolio of Labour. Later Giri was appointed India's High Commissioner in Ceylon.
Before long he returned to his favourite forum, the lelgislature. He was a member of the Lok Sabha from 1952 to 1957. From 1952 to 1954 he was a member of the Union Cabinet and was given the portfolio of Labour. When an issue arose that involved the interest of labour, Giri resigned to uphold his cherished principles. Eventually, the Government had to come round to his viewpoint.
After 1957 began a long spell of gubernatorial assignments for Giri. Successively he served as Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Mysore. He won friends everywhere, initiated new activities and became a mentor for the younger generation. It was during these years that he imparted new depth and dimension to social work as the President of the Indian Conference of Social Work, to which office he was elected in 1958.
In 1967, during the period of turmoil, he was invited to be the Vice-President. Fate willed that Dr. Zakir Hussain should not complete his term as the President. On his death on 3 May, 1969, V.V. Giri had to officiate as the President. Giri was so clear about his manifest destiny that without bothering about party support he offered himself as a candidate for the Presidential election, confident of popular approval. He was elected (1969) the fourth President of the Republic with the acclaim of the people. With him the arena of the election shifted from the close preserve of politicians to the broad wishes of the people.
Giri has written two important books, one on "Industrial Relations" and the other on "Labour Problems in Indian Industry". He has been a socialist of long standing, but never a doctrinaire socialist, always a pragmatist. His approach is at once practical and human. In his opinion of the tree of socialism the root is man. Even today he gives expression to his economic and social thoughts in terms of "jobs for the millions".
Dr. Zakir Husain (13 May 1967 TO 3 May 1969)
DR. ZAKIR HUSSAIN was born at Hyderabad on February 8, 1897, he came of a Pathan family of the upper middle-class, settled at Qaunganj in the District of Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh. His father, Fida Hussain Khan, went to Hyderabad, studied Law and had a most successful career. Unfortunately, he died when Dr. Zakir Hussain was only ten years old.
Dr. Zakir Hussain was sent first for his education to the Islamia High School in Etawah (U.P.) which specialised in puritanical strictures. After finishing school, he joined the M.A.O. College at Aligarh and studied upto the M.A. When the Indian National Congress and the All India Khilafat Committee joined hands in launching the Non-Cooperation Movement, Mahatma Gandhi toured the country to induce teachers and students to leave Government administered schools and colleges. The young Zakir Hussain, who was then half-student and half-teacher, very prominent among the students and very popular with a large section of the staff, persuaded Hakim Ajmal Khan and other leaders to establish a national institution at Aligarh, and the Jamia Millia Islamia came into being on 29 October, 1920. But Zakir Hussain did not wish to leave his studies incomplete and he went to the University of Berlin in Germany for higher studies in 1923, returning with a doctorate in Economics three years later. He rejoined the Jamia Millia in February-March, 1926 and became the Shaikhu Jamia (Vice-Chancellor). It was at the Jamia Millia that Dr. Zakir Hussain developed his gifts as an educationist. It was his experience here as well as his deep study of the philosophy of education which enable him to take charge of the scheme of Basic National Education when it was launched in 1938. He was the President of Hindustani Talimi Sangh, Sevagram from 1938 to 1948.
In November 1948, Dr. Zakir Hussain was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. He was also nominated a member of the Indian Universities Commission. The World University Service made him the Chairman of the Indian National Committee and in 1954 he was elected the World President of the organization. He was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha and made the Indian representative on the Executive Board of the UNESCO from 1956 to 1958. He remained the Chairman, Central Board of Secondary Education, till 1957, a member of the University Grants Commission till 1957, a member of the University Education Commission in 1948-1949 and of the Educational Reorganisation Committee of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. In 1957 he was appointed the Governor of Bihar and in 1962 he was declared elected as the Head of the State and was formally sworn in as the Third President of the Indian Republic four days later. He held the highest office of the country with exemplary grace and dignity till his sudden death on 3 May, 1969.
Dr. Zakir Hussain was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1954 and Bharat Ratna in 1963. He was awarded D.Litt. (Honoris Causa) by the Universities of Delhi, Calcutta, Aligarh, Allahabad and Cairo.
Many demands were made on Dr. Zakir Hussain's time and he was not able to undertake many scholarly projects which he had in mind. His interest in literary and academic work was so keen that he translated Plato's 'Republic' and Cannon's 'Elementary Political Economy' into Urdu soon after joining the Jamia Millia in 1920. While in Germany, he got an edition of the 'Diwan-I-Ghalib' printed - doing much of the composition himself, because the press did not have enough staff - and also brought out a book in German on Mahatma Gandhi (Die Botschaft des Mahatma Gandhi') . He delivered a series of lectures on economics under the auspices of the Hindustani Academy and another series in English, on Capitalism: Essays in Understanding, under the auspices of the Delhi University in 1945. He also translated Friedrich List's 'Nationalockonomic'. His Convocation Addresses have been collected and published under the title "The Dynamic University". But he excelled in writing for children and his stories are masterpieces of style.
Tall, well-built, fair in complexion, with a noble forehead, a sensitive aristocratic nose, a well-trimmed beard and always neatly and tastefully dressed in sherwani and pyjama, Dr. Zakir Hussain was an imposing embodiment of culture and refinement. He was sensitive to beauty in all its forms and had an intense passion for excellence. His varied tastes and hobbies, his love of roses, his collection of cacti, fossils, paintings and specimens of calligraphy, objects d'art, and curios and above all, his rich library are evidence of his versatile personality.
He was steeped in the spiritual and aesthetic culture and the ethical principles of the Muslim Sufis and poets. He had the sufi's indifference towards the externals of religion and, though a deeply religious man, his religiosity was never obvious. It was the inspiration for secularism by which he endeared himself to men of different religious communities.
Dr. Zakir Hussain's nationalism was, like Gandhiji's, a reflection of his allegiance to the highest moral values and to the ideals of a culture which had become the whole of his own self. It was a nationalism which demanded for the individual that freedom which is the essence of democracy, that self-discipline which is the foundation of democratic citizenship and that identification with the good of the society which gives substance and meaning to the life of the individual.
Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan (13 May 1962 TO 13 May 1967)
Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was born on 5 September, 1888 in Tirutani, a well-known religious center in the Madras State. He was the second son of Veera Samayya, a tehsildar in a zamindari. It was a middle-class, respectable Hindu Brahmin family. Indeed, the place, the time and the family were most suitable, from every point of view, for the advent of a new philosopher-statesman, so directly needed in those turbulent days of the awakening of a very ancient and glorious nation, drowsy and dormant in its own ignorance and indolence, for reasons well known to all.
As usual in those days, Radhakrishnan was married in 1906, at the tender age of 18 and while still a student, to Sivakamamma, and spent a happy conjugal life with her for half a century before she died in 1956.
Bright and brilliant, with a scholarly disposition and a serene and saintly demeanor, from the very beginning, Radhakrishnan spent the first eight years of his life happily and fruitfully in his home town with his parents. The peaceful and exhilarating atmosphere of that well-known and well-loved place, as well as the benign influence of his parents who, as was common in the South, were intensely religious in the traditional sense, went far in moulding his character and sowing a lively seed of religiousness and moralism in him.
It was, indeed, an indubitably significant fact that Radhakrishnan's parents, though orthodox, thought it fit to send their beloved son to Christian Missionary schools and colleges: Lutheran Mission School, Tirupathi (1896-1900), Vellore College, Vellore (1900-1904), Madras Christian College (1904-1908).
The wonderful far-sightedness, open-heartedness and broad-mindedness of his revered and beloved parents, which enabled them, in those days of blind prejudices and equally blind social taboos, to send their son to well-known, well-managed, well-disciplined Christian educational institutions - stood him in good stead throughout, making it possible for him to acquire specially Occidental qualities like a sense of duty, punctuality, discipline, sobriety and the like, together with specially Oriental qualities of religiosity, calmness, patience, faith in God and men.
Radhakrishnan's choice of Philosophy as his main or Honours subject in his B.A. degree course was due to a very fortunate accident. At that time, he was really rather baffled as to what particular Honours subject to choose from amongst the possible five, viz., Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Philosophy and History. Then, purely accidentally, and out of a mere boyish curiosity, he read three well-known works on Philosophy, passed on to him by one of his cousins who had that year obtained the B.A. degree with Philosophy Honours; and that definitely decided his future course of studies.
He studied Sanskrit and Hindi also; and had a good deal of interest in the traditional languages of India. He read also the Vedas and the Upanishads with great care and reverence.
In fact, Radhakrishnan was, and is, still today, a reader and a digester in the true sense of the terms. For, what he read - and he read widely and lovingly all kinds of good books - did not remain an external acquisition, an ornamental decoration, with him; but blossomed forth in him in fullest glory and grandeur.
It is not always that in this strange world of ours inner worth is accompanied by outer success. But Radhakrishnan is a glorious exception in this regard. For, all throughout his brilliant career, honour after honour was showered on him. The following are some of the main posts held by him most fittingly and efficiently: Lecturer in Philosophy, Presidency College, Madras, in the Madras Provincial Educational Service, after graduation; Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the same College for five years; Professor of Philosophy, Mysore University (1918-1921); King George V Professor of Philosophy, Calcutta University (1921-1931) and again (1937-1944); Vice-Chancellor of the Andhra University (1931); Spaulding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics, Oxford University (1932-1953) - first Indian to be so appointed; and Vice-Chancellor of the Banaras Hindu University (1942). Among the cultural posts held by him may be mentioned: Leader of the Indian Delegation to UNESCO many times (1946-1950); Chairman of the University Education Commission (1948) appointed by the Government of India; Chairman of the Executive Board of UNESCO (1948); President of UNESCO (1952); Delegate to the P.E.N. Congress (1959); Vice President of International P.E.N.; Honorary Fellow of the British Academy (1962); Representative of the Calcutta University at the Congress of Philosophy, Harvard University, U.S.A. (May 1962).
Among the political posts held by him may be mentioned: Ambassador-Extraordinary and Minister-Plenipotentiary to the U.S.S.R. (1949-1952),Vice-President of India (twice: 1952-1956 and 1957-1962); and President of India (1962-1966).
Among the Lectureships held may be noted: Upton Lecturer, Manchester College, Oxford; Harwell Lecturer in Comparative Religion, University of Chicago; Hibbert Lecturer, University College, London and Manchester (1929).
Among the Honorary degrees and distinctions achieved were: Knighthood (1931); Honorary D. Ph. (Teheran University, 1963); Honorary D.Litt. (Tribhuvan University, Nepal, 1963); Honorary Doctor of Law (Pennsylvania University, 1963); Honorary Ph.D. (Moscow University, 1964); Honorary Doctor of Law (National University of Ireland, 1964); over one hundred Honorary degrees including those from Oxford, Cambridge and Rome Universities; Honorary Member of the Order of Merit, Buckingham Palace (12 June, 1963). He also made Goodwill tours to Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and China (September-October 1956); to Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Hungary and Bulgaria, African countries like East and Central Africa (June-July 1956); to Indo-China States, China, Mongolia and Hong Kong (September, 1957). He also paid State visits to Great Britain (June 1963), to Nepal (November 1963) and to U.S.S.R. and Ireland (September 1964).
Radhakrishnan was, and still is, one of the most celebrated writers of the present generation. His works are many and varied on philosophical, theological, ethical, educational, social and cultural subjects. He contributed also numerous articles to different well-known journals, which too, will prove to be of immense value to generations to come.
But what is most felt after reading any of his valuable works or articles is its wonderful liveliness. Truly, his articles are not merely outer expressions of his inner thoughts, but, what is more, infinitely more, emblems and embodiments of his very life - life that merrily dances forth in the fortuitous, zig-zag way of the world, removing all its obstacles in its own inner irresistible urge and boundless boldness. Hence, it is that his works, written in an incredibly simple, sublime, soft and serene way, are so very enchanting, enlivening, exhilarating to all. As a matter of fact, as is well known, it is very difficult to express very abstract and abstruse philosophical thoughts in easily intelligible and enchantingly sweet language. But Dr. Radhakrishnan, like the great and revered Rabindranath, is one of the few who could accomplish this apparently impossible feat. That is why his philosophical writings are not ordinary scholarly dissertations, but also melodious poetical perfections of great and permanent value.
His first book, 'The Ethics of the Vedanta and Its Material Presupposition', being his thesis for the M.A. degree examination of the Madras University, published in 1908, at the tender age of twenty only, at once established his fame as a great philosophical writer of undoubted ability. All his later works are landmarks in their respective fields, like 'The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore' (1918), 'Idealistic View of Life' (1932), 'Eastern Religions and Western Thought', 'Reign of Philosophy in Contemporary Thought', Kalki or The Future of Civilization', 'Indian Philosophy (2 vols.), etc.
Dynamic in personality, quiet in demeanor, austere in habits, unostentatious in behaviour, just in decision, prompt in action, simple in his dress, sympathetic in his dealings - such is our revered Dr. Radhakrishnan. He is a living, loving symbol and lovely emblem of our age-old Indian culture and civilization. Nothing much need be said here regarding his ideas and attitude towards different issues. For, the central refrain of his Life's Music reverberates through every walk of his blessed life. That is why he is a Monist in Philosophy, believing in one Reality, viz., Spirit; a Monotheist in Religion, believing in one God; an Eudemonist or Perfectionist in Ethics, believing in inner perfection as the summum bonum or the highest end of life; a Socialist in Politics, believing in mass or universal uplift. His whole glorious life proves anew the eternal truth of that well-known Platonic maxim, viz., "Those States only flourish where kings are philosophers, philosophers, kings" (Plato's Republic).
Radhakrishnan is considered as the greatest living philosopher of India, and one of the greatest living philosophers of the world. In 1952 the Library of Living Philosophers, an institute of world-wide repute, brought out a massive volume on 'The Philosophy of Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, devoted wholly to a critical appreciation of his philosophical doctrines. This proves beyond doubt that he is universally considered to be one amongst the most notable of modern philosophical luminaries, like G.F. Moore, Bertrand Russell and Karl Jaspers, about whose works also the above Library published separate volumes.
According to our Indian view, the highest aim of human life is to be, step by step, a 'Brahmachari' (or one who lives and moves about and believes in Brahman), a 'Brahmajnani' (or one who knows Brahman or the Absolute) and finally, a 'Brahmavadin' (or one who speaks or writes about Brahman or the Absolute). Here, we find Knowing, Doing and Speaking or Writing all go together; or, are intimately, intrinsically, indissolubly connected. Thus, Theory must end and fructify in Practice, Knowledge in Action, Philosophy in Ethics - in short, the root in the fruit. Dr. Radhakrishnan - himself a real 'Brahmachari', a real 'Brahmajnani' - subscribed to this theory all along. In his very first work, 'The Ethics of the Vedanta and Its Material Presupposition', published as early as 1908, he clearly and forcefully asserts this. Compare - "Philosophy in India is not an abstract study, remote from the life of man…. The Civilisation of India is an effort to embody philosophical wisdom in social life".
Dr. Radhakrishnan is, indeed, a versatile genius - a great scholar, a great philosopher, a great seer, a great writer, a great orator, a great statesman, a great administrator, all combined.
And above all, he is a Man - a full real Man, who has always lived men, served men, worshipped men, not as a superior being, not as a superman; but only as a Man, as their fellow being, as their friends, as their nearest and dearest one.
Jawaharlal Nehru, who was one of his closest friends throughout, said about Radhakrishnan: "I join you in paying my tribute to our President, Dr. Radhakrishnan. He has served his country in many capacities. But above all, he is a great Teacher from whom all of us have learnt much and will continue to learn. It is India's peculiar privilege to have a great philosopher, a great educationist and a great humanist as her President. That in itself shows the kind of men we honour and respect".
The Ethics of the Vedanta and Its Material Presupposition (1908); The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore (1918); The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy (1920); Indian Philosophy (2 volumes) (1923 and 1927); The Hindu View of Life (1926); The Religion We Need (1928); Kalki or The Future of Civilisation (1929); An Idealist View of Life (1932); East and West in Religion (1933); Freedom and Culture (1936); The Heart of Hindusthan (1936); My Search for Truth (Autobiography)(1937); Gautama, The Buddha (1938); Eastern Religions and Western Thought (1939); Mahatma Gandhi (1939); India and China (1944); Education, Politics and War (1944); Is this Peace (1945); The Religion and Society (1947); The Bhagwadgita (1948); Great Indians (1949); The Dhammapada (1950); The Religion of the Spirit and the World's Need (Autobiographical)(1952);The Radhakrishnan Number, (A Souvenir Volume).
Dr. Rajendra Prasad (26 January 1950 TO 13 May 1962)
Long before the Gandhian era had set in, there was born on 3 December, 1884, in an obscure village in the Saran district of North Bihar, Rajendra Prasad, whose life was to be an embodiment of the Gandhian principles. He was to Gandhiji, to quote Sarojini Naidu, what John was to Christ. Jawaharlal called him the symbol of Bharat and found "truth looking at you through those eyes". As early as 1922, C.R. Das, the President of the Gaya session of the Indian National Congress, remarked, trial "At the moment Rajendra Prasad appears to be the sole excuse for a further honest trial of Gandhism to solve a political problem". When this view was reported to Motilal Nehru in January 1923, his reaction was almost identical: "Das is certainly correct. We have given a fair trial to Gandhism for over two years. It seems to me that the only good result it has yielded - I do not say it will not yield better or more results - is Babu Rajendra Prasad". Four year later Vithalbhai Patel remarked, "The one argument against the discontinuance of the Gandhian cult is Rajendra Prasad". Gandhiji himself once said of him : "There is at least one man who would not hesitate to take the cup of poison from my hands". No wonder Gunther called him the heart of the Congress organization. Another publicist wrote that Mahatma Gandhi with his uncanny insight picked out and groomed three of his colleagues for important roles in national life. In Jawaharlal he saw the dynamism of youth that never ages and a soaring idealism intent on a synthesis of ethical values and socio-economic objectives of modern revolutions. In Sardar he saw the great pragmatist and the man of iron will who knew how to get things done. In Rajendra Prasad he saw a great deal of himself.
Rajendra Prasad's great uncle, Chaudhur Lal, built fortunes of the family, a zamindari income of Rs.7,000/- per year and substantial farm lands. He was the Dewan of the Hathwa Raj, highly respected by all, honest, loyal and efficient. Rajendra Prasad's father, Mahadev Sahay, was a country gentleman, a scholar of Persian and Sanskrit. His hobbies were wrestling and horticulture and he took delight in providing free Ayurvedic and Unani treatment to patients who flocked to him. Rajendra Prasad's mother, Kamleshwari Devi, was a devout lady who would not give up her evening bath and Pooja even though plagued by a cough which eventually proved fatal. Every day she would tell stories from the Ramayana to young Rajendra, as he huddled close to her, eager and receptive, waiting for the light of dawn to peep into the windowless bedroom of the old-fashioned house. No wonder the Ramayana by Tulsidas became his constant companion, though he loved to browse occasionally on the Upanishads and other scriptures also.
The family shunned ostentations, lived simply and mixed freely with the co-villagers. Disparities were not irritating. There was a sense of community, fellow-feeling and kindliness. All shared in the festivals and the Poojas. The flow of village life was quiet and gentle. All this left a deep impression on young Rajendra's mind. The village came to symbolize peace and repose.
At the age of five young Rajendra was, according to the practice in the community to which he belonged, put under a Maulavi who taught him Persian. Later, he was taught Hindi and arithmetic. After the completion of this traditional education he was put in the Chapra Zilla School, from which he moved to R.K. Ghosh's Academy in Patna in order to be with his only brother, Mahendra Prasad, who was eight years older than him and who had joined the Patna College. When Mahendra Prasad moved to Calcutta in 1897, Rajendra was admitted into the Hathwa High School. Soon he rejoined the Chapra Zilla School, from where he passed the Entrance examination of the Calcutta University at the age of eighteen, in 1902, standing first in the first division. When it is remembered that the educational jurisdiction of the Calcutta University extended from Sadiya, the easternmost frontier of British India, to a little beyond Peshawar on the north-west, the feat appears truly remarkable. He had been married for five years at that time. His wife Rajbanshi Devi was a true-to-tradition Hindu lady, merging her identity totally in that of the husband.
After passing the Entrance examination Rajendra Prasad joined the Presidency College, Calcutta, and both brothers lived together for a time in room of the Eden Hindu Hostel. A plaque still commemorates his stay, for practically the whole of his University career, in that room. Not many from Bihar had joined that metropolitan institution. But, before long, Rajendra Prasad gained immense popularity. This was demonstrated in a remarkable early moment in 1904 when as a Third year student he won in the first annual election for the post of Secretary of the College Union against a senior student belonging to a rich aristocratic family of Calcutta. Those were days when junior students did not speak to their seniors unless spoken to. Rajendra Prasad had, moreover, neither sought nor worked for the post. Dr. P.K. Roy, the Principal, in whose presence the election had taken place by show of hands, was astounded by the result, more than a thousand against seven, and enquired as to what made Rajendra Prasad so popular. The great scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose and the highly respected P.C. Ray wanted him to offer Science, but he preferred Arts, for though he had topped in I.A. he had not topped in the Science subjects. While his remarkable distinguished academic career continued and he capped it with a First in the M.A. and a First in Master of Law, other ideas occupied his mind and heart. He had been initiated into the cult of 'Swadeshi' by his elder brother, even before his arrival in Calcutta. Now he joined, while in B.A. (Hons.) Class, the Dawn Society run by Satish Chandra Mukherjee, Sister Nivedita, Surendranath Banerjee and many other luminaries gave discourses here. There were debating and essay-writing competitions and he bagged many of the prizes. A new awareness was dawning on him. The anti-partition agitation stirred him. The processions, the slogans, the speeches touched new chords. He collected the Bihari students in Calcutta and they conducted activities similar to those conducted by the Dawn Society. The formation of the Bihari Students' Conference followed in 1908. It was the first organization of its kind in the whole of India. It not only led to an awakening, it nurtured and produced practically the entire political leadership of the twenties in Bihar.
At the time he set himself up as a legal practitioner in Calcutta in 1911, apprenticed to Khan Bahadur Shamsul Huda, he also joined the Indian National Congress and was elected to the A.I.C.C. A year earlier, he impressed Sir Asutosh Mukherjee so deeply that the latter offered him a Lectureship in the Presidency Law College. Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the greatest political leader of India in those days, had met him in Calcutta a year earlier and had exhorted him to join the Servants of India Society in Poona. Due to lack of good management the family estate was in bad shape and Rajendra Prasad was looked upon as the retriever. But had had no doubts about what he should do. Though he could not bring himself to have a straight talk with Mahendra Prasad, his elder brother, he sought his permission and blessing to join Gokhale through a letter in which he gave vent to his innermost thoughts. "Ambitions I have none," he had concluded, "except to be of some service to the Motherland". The shock and the anguish of his brother, however, held him to the family. About that time his mother died and his only sister Bhagwati Devi, fifteen years older than him, returned to her parents' home, a widow at nineteen, and in a way, took the place of his mother. In 1916 Rajendra Prasad shifted to Patna on the establishment of the High Court of Bihar and Orissa. Soon, he succeeded in gaining a marked ascendancy, not only over the clients and his colleagues at the Bar, but even more so on the Judges. His incisive intellect and phenomenal memory were no doubt great assets, but what really established his supremacy, over the minds of the judges in particular, was his innate integrity and purity of character, his inability to stoop to any tactics to score a point, to win a case. Often enough when his adversary failed to cite a precedent, the Judges asked Rajendra Prasad to cite a precedent against himself.
Rajendra Prasad had first seen Gandhiji at a meeting held in Calcutta in 1915 to honour him. He was called 'Karmavir Gandhi' in those days. In the December 1916 session of the Congress, held at Lucknow, he again saw Gandhiji. He knew that the Champaran Kisan leader Rajkumar Shukla and Braj Kishore Prasad had requested Gandhiji to pay a visit to Champaran. The session had also adopted a resolution on the Champaran situation. In the April 1917, A.I.C.C. session, held in Calcutta, Gandhiji and Rajendra Prasad sat very close to each other but he did not know that Gandhiji was to be taken to his residence in Patna on his way to Champaran. He, therefore, left for Puri when the session ended. When Gandhiji reached Rajendra Prasad's residence in Patna next morning, the servant took him to be a client and a villager and showed him the servant's bathroom and the well outside. Barefooted, clad in half achkan, dhoti and Kathiawadi purgree, carrying in a roll his bedding and a few dhotis and some food in a tin box, Gandhiji looked very much an illiterate villager. Gandhiji did not know what to do next, when, hearing of his arrival, Mazharul Haq came and took him to his palatial residence, Sikander Manzil. There was a similar situation at Muzaffarpur Junction Station where Acharya Kripalani, a Professor in the local College, had come to receive Gandhiji with a large number of students. None had seen Gandhiji. None recognized him.
On return to Patna Rajendra Babu learnt all that had happened and hastened to Motihari. He regarded his meeting with Gandhiji as the turning point in his career. He stayed with Gandhiji till his trial was over. Thereafter, things in the country took a different course, by reason of the Rowlatt Act and the Punjab upheaval, and in 1920, even before the civil disobedience and non-cooperation resolution of the special session of the Congress held in Calcutta in September had been confirmed by the regular session held in December at Nagpur, he took the plunge. He openly pledged himself to defy unrighteous laws, and resort to civil disobedience and non-cooperation and thus he constituted himself more or less as an outlaw in the eyes of the British Government in India.
The decades that followed were years of intense activity and heavy suffering. He ceased to be a Senator of the University to the regret of the British Vice-Chancellor. He withdrew his sons, Mrityunjaya and Dhanajjaya, and his nephew, Janardan from the Benares Hindu University and other schools. He wrote articles for Searchlight and the Desh and collected funds for these papers. He toured a lot, explaining, lecturing, exhorting. He was the life-breath of the constructive programme and a great votary of Khadi. He was the first leading political figure in the Eastern Provinces to join forces with Gandhiji at a time when the latter was without a large and effective following. Another such leader from the West who joined Gandhiji was Vallabhbhai Patel. During the Nagpur Flag Satyagraha Rajendra Babu and Vallabhbhai came closer. Rajendra Babu cherished Sardar's friendship as one of the most pleasant memories of his life. He often went to Sabarmati and toured the country with Gandhiji. He suffered several terms of rigorous imprisonment. He suffered privations for want of a regular income of his own. All the while he suffered from asthma. He would not accept any financial assistance from the Congress or from any other source and depended mostly on his elder brother.
He was in jail when on 15 January, 1934 the devastating earthquake in Bihar occurred. He was released two days later. Though ailing, he set himself immediately to the task of raising funds and organizing relief. The Viceroy also raised a fund for the purpose. While his fund swelled to over 38 lakhs, the Viceroy's fund, despite his great influence, resources and prestige, remained at one third of the amount. The way relief was organized left nothing to be desired. Nationalist India expressed its admiration by electing him to the President of the Bombay session of the Indian National Congress. Mahendra Prasad, his elder brother, had died. The Congress through a resolution remembered his social services and his devotion to the national cause.
When the Congress Ministries were formed in 1937, it was the Parliamentary Board consisting of Sardar Patel, Rajendra Babu and Maulana Azad, which really and effectively provided guidance and control. In 1939 when Subhas Chandra Bose had to be relieved of the office of the Congress President, it was Rajendra Prasad who was persuaded to face the crisis and overcome it. The Congress faced another crisis when Acharya Kripalani resigned and Rajendra Babu had to step into the breach, even though he happened to be India's Food and Agriculture Minister and President of the Constituent Assembly.
He realized that industrialism had disrupted the web of village life woven and integrated for centuries. It had to be re-woven into a new pattern. He wanted that pattern to be inspired by Gandhian values; human needs and acquisitiveness to be regulated through self-discipline; agricultural production to be maximized, village industries to be resuscitated and their scope enlarged; the old sense of community to be recaptured. But he found that the country was unable to resist the pull of industrialization, even hurriedly thought-out industrialization, and he was not happy at the development. This was one reason why he declined to accept the Chairmanship of the Planning Commission. This was why, when Wavell informally enquired what portfolio he would choose if he were to choose it for himself, he said that he hardly needed time to think about it. It had to be Food and Agriculture. Wavell was amused and there was an unspoken why. "Well", Rajendra Babu went on, "the subject is familiar to me. He knew all that the best farmer knows about agricultural operations and practices. But he also realized that certain improvements had to be effected on those methods. The slogan 'Grow More Food' was given by him and the campaign was initiated by the Food Ministry under his guidance. He could not, however, continue for long in that Ministry and ensure compliance with the policies initiated by him. But, before he relinquished charge, he did, as Gandhiji wanted, effect decontrol of food grains, and though officials and public men alike had prophesied disaster, nothing untoward happened.
His stewardship of the Constituent Assembly was exemplary. He guided, regulated, controlled, but did so with such infinite patience, skill, grace and firmness that not only none had a sense of grievance but all felt that the discussions were always full, free and frank and left nothing to be desired. During the very first session of the Constituent Assembly, he had announced that though the Assembly was born under limitations it would outgrow those and function as a sovereign body, recognizing no outside authority. The proceedings of the last day of the Constituent Assembly read like pages from a book of tributes and, in a way, indicate how loved and respected he was by each section of the House.
His elevation to the Presidentship in 1950 came as a matter of course. There were some doubts in some quarters. Could a person who was temperamentally a peasant, who lived and dressed like one, impress in an office where ceremonialism and gilded trappings counted? But nothing else was possible. He was the only choice and there could not be another.
As President, he exercised his moderating influence and moulded policies or actions so silently and unobtrusively that many were led to think that, unlike any other Head of State, he neither reigned nor ruled.
He never worried about what people said about him. He never looked into the mirror of history. There were occasions when he differed from the Prime Minister. But that was nothing new. They had differed for almost three decades and yet worked together in the Congress. The differences never embittered their personal relations. Perhaps, both realized that they arose out of their differing backgrounds, beliefs, approaches and attitudes.
It was in 1960 that he announced his intention to retire, and though there were many regrets and many tried to persuade him to continue for a third term, his mind was made up. Jayaprakash Narayan welcomed the decision, suggesting that his direct guidance might be available after retirement to the Sarvodaya Movement. But the 1961 illness, severed and protracted, shattered Rajendra Prasad's health completely. Many therefore, worried at his decision to go back to the Sadaquat Ashram. How could he guide any constructive movement with that frail body of his? Would not the inconveniences of the Ashram prove too much for his health?
His elder sister Bhagwati Devi had passed away in the night of 25 January, 1960. She doted on her dearly-loved younger brother, to whose house she had returned within two years of her marriage, a widow at nineteen. It must have taken Rajendra Babu all his will power to have taken the Republic Day salute as usual, on the following day, seemingly unruffled. It was only on return from the parade that he set about the task of cremation.
Within months of his retirement, early in September 1962, passed away his wife Rajbanshi Devi, whose contribution to making him what he was, though indirect, was considerable. Frail and an invalid for a long time, she was the very embodiment of the spirit of renunciation, selflessness, self-effacement and devotion. She had asked for little and though she had been only partly a companion to him, she had silently encouraged him and never stood in the way. Her husband's will was her will, his pleasure hers. Not many words were exchanged between the two - they would sit quietly together for hours - and yet their silent communion filled the atmosphere with distinct aura.
No wonder, his last days were days of agony. The Chinese aggression had shaken him completely. He had apprehended the danger. He had thought of the dreaded possibility. But "perhaps those who thought otherwise knew better". This consolation was shaken away by the naked aggression. His will to live was weakening. In a letter to one devoted to him, he wrote a month before his death: "I have a feeling that the end is near, end of the energy to do, end of my very existence". And so, when the end came suddenly on 28 February, 1963, he was not unprepared. He died, after a few hours' illness, with 'Ram Ram' on his lips.
Ever since the present Contributor came near him in 1933, the bond grew stronger as the years passed. Rajendra Prasad had great affection for him and valued his judgement. Rajendra Babu and the present Contributor were together in the Birla House when the Interim Government was formed in September 1946. Rajendra Babu said, "We must now move to our residences" The present contributor had brought nothing except his clothes, and wondered as to how to go about setting up a home. When he reached No. Queen Victoria Road - now Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road - in the evening, he was pleasantly surprised to find that not only were all provisions and utensils and crockery's there, but even the statue of goddess Lakshmi had not been forgotten.
Rajendra Babu shared Gandhiji's great vision, the making of a new man in a new society. His mind was capable of broad sweeps. But it would take in at the same time the smallest details.