Celebrating farmers day and the legacy of Choudhary Charan Singh

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Choudhary Charan Singh

“Simplicity doesn’t mean to live in misery and poverty. You have what you need, and you don’t want to have what you don’t need.”

Each year on 23rd December, Farmer’s day is celebrated to honor India’s farmers and mark the birth anniversary of the nation’s fifth Prime Minister, Choudhary Charan Singh. Historians frequently call him the ‘champion of India’s peasants.

Charan Singh was the first ‘Kisan’ prime minister and played an important role in re-organizing the political economy of agriculture by drafting and establishing several bills for agricultural reforms. He cared and fought for the farmers of India and empowered them in unexpected ways. Either by thoughts or deeds, Charan Singh was a farmer by heart.

Choudhary Charan Singh, the first ‘Kisan’ prime minister

Born in Jat family on 23 December 1902, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, Choudhary Charan Singh belonged to the family of Raja Nahar Singh, a prominent leader of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. In 1925, he received a Master of Arts (MA) degree followed by a law degree in 1926. From 1928, he started practicing as a civil lawyer at Ghaziabad.

During his college years, Charan Singh was heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and his principles. He joined the non-violent struggle for independence along with Gandhi and participated in various anti-colonial activities. Due to which in 1930, Singh was jailed for 12 years by the British for his participation in the contravention of salt laws. In 1937, Charan Singh joined the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces, where he introduced an Agricultural Produce Market Bill to the assembly. The bill aims to safeguard the interests of the farmers against the rapacity of traders, and by 1940, most of the Indian states had adopted it.

Choudhary Charan Singh

In 1940, for promoting the individual Satyagraha movement, Singh was again jailed for a year. In 1942, he was once again imprisoned by the British under DIR for another year. After 1947, when Indian gained Independence, Singh openly opposed Nehru’s soviet-style political reforms. He emphasized more on the farmers of India and coined that the right of ownership was important to the farmer in order to remain a farmer. His open opposition to Nehru resulted in Singh leaving the Congress party in 1967.

Choudhary Charan Singh’s political voyage

The same year, he formed his own political party named  Bharatiya Kranti Dal and with the help of Raj Narain and Ram Manohar Lohia, he became the Cheif Minister of Uttar Pradesh the same year and again in 1970. By 1975, Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency and jailed all her political opponents. During the 1977 general elections, being the senior leader of the Janata Party, Singh came to power. He was made Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister in the government.

In 1978, Singh resigned from the post of Home minister following a disagreement with Morarji Desai, the first Indian Prime Minister from a non- Congress party. But a year later, Choudhary Charan Singh was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister. But this truce didn’t last long and the government was reduced to a minority.

In 1979, with the support of the Congress Party, Singh became Fifth Indian Prime Minister on 28 July. But soon, Indira Gandhi withdrew support to his government in the Lok Sabha and within 23 days of service, Singh resigned from the position. Thus, becoming the only Prime Minister to not obtain the confidence of Parliament.

Choudhary Charan Singh died in 1985 but was survived by his wife Gayatri Devi and his six children.

Choudhary Charan Singh

The Legacy he left behind…

Choudhary Charan Singh for his entire life worked for the betterment of the farmers. First, in 1939, he introduced the Debt Redemption Bill which aimed to give relief to the farmers from moneylenders. As he was born in a farmer’s family, Singh knew about the plight the farmers of India go through and thus extended his support to them in every way possible.

The same year, he also drafted a Land Utilisation Bill, whose aim was to “transfer the proprietary interest in agricultural holdings of UP to such of the tenants or actual tillers of the soil who chose to deposit an amount equivalent to ten times the annual rent in the government treasury to the account of the landlord”.

In 1945, he prepared another draft on land and agriculture, which provided for that abolition. The draft was approved by the All-India Congress Working Committee. In 1952, as an agriculture minister of UP, he worked to abolish the zamindari system. He had himself drafted the UP Zamindari and Land Reforms Bill. Due to his experience as a lawyer, Singh worked through the legislation to approve the bill. His victory was noted as a landmark achievement in farmers’ history of the country.

In 1953, he got the Consolidation of Holdings Act passed and helped implement it successfully the following year. He also worked for exempting fertilizer from the sales tax. Choudhary Charan Singh, his entire life worked for the prosperity of Indian agriculture and farmers, and his extensive support in recognizing the peasantry left his legacy lingering in the pages of history.  

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