EDITORIAL Sarat Chandra Sinha- a great visionary — Babul Tamuli
Appreciating the ideals and principle of Mahatma Gandhi, the great scientist Albert Einstein once said, ‘Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.’ The remark is also most appropriately fit in the life of Sarat Chandra Sinha, the former Chief Minister of Assam who died only three years ago. An idealist of the highest order, Sinha belonged to a rare breed of politicians who sacrificed his life for the welfare of the downtrodden people of the society. A true Gandhian, he upheld the virtue of ‘simple living and high thinking.’ His illustrious life was a rare combination of honesty, simplicity and integrity. Acclaimed as the most capable Chief Minister of Assam, he lived like a saint with dignity and honour. He went to office walking from his residence and returned with his evening marketing on a rickshaw. It is quite unbelievable for the present generation that he washed his own clothes, swept the floor of his house even when he was the Chief Minister of Assam. But such a man in ‘flesh and blood’ travelled in the crowded city buses or walked along the dilapidated foot-paths of Guwahati city only three years ago.
Hailing from a farmer family of Chapar in the present day district of Dhubri in lower Assam, Sinha played a pivotal role in merging the undivided Goalpara district with Assam. During the reorganisation of States on the basis of languages in early 50s, a section of people in lower Assam tried to merge the undivided Goalpara district with West Bengal. But Sinha fought the move alone, and kept Goalpara district well embedded within the geographical boundary of Assam. He acted as a bridge between the people living in the Char areas of lower Assam with the people from mainstream. His immense love for the people irrespective of caste, creed and religion made him the undisputed leader, particularly in lower Assam. He was elected to the State Assembly from Bilashipara constituency for four terms- 1946-52, 1962-67, 1972-78 and 1985-90. As president of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee in 1972, he led the Congress government of the State.
Sinha’s tenure as Chief Minister is regarded as a glorious chapter in the post independence political history of Assam that witnessed a number of significant events. After formation of the State of Meghalaya in 1972, he took the bold decision to shift the State’s capital from Shillong to Dispur. His foresighted decision not only gave the State its own capital, but it also helped a lot in maintaining cordial relation between the two neighbouring States. Sinha was instrumental in setting up the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital and Bongaigaon Refinery and Petrochemical Limited. He proved his dexterity as an able administrator, statesman and visionary by tackling the ‘medium of instruction’ movement of 1972 that jolted the entire Assam.
As Chief Minister, Sinha relentlessly fought to remove the glaring disparities existed in the society. He believed in decentralisation of power and introduced Panchayati Raj in the State for the welfare of the backward communities. To safeguard the rights of the ‘adhiyars’ and ‘ryots’, he brought the Sixth Schedule into the Assam. Land Revenue Act. Not caring about his political career, Sinha imposed the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act that invited the wrath of urban elite society. Many political analyst attributed it as the chief cause of his political decline.
His concern for the burning problem of unemployment inspired him to implement many schemes for the welfare of unemployed youths of the State. He motivated the youths for self-employment. He was instrumental behind initiation of commercial plying of autorickshaws in Guwahati that provided livelihood to many people. He also sowed the seeds of cooperative movement in Assam to boost State’s economy.
A loyalist of Nehru family, Sinha had a good rapport with Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India. But her proclamation of Emergency in 1977 turned Sinha a bitter critic of Indira Gandhi. After the end of Emergency when the Indian National joined Congress split into the Congress (I) and the Congress (S) in 1978, Sinha joined the latter and elected the president of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (S). In 1987,’ he was elected as the national president of the Congress (S). When the party merged with the Nationalist Congress Party, Sinha was chosen the president of its State unit and held that post till his death on December 25, 2005.
Known for his value based politics, Sinha never compromised with his principle he preached and practised. Otherwise, he would have stood by Indira Gandhi and flourished in his political career. But a man of moral and substance, Sinha sticked to his principle and walked alone in a deserted path.
A man of the masses, Sinha became a living legend during his lifetime. He was the most common man in an uncommon society. Like a young man at the age of 90, he attended literary discussion, drama workshop, dharna, hunger strike or trade union meeting. Sinha’s life is an open book of politics. When corruption , nepotism and vulgarity become an order of the day, there are many lessons to learn from his life. Such a man of ethics and substances deserves for the Bharat Ratna Award even after his death. (Published on the occasion of Sinha’s death anniversary on December 25)