Father of Bhakra Dam

Birender Singh | Updated on: Oct 09, 2018
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Sir Chotu Ram fought for farmers’ welfare

The father of Bhakra Dam, Sir Chhotu Ram, has many firsts to his credit. He conceived of the Bhakhra Dam way back in 1923, to rid the farmers of the so-called economic plague-spots of erstwhile Punjab state.

To honour him, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today unveiled a 64-foot-tall statue of Sir Chhotu Ram in his native village Sampla in Haryana.

He was also the originator of the concept of compensating the farmer for at least the expenses incurred by him on farming, the concept has now evolved into ‘Minimum Support Price’.

He brought nine enactments to improve the financial and social status of farmers. Modern concepts like debt settlement boards, caps on interest, the basic fairness to the tiller were included in these 1930s laws. Punjab Relief Indebtedness Act, 1934 and The Punjab Debtors’ Protection Act, 1936, were created way back in 1930s by Sir Chhotu Ram. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that he gave shape to a bloodless revolution in the field of agriculture and farming.

Not only was he very active in fighting for the rights of poor and downtrodden in Northern India, he was also very vocal on issues of national importance. In a powerful communication, Sir Chhotu Ram wrote to Gandhiji about the consequences that would follow if the demand for Pakistan after the liberation of the country is accepted.

Born on November 24, 1881, in the village of Garhi Sampla, Rohtak, Sir Chhotu Ram was knighted in 1937. He graduated from St Stephen’s College, Delhi in 1905 with a distinction in Sanskrit. He did his LLB from Agra College in 1910 and began his practice as an advocate in 1912. Sir Chhotu Ram rightly recognised the causes of the deteriorating economic conditions of the agricultural classes in his time. Some of these as described by him included burden of unfair taxation and high rate of land revenue, inability to secure fair prices for their production, crushing burden of indebtedness, expenses on litigation, illiteracy and ignorance, under-representation of the class of peasantry in the public services, corruption and frequent occurrence of famines.

All these factors compelled the agriculturists to borrow money from the moneylenders and to live under debt throughout their lives. Peasants had no voice in the legislative set-up. The peasant community was so isolated and downtrodden that it has no motivation to come up and claim its rightful status in the society. In such times, Sir Chhotu Ram emerged as country’s first big agrarian reformer who stood up and fought for the rights of agriculturists. His contribution assumes added significance as he single-handedly worked for betterment in the lives of poor and forsaken farmers.

He exhorted peasants to shed their inferiority complex and fatalistic outlook and become assertive and self-confident. He played a very significant role in the organization of the Jats as a self-conscious community and helped them acquire self-confidence and self-respect.

To tackle the problem of unemployment both in rural and urban areas, Sir Chhotu Ram encouraged agriculture based industries as well as the development of cottage industries in the State. What impressed him the most was Iqbal’s concept of Khudi i.e., self and he used to recite the following lines of the poet quite often: “Raise thyself to such a height that God may himself ask you what do you wish to achieve”.

The writer is Union Minister of Steel, and Grandson of Sir Chhotu Ram

Published on October 09, 2018

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