For Global Peace with Social Justice in a Sustainable Environment
Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
BARDOLI AND GOVERNMENT
The illuminating correspondence that has passed between Sjt. Vallabhbhai Patel and the Government of Bombay regarding the assessment in the Bardoli Taluka affords food for reflection to the public worker and reveals in its true light the nature of the Government under which we are living. Vallabhbhai is not unknown to fame or to the Government. They have been obliged to acknowledge his worth as a public worker of great capacity, integrity and industry. They have acknowledged his great work in the Municipality of Ahmadabad. Only the other day he received unstinted praise for his philanthropic services in connection with the floods in Gujarat. But his work seems to have counted for nothing when they found him engaged in an activity calculated to cause them embarrassment and possibly loss of prestige and what is the same thing to them loss of land revenue. Their prestige they need for the sake of their revenue. They are no believers in empty prestige. And so in their very first letter in the matter, they thought it becoming to insult Sjt. Vallabhbhai by calling in question his professions of goodwill and describing him as an outsider in Bardoli. The last letter emphasizes the insult by leaving no doubt that His Excellency the Governor too was party to it. Sjt. Vallabhbhai had courteously assumed in his letter that whilst His Excellency might be identified with a policy enunciated in Government communications, he need not be identified with the manner of expression, more especially the insulting language often adopted by civilian secretaries incensed over any the least resistance or independence betrayed by the public in their correspondence with them.
That the Governor has chosen to become a party to the unwarranted insult shows how difficult it is for Governors, however well-intentioned and impartial they may be reputed to be as the present Governor is, to escape the bureaucratic coil. ‘Pride goeth before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.’ But Vallabhbhai has a back broad enough to bear the wordy insults that the bureaucracy may choose to heap upon him from its safe and entrenched heights. My reason for dwelling on the insult is to draw attention to the utterly irresponsible nature of the Government that dares to insult a public worker of the foremost rank. But let us see for the moment what it is that has upset the Government. Land revenue is a close preserve beyond the pale of law such as it is. The regulation of assessment rests entirely with the executive authority. Every attempt hitherto made to bring it under popular or judicial control has failed The Government must somehow or other meet the ever-growing expenditure, bulk of which is military. Land revenue lends itself to arbitrary increase as it affects the largest class and a class that has no voice, a class that can be squeezed without wincing. There would be an end to irresponsible government if the governed are either allowed to have a say in their taxation or to resist it successfully. Bardoli does not appreciate the increase made in its assessment. Its people approached the Government with petitions and exhausted all the means that are regarded as constitutional to secure redress. Having failed they invited Vallabhbhai to advise them and if necessary to lead them in resisting the Government through Satyagraha.
Vallabhbhai investigated their case and though he found it to be just, sought to approach the Government with a view to save them embarrassment and spare the people prolonged suffering and suggested and honourable course, i.e., suggested that if the Government did not admit the justice of the people’s case, they should appoint an impartial tribunal to investigate the case on either side and assured the Government that the people would abide by the decision of such a tribunal. This reasonable suggestion the Government has scornfully rejected. The public, therefore, are not called upon to accept the popular version as against that of the Government. They are asked merely to support the demand for the appointment of an impartial tribunal and failing such appointment to support their heroic resolve peacefully to resist the assessment and suffer all the consequences of such resistance even including confiscation of their land. Sjt. Vallabhbhai has rightly distinguished the proposed Satyagraha from the swaraj Satyagraha. This campaign cannot be properly deemed to be a no-tax campaign launched for the attainment of swaraj as Bardoli would have done in 1922. This Satyagraha is limited in scope, has a specific local object. Every man has the right, nay; it is his duty to resist an arbitrary unjust levy as the Bardoli assessment is claimed to be by its ryots. But though the object of the proposed Satyagraha is local and specific, it has an all-India application. What is true of Bardoli is true of many parts of India. The struggle has also an indirect bearing on swaraj whatever awakens people to a sense of their wrongs and whatever gives them strength for disciplined and peaceful resistance and habituates them for corporate suffering brings us nearer swaraj.