On 1 November 1966, India saw the birth of its 17th state, Haryana, carved out of Punjab. Two years ago Ram Varma had graduated from the prestigious IAS Academy and was allocated to Punjab. He was then transferred to Haryana, which was a state in turmoil and had within a year infamously been stamped as a land of political infidelity, of ‘Aya Rams and Gaya Rams’.
Having served in various capacities from subdivisional magistrate to chief secretary, Ram Varma, in Life in the IAS, relives the history of Haryana in the first three formative decades. An ambitious work, it covers the whole range of the state’s history-its inception, the chief ministers at the helm, the bureaucracy, the infrastructure reconstruction programme, including the innovative lift-irrigation projects, and much more-as captured against the nation’s history which too was crafting a resurgent identity.
The book pivots its central narrative around the portrayal of the three Lals of Haryana – Bansi Lal, Devi Lal and Bhajan lal – who dominated the scene. Barring a few years, Haryana was ruled by the Lals, who chased each other in and out of office. The author has watched this fledgling state grow during their respective reigns, keenly observed the workings of each chief minister and has been a witness to the fascinating drama of its transformation from a poor, resource-less state to a progressive, front-ranking one during his tenure.
Packed with interesting anecdotes, tongue-in-cheek observations, behind-the-scenes political happenings and personal recollections, this book captures the extraordinary journey of Haryana, its three towering leaders-the Lals-and author Ram Varma who takes the ups and downs of his distinguished career in his rollicking stride, experiencing thrills and triumphs, trials and tribulations.
Ram Varma was teaching English at the Univerity of Jodhpur when in 1964 he was admitted to the Indian Administrative Service which catapulted him into the corridors of power. Initially allocated to the Punjab cadre, he was transferred to Haryana at its formation in 1966.
In the course of his illustrious career, Varma worked as Director of Public Relations and Tourism, Director of Agriculture and Deputy Commissioner, Bhiwani, during Bansi Lal’s rule till 1977. later, he worked as Director of Public Relations and Tourism and State Transport Commissioner under Bhajan Lal. Under Devi Lal’s reign, he held the important portfolio of Chairman, Electricity Board. When Bansi Lal became chief minister again in 1996, he appointed Ram Varma his Principal Secretary.
Varma became Chief Secretary, Haryana, in 1997 and retired in August 2000.
Ram Sahai Varma was allotted to Punjab on his first Indian Administrative Service (IAS) posting in 1965, and assigned to serve as assistant commissioner in Hisar district. I was then functioning as deputy commissioner in Hisar; so he entered the service as a trainee under my guidance. On the formation of Haryana in the following year, we both moved over to the new state. I have thus known him from the earliest days. I have with great interest observed the subsequent progress of his career, which coincided with the development of the state in its early formative stages under the three tals'. He is, therefore, in an ideal position to chronicle the significant developments, personalities, trials and tribulations of these crucial early years, as well as the young state's notable achievements.
I was, hence, very pleased when he informed me that he had started working on this book. I had recently brought out my own memoirs' which also dealt with my experiences in Haryana, but not in the detail that a dedicated volume on the state would afford. The formation and development of Haryana has not received the comprehensive attention it deserves, and Varma's perspective, which will be different from mine, will add another dimension.
He aptly likens his book to a song of the kingfisher. Like the kingfisher, Varma's high perch as principal secretary to Chief Minister Bansi Lal, in two stints, and later as chief secretary of the state gave him a unique vantage point. In addition—this is unusual for a bureaucrat—his song has a melodious tone and one finds it quite engrossing. His preface is especially endearing, linking the origins of Haryana to the Saraswati and recalling hymns of the Rigveda in support of the existence of the sacred river.
Although he was a young trainee with no prior administrative experience when he joined my team, it did not take me long to size him up. War had broken out with Pakistan, and we were without a public relations officer, a position which at that time was an absolute necessity. Instead of waiting for the post to be filled in on a regular basis, I decided to put my trust in this young officer who was already with me, and he did not disappoint me. Varma fully lived up to my expectations, showing great initiative in handling the job, and did so with great aplomb. The experience thus gained stood him in good stead as after a few years, against the advice of the chief secretary, Chief Minister Bansi Lal appointed him to look after public relations for the entire state. He won the confidence of the chief minister by bringing a fresh approach to his job, and his immediate boss, the chief secretary, could find nothing to complain about.
The book is very well written, interlaced with humour. In highlighting the roles of the three chief ministers, he has shown objectivity in analyzing both the plus and minus points. In regard to his personal life, he has been engagingly candid, particularly in regard to choosing a life partner. His was an arranged marriage and it was customary (as it still often is) for the boy to 'see' a girl and then others, if she did not meet his approval. Varma refused to conform to tradition as he felt that in case of rejection it was humiliating for the girl. He, therefore, asked his mother to choose his wife, which she did. Everything worked out well, and he tied the knot with Savitri. The gods obviously blessed them for theirs was a happy married life. His travels with Savitri to Amarnath and his Bharat Darshan with her and the family make for a fascinating reading.
I have no doubt that young entrants to the civil service will find the book interesting and relevant. For those interested in state politics it is a remarkable case study of the functioning of different chief ministers, each having different interests (and each hating the others), but at the same time not neglecting the vital interests of the state. As I also had the opportunity of working with the three chief ministers, and observing them closely, perhaps I may add my own perceptions.
All three were distinct personalities with varying lifestyles, habits, likes and dislikes, as well as different approaches to people and problems. In addition to the three Lals, I came into contact with two other chief ministers-Bhagwat Dayal, the first chief minister, and Rao Birender Singh, who toppled him.
The three Lals were from a rural background, and only Bansi Lal, who was a law graduate, possessed a university degree. The other two had their education in the rough and tumble of politics, starting from the village level, and acquired expertise in the art of manipulation, intrigue and deception, proficient enough to conduct refresher courses for newcomers. Of the three, Bansi Lal was the only one who had had no previous exposure to administration at any level. Bhajan Lal had served as the chairman of panchayat samiti in Hisar Development Block when I was the deputy commissioner of the district. Devi Lal, in the time of United Punjab, had served as parliamentary secretary under the then chief minister, the builder of modern Punjab, Partap Singh Kairon. Another later chief minister of Haryana, Banarsi Das Gupta, had similar experience, as I appointed him chairman of Bhiwani Improvement Trust. Bansi Lal had no such advantage, and was totally raw so far as administrative experience was concerned. It was thus all the more remarkable that he was able to harness the bureaucracy for the benefit of the state, giving us his trust and support and shielding us from other unscrupulous politicians.
Not only did Bansi Lal prove himself to be a shrewd politician, generally one step ahead of his rivals, but he also attracted the attention of the entire country with his complete grasp over administration and his priorities for development, with a focus on rural development, agriculture, irrigation, rural infrastructure and welfare schemes. In his ability to translate his ideas into reality within strictly defined periods, he set standards hard to match. While laying the foundation of a project invariably he would fix the date of inauguration. He had once invited Prime Minister Indira Gandhi well in advance to inaugurate a project (the completion of a bridge on the Ghaggar River) on a specific date. She later commented that initially she thought it was a gimmick, but to her surprise found that he was serious. Mrs Gandhi, in fact, had such experiences more than once. The entire state, for instance, had to be electrified by a particular date and the task was completed well in advance.
Bansi Lal had vision. He knew what would be good for the state and also what would give it a good image. His unstinting support enabled Haryana to become the pioneer in highway tourism. It also became the only state in the country to set up a full-fledged non-elitist public school, enabling both boys and girls of the poorer sections of the community to get quality education at par with the best public schools. As an added advantage, it had perhaps the best sports infrastructure of any school, not only in India but in any of the neighbouring countries as well. Vast avenues for future employment opened up to the children of the Motilal Nehru School of Sports in Rai. I have come across IAS officers, architects, engineers, surgeons, economists, entrepreneurs and corporate executives proudly mentioning that they were products of the school.
A celebrated hymn in the Rigveda called Nadi-stuti, invokes 19 rivers of the Sapta-Sindhu region the Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, the Sindhu (Indus) and its tributaries. It showers high praise on the mighty Sindhu, `bellowing like a bull, whose tumultuous roar 'rises up to heaven from the earth' and who is 'impetuous like a dappled mare, fair and beautiful'. The hymn enumerates the tributaries of the Indus Shutudri (Sutlej), Parushni (Ravi), Asikni (Chenab), Vitasta (Jhelum), together with those in modern Afghanistan Shveta (Swat), Kubha (Kabul), Gomati (Gomal), Krumu (Kurram) and so on which came 'rushing to him Indus like cows, their udders full of milk.
Some other hymns of the Rigveda are dedicated exclusively to the Saraswati River. They shower superlative praise on the Saraswati, which flowed through the region that comprise present-day Haryana, northern Rajasthan and southern parts of Pakistan and drained into the Arabian Sea. This river, revered by the Rigvedic people, dried up in about 1950 BC, and disappeared from terra firma. These hymns vividly enshrine the river's memory. They portray her as a mighty river rising from the Himalayan glaciers and flowing into the ocean. One oft-quoted hymn that testifies to its expanse from the mountains to the sea says: Tkachetat Saraswati nadinam shuchiryati giribhya as samudrat'2 (Purest among all the rivers and vibrant, the Saraswati moves on from the mountains to the ocean)? Another hymn captures its power and grandeur: 'This [Saraswati] has shattered the mountain peaks with her fast and powerful waves just [as easily] as one uproots the lotus-stems; let us invoke her, who strikes what is far and near, with holy hymns and prayers... Whose boundless, impetuous and swift-moving flood gushes forth with a tempestuous roar:4 The Saraswati River had in fact been accorded the status of a deity in the Rigveda. In a hymn that invokes various deities such as Vayu, Indra, Soma, etc., a fervent eulogy is heaped upon her:
It is quite clear from these hymns that the Rigvedic people were familiar with and had dwelt in what they called the Sapta-Sindhu' region—a vast region that included parts of modern Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the region lying along the Saraswati appears to have been the favourite haunt of the Rigvedic rishis. In later Vedic times, the area in Saraswati's upper reaches, lying between the Drishadwati (the present-day Chautang) and the Shutudri (Sutlej), was called the Bramhavarta. Bramhavarta had come to be regarded as the epicentre of the Vedic civilization. This is the region that roughly corresponds to the modern state of Haryana.
The history of Haryana therefore goes back to the dawn of civilization in the Indian subcontinent. Innumerable sites of the so-called Pre-Harappan Civilization (which should in fact be called the Saraswati Civilization' as the sites on this river are of much older vintage than Harappa and Mohenjo-daro) lie buried along the dried-up bed of the fabled Saraswati. Over two millennia later, the descendants of the Kuru dynasty fought the epic battle of Mahabharata at Kurukshetra where Shri Krishna gave his famous (now greatly amplified) exhortation to Arjuna on the battlefield.
In modern times, the last great Hindu king of India, Harshavardhana, ruled from Sthaneshwara near Kurukshetra in the seventh century. Prithviraj Chauhan III fought the invader Muhammad of Ghor on the plains of Taraori near Karnal in 1191 where the invader was wounded and his forces were routed. But Muhammad returned to fight the next year in 1192 when Prithviraj was defeated and taken prisoner. Later in 1526, Babur (the Tiger) defeated the Delhi Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi in the First Battle of Panipat and laid the foundations of the great Mughal Empire. The child Akbar's armies under Bairam Khan defeated the Hindu king Hemu in the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556, and the resurgent Maratha power was dealt a decisive blow in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, which cleared the way for the establishment of the British dominion.
The Haryana territories were tagged with Punjab in 1858 by the British as a punishment to the Nawabs and Rajas of Haryana for waging war against them during the Revolt in 1857. Raja Nahar Singh of Ballabhgarh, Nawab Abdur Rehman of Jhajjar, Rao Tula Ram of Rewari, Nawab Ahmed Ali of Farrukhnagar and the Nawab of Dadrihad surrounded Delhi. However, the British got support from the Sikh chieftains in Punjab. With the help of the Sikh armies of Patiala, Jind and Nabha the British succeeded in recapturing Delhi and dousing the fire of rebellion. Thereupon, the British retaliated with utter savagery. They hanged Raja Nahar Singh and the Nawabs of Jajjhar, Dadri and Farrukhnagar and many others and exiled Rao Tula Ram to Kabul. They gifted the Haryana territories of these chieftains to Patiala, Jind and Nabha as a reward for their loyalty.
Independence had come to India at the heavy price of Partition. Half of Bengal and the most fertile north-western tracts of the Punjab that had been furrowed since the days of the Indus Civilization and where a network of canal irrigation had been created by the British in appreciation of their loyalty—Jhelum, Sialkot, Lyallpur, Montgomery, Multan, etc. were ceded to Pakistan, as they were Muslim-majority areas. The truncated Punjab that came to India's share was further slashed and pruned at its reorganization as the Akalis were averse to coexistence with its Hindi-speaking areas adjoining the dusty Rajasthan and the hilly Himachal Pradesh. They launched a prolonged and fierce agitation for a 'Punjabi Suba'. As a result, the remaining better irrigated and prosperous areas such as Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Firozpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, etc. went to the newly created state of Punjab. Haryana was carved out of the remaining sparsely irrigated areas such as Hisar, Ambala, Karnal and Rohtak, besides the vast sandy tracts of Mahendragarh and Bhiwani which adjoined Rajasthan, where rainfall was scanty and droughts and famines frequent visitors.
Undaunted by the natural handicap of semi-desert and arid conditions prevailing in most of the region, Haryana surprisingly came out of the throes of chronic backwardness and impoverishment within a remarkably short time. This miracle was mainly due to a visionary leadership and the toil of its hardworking people whose latent energies were unleashed after gaining a new identity.
No songs of nativity were sung at the birth of Haryana on 1 November 1966; there were no festivities and celebrations as in Punjab to greet the event. Unlike in Punjab, there had been no public demand for the creation of Haryana. Indeed at its birth there hung a huge question mark on the new state's viability due to its poor resource base. Rightly therefore there was a sense of euphoria and jubilation when Haryana celebrated its golden jubilee with great fanfare in Gurugram, close to the national capital. Haryana's rate of growth has been phenomenal and it is now reckoned amongst the most advanced states of the country.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Item Code: NAR138 Author: Ram Varma Cover: HARDCOVER Edition: 2017 Publisher: Rupa Publication India Pvt. Ltd. ISBN: 9788129134899 Language: English Size: 9.50 X 6.50 inch Pages: 344 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.6 Kg