Just before India became formally independent, the intelligentsia among the freedom fighters had nearly completed all the homework to decide on the National Anthem, National Song and the flag to flutter in glory. The National Flag of India was adopted in its present form during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly held on the 21 July 1947, days before India’s independence from the British on August 15, 1947.
Though they say the British colonised India for more than 300 years, the truth is that British traders like the East India Company manipulated superbly to put one princely state against the other and went on capturing power on their behalf. There were 562 princely states across India which did not have any common political or monarchical objective. Each was sovereign as the monarch designed it to be and was frantic either to annex states or be protected against invasion by powerful monarchs crazy to capture their kingdoms. India was one entity by only a similar culture – family sentiments, marriage, food, social life and old traditional dance and music. By and large, it was too many independent, predominantly warring states too eager to settle scores. This peculiar political chaos helped the European traders take phenomenal advantage in capturing many of the princely states. The biggest strength of the British traders was their weaponry, mostly fire arms and ammunition, which frightened Asian creatures beyond imagination.
The East India Company, thus, took over many of the political affairs in exchange for battle support or helping kings and princess in some administrative reforms. The British authorities provided administrators to supervise and guide the company in achieving the desired goals of making money. But as was expected, the East India Company officials never furnished true details of ground realities and the amount of wealth acquired. So, naturally, the crown never got its official share of money or wealth from the company.
Eventually, the British crown officials got to know that things were not really good on the India front called the ‘jewel in the crown’. So, in a Charter Act of 1833, they created the post of a Governor General of India mainly for administrative purposes. But this functionary would report to the Court of Directors of the East India Company. William Bentinck was the first Governor General.
The 1857 Sepoy Mutiny proved conclusively that everything was wrong about the East India Company. So, the British crown annexed India formally as its political territory. India, thus, remained under the British rule only for 90 years. Until then, it was ruled by proxy. After annexing India to the crown, they abolished the post of Governor General and installed a Viceroy having diplomatic powers and reporting directly to the British crown. The Viceroy was appointed by the sovereign of the British Government under the advice of the Parliament. The East India Company was thrown out of business. Lord Canning was the first Viceroy.
On 21 July 1960, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), chose Sirimavo Bandaranaike as its Prime Minister. She became the world’s first female Prime Minister.
On 21 July 2007, Pratibha Patil became the first woman President of India. Patil’s tenure is remembered to this date for all the wrong reasons. She would frequently take her entire family including her grandchildren on foreign holidays on public money. Apart from this, she was regularly accompanied by her husband, her son’s family and her daughter’s family on most state visits. Patil’s relatives were to be treated as Presidential guests. On her official foreign trips, she took her grandchildren to foreign countries including Poland, the UK, Russia and Spain. Such unethical foreign trips with family members had cost the exchequer a whopping Rs 205 crore.
Most shockingly, Madam President had taken away over 150 gifts received from her foreign counterparts to keep them in her Amravati home showcase. She also displayed these gifts shamelessly at a school exhibition organised by the Vidya Bharati Shaikshanik Mandal headed by Patil herself.
In the 340-room Rashtrapati Bhavan, India’s ex-President APJ Abdul Kalam managed himself in a mere two-room facility, a bedroom and his office. But during Patil’s tenure, the Rashtrapati Bhavan housed not only her own family but a host of her other relatives as well. Everyone’s personal requirements were taken care of by the public exchequer.
Most shockingly, Madam President discarded the official W140 Mercedes Benz S-Class that ferried the humble Dr Kalam, who had promptly switched back to his old Hindustan Ambassador upon completion of his five-year term as India’s first citizen. She upgraded her car to a fanciful luxury, bulletproof W221 Mercedes-Benz S600 Pullman Guard armoured limousine that costs nearly 10 crore rupees today. Due to safety and security protocols, the exact specifications of this exclusive car were not revealed.
During her shameful tenure, Patil built herself a mansion in the cantonment area of Khadki in Pune. For her post-retirement official house, she demanded a five-acre Defence department plot to build a lavish mansion. Eventually, only because of mass agitation, her demand was turned down. Ultimately, Patil’s house was built with people’s money because she was stubborn in her claim for accommodation under the President’s Emoluments and Pensions Act, 1951.
Coincidentally, on July 21, Sirimavo became the first woman head of state in 1960, Pratibha Patil the head of India in 2007 and, most likely, Draupadi Murmu of Odisha, the first tribal woman President of India would take oath around the same time. Draupadi is just the positive antithesis of Pratibha Patil. Draupadi has lost her husband, two sons, brother and mother. She is a true daughter of the soil who is wholly dedicated to improving the quality of life of the deprived, backward and non-vocal communities of India. She is not elitist as Sirimavo or as Pratibha. Her name as the Presidential candidate did come as a simple surprise to her. She is neither euphoric nor excited with fear. She is humble, calm, cool and composed. Evidently, there is absolutely no personal item on her public agenda.