Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The First President


Bharata Ratna Babu Rajendra Prasad was a saint among politicians. After a brilliant academic career, he enjoyed a lucrative practice at the bar. One of the earliest and foremost disciples of Gandhiji, he plunged into the Champaran Satyagraha of 1917 and devoted the rest of his life to the national cause and the independence movement. He was many times Congress President. With India’s attaining independence, he became Union Minister and President of the Constituent Assembly. He reached the pinnacle of fame as the first President of the Indian Republic and served in that capacity for three terms. Devout and deeply religious, he was an embodiment of the best values in Indian Culture.

Even as President of the country, Rajendra Babu had great concern towards the inconvenience caused to the public whenever he or any other dignitary visited a particular place in his official capacity. In a letter written to India’s first Prime Minister Sri. Jawaharlal Nehru, he wrote:

“I have myself felt and expressed on several occasions my concern about public inconvenience caused by over-elaborate police and security arrangements. I think it is overdone in most cases.

If no such arrangements are made, all that will be required is to give a few minutes more for my transit from one place to another; this loss of my time for a few minutes has to be set off against many more minutes of thousands and thousands of people of the country. As for security, I am afraid what is done in its name only exposes me more as a target to anyone determined on mischief without in anyway making me more secure against such mischief”

Babu Rajendra Prasad and Jamnalal Bajaj were two close inmates of Gandhiji’s Sabarmathi and Wardha Ashrams. They were also equally devoted to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi at the Sri Ramanashram. Recalling his meeting with Rajendra Prasad in 1938, Bhagavan has said:

“Some time ago, Gandhiji came to Tiruvannamalai. A meeting had been arranged to be held on the road round the hill, beyond the Ashram. People here thought that he would come to the Ashram on his way back, but owing to pressure of the crowds it was impossible and he went away direct to the station. It seems he very much regretted this afterwards. When Rajendra Prasad and Jamnalal Bajaj came here in 1938 and saw the Skandashram, they wanted to induce the Mahatma to stay here for sometime. But it did not happen. If at Sabarmathi or at Wardha anyone said that he was mentally depressed, the Mahatma used to say “Go to Ramanashram and come back after a month’s stay there”

In 1956 Rajendra Prasad had opened a Savings Bank Account [S.B. 3068] in the Exhibition Branch of the Punjab National Bank, Patna. The account has been preserved even today as a tribute to the man who remained the First Citizen for 12 consecutive years from 1950-1962. It has been declared as a ‘National Heritage’. In normal circumstances, the account number would have become dormant since it is non-operational for the past 45 years. One prime reason for the account being inoperative is that the First President did not make anybody his nominee while opening the account. In those days, the practice of making a nominee was not much in vogue. As on date the account has a balance of Rs. 1508 [one thousand five hundred and eight rupees] to which interest is added every year. It appears that the Head Office of the Punjab National Bank decided that the account No.3068 should be declared a National Heritage
as Rajendra Prasad was the first person from Bihar to become the first President of Independent India.

“Oh! Rajen Babu, Thou shouldst be living at this Hour

India has need of thee”


Article No.476---BABU RAJENDRA PRASAD,the First President of Republic India
Created: Thursday, December 4, 2008 1:29 AM


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