(This Essay by Ms Niki Kumari, I Year, MSc(Phy), Madras Christian College, Chennai was adjudged the 1st Position in the Online Essay Contest conducted in October 2013)

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know, whether you did or not”, said Oprah Winfrey.        

The dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of having high moral principles; quality of being united”.

Integrity is a firm adherence to a code of moral as artistic values which go hand-in-hand with character and honesty. It also has some hidden connotation such as those including uprightness, purity, probity, sincerity, decency, fidelity, trustworthiness, etc. It is something which has to be measured from within as you are faced with various situations. Integrity is the backbone of our chosen hobby. Without it we are nothing and with it we are merely doing what should be done. It is how we approach the game and will be the final measuring stick by which we are truly successful or are merely facades on an empty set.

 Integrity begins with how we get to our ends. Do we take advantage of opportunities or do we manipulate circumstance to arrive at a destination? It also means that we truly put time into crafting our skills. 

“Integrity can be neither lost nor concealed nor faked nor quenched nor artificially come by nor outlived, nor, I believe, in the long run, denied”, said Eudora Welty. This show of respect was not pretence, but genuine accolades for honest achievers. This is from the heart and as is mentioned in the quote, it cannot be faked.

Richard Buckminster Fuller said, “Integrity is the essence of everything successful”. The only key to our country attaining the status of developed nation is integrity. Integrity instils in one the idea of basic civic sense, the thought to take it upon oneself to change the society for the good.

Integrity also means to have high moral principles, but also the key to the growth of our nation, the ability to make ethical judgements in the face of diversity, to be united as a nation in spite of being faced by thousands of differences, to uphold the ideals of morality taught to us scores of years ago, to be the change and to be nothing less than oneself and find pride in it.   

The history of mankind bears witness to the fact that whenever there has been a decline of righteousness and rise of unrighteousness, there have come up certain selfless and committed individuals who, through their dedication, personal integrity, noble intentions and self-sacrifice, have waged a relentless war to protect the virtuous, to destroy the wicked and to re-establish the righteousness.

The real heat of the forge is needed to melt the iron but the metal assumes a new shape and gains in utility when it cools down, when it feels the touch of cold water and bracing air. Aptly called as “The Iron Man of India”, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel sets us an example to live our life upholding integrity throughout. Born on 31st October 1875 in Gujarat, he studied law in England but returned to India and practiced in Ahmedabad. Influenced by the nationalist leader Mohandas Gandhi, he joined the Civil Disobedience Movement and successfully organised the landowners of Bardoli against the British tax increases. In 1931, he served as president of the Indian national congress. As the home minister, minister of state, and the deputy prime minister (1947-1950) adroitly achieved the peaceful integration of the princely Indian states into the union.

Due to the achievement of this massive task, Sardar Patel got the title of “Iron Man”. He was one of the most prestigious leaders of the world who became immortal by uniting a scattered nation without any bloodshed. His swift cool reaction to Gandhi’s assassination in 1948 is widely believed to have averted a possible civil war.

There were more than 600 states in India at that time. Except a few they were small states. Some of the Maharajas and Nawabs who ruled over these were sensible and patriotic. But most of them were drunk with wealth and power. They were dreaming of becoming independent rulers once the British quit India. They argued that the government of free India should treat them as equals. Some of them went to the extent of planning to send their representatives to the United Nations Organisation.

If these states had not become a part of free India there would have been many problems. India would have had to take their permission for trains to pass through their states. If inter-state rivers flowed through these states, India would have had to seek their permission to use the waters. Their permission would have been needed to build dams. And, in the event of a war between India and any other country, how would these 600 states behave? These 600 states would have been 600 sores in the body of India. The question of one of them, Kashmir, was not settled immediately; even now Pakistan occupies a part of that state. This is still a headache to India. If the problem of the states had not been solved quickly, there would have been several problems like that of Kashmir.      

Integrity can be of different types. We can have intellectual integrity, financial integrity, moral integrity etc. What we expect when we use the term integrity is a certain amount of consistency and fairness. In the case of intellectual integrity it means that the person does not change his views or perception depending upon the circumstances or external considerations. On the same line, moral integrity would mean observing the same principles irrespective of the situation. In the case of financial integrity, it will mean that one does not aspire for somebody else’s money or property. After all corruption is the use of public office for private profit.

Let me put forward the most basic question ‘Is integrity necessary for public life?’ there have been thinkers like Machiavelli in the West and the Kautilya in the East who felt that the moral standards prescribed for a private individual cannot be applied when one deals with public life. A person who has high moral standards is bound to take decisions, which are also in the public interest.

The establishment and maintenance of integrity in public life and public service requires a number of elements, including: legislation, regulations and codes of conduct; a society whose religious, political and social values expect honesty from politicians and officials; professionalism among officials; and a political leadership with the moral and political courage and will to take its responsibility, both public and private, seriously.

The observance of integrity is not a simple thing, if it is practiced properly and conscientiously, it will deliver the society from many of its venomous ills. As Sardar Patel said, “you will not have a united India if you do not have a good all India service which has the independence to speak out its mind and which has a sense of security. I need hardly emphasize that an efficient, disciplined and contented service assured of its prospects as a result of diligent and honest work is the sine qua non of sound administration under a democratic regime, even more than under authoritarian rule”. Thus integrity needs to be given much importance especially in the public life so as to have a harmony in the society.

The memorable lines of H.W. Longfellow like this:

“Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us, Footprints in the sands of time”.

Let us look upon the integrity in public life in the Sardar Patel’s way. What makes the public? It’s we the people who make up the public and there by developing self – integrity can make way for inculcating integrity in public life. “Introspection is a good virtue”. In this globalized world, where new markets are sprouting out each day the competition is getting tougher. People fail to understand that the tough can get going and rather they seek shortcuts to fortune which ends up in corruption. At that point honesty is ignored. The moral values have started vanishing the young minds. Moral ethics has taken a backseat. The moral strength comes up with the realization of the supreme power, understanding our religion in a right way and of course knowing the purpose of our birth.

When we talk about religion, what strikes our mind at once will be the differences in each religion and the rituals. But that was not the case with Sardar Patel. He was religious without observing any of the rituals and practices which are usually associated with religion. Thus he had complete control over his body and mind. It is only if one has deep faith in an invisible power, and has an underlying current of religion, that one is inspired to render selfless service and to work unceasingly in public interest, regardless of cost to oneself. Thus moral strength is a vital factor for public integrity.

The education system must be revised a little. Moral science must be made mandatory in the syllabus and also any spiritual course. Moreover, we must be religious, as it can add up to our moral strength. But be sure that our religion must be as quoted by Abraham Lincoln – “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion”.

Next I would like to emphasis on tolerance the ability to bear the pain. Patel had a natural ability to bear great physical pain. To quote an instance, once he had a boil. The only remedy known to the villagers was to have the boil punctured by the local barber. The barber was accordingly called, and when he hesitated to carry out the operation with the help of a red – hot iron rod, the Sardar reproached him and taking the rod from his hand, put it on the boil quickly. Thus was his tolerance.

Life is not a bed of roses. We have got to be more tolerant towards the challenges we face. Tolerance must be in the hardships we face but not for the injustice done onto us our country is a democratic country and here people have every right to know the functioning of the government and question it too.

Good governance is in short, anti corruption where as authority and its institution is accountable, effective, transparent and efficient. But we don’t find good governance now. The following word by Mavlankar was written in an article on Patel’s 70th birthday:  “As a lawyer Patel has mostly criminal practice. But the one great quality which struck everyday and win for him the admiration of all was the ‘ fearlessness’ with which he dealt with the court in which he was appearing. He would never allow a judge to overstep in the least the limits of courtesy, nor would he allow or tolerate any unfairness, injustice or improper leaning on the part of the court in favour of the police or the prosecution. He thus safeguarded the self – respect of the bar and the public”.

When we find any case of injustice, we must raise question and for that we have to realize that we have got every right to question against any malfunctioning in the government. Fearlessness is a part of integrity which helps in a good governance too. Thus exercising our fundamental rights and duties is a must for inculcating integrity in public life.

The domestic laws, rights and duties must be taught in the high school and college levels. To understand the government’s functioning, we can have students’ council in colleges, having voting systems and thereby familiarize and emphasis students on the importance of voting. Moreover, “Self help is the best help”. That is actually the Patel’s way of learning. In a speech in 1921, during the non – co-operation days, he gave an account of how his mind then worked. As a part of the speech he says: “I was told that only if I could get 7 to 10 thousand rupees, I would be able to proceed to England (to fulfil his ambition of becoming a barrister). No one was likely to give me so much money. I realized finally that if I wanted to go to England, I had to earn the money myself. I therefore studied very earnestly for my law examination and resolved firmly to save sufficient money for a visit to England”.

The Geeta says that this mortal frame is perishable but the spirit within it is never dead so when we say that Sardar Patel was dead in 1950, we simply mean that he was physically dead but he is spiritually alive and his spirit must not be dead. His spirit shall ever live till India lives and shall continue to inspire the people of India in the generations to come. He was the only man who made it possible for all 560 odd Indian states to merge with independent India made India one nation.

To conclude, when everyone takes care of himself, care is taken of all. So, let us follow the footsteps of Sardar Vallabhai Patel to inculcate integrity in Public life. Let us remember him with reverence and bow to him. Let us emulate his admirable qualities.

“For your life to change, you must change”, said Jim Rohn.



•         Articles from ‘The Hindu’, daily news paper

•         Books on the life of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

•         Arihant books by SC Gupta

•         Articles from Wikipedia and vivopedia.

•         Golden Quotations Book by T.R. Srinivasan

•         India wins freedom – Maulana Abul Kalam Azad


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