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Business News/ Opinion / Views/  Remembering Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur: A centenary tribute to a champion of social justice
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Remembering Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur: A centenary tribute to a champion of social justice

Social justice was a cornerstone in Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji's life. He tirelessly worked to establish a society where resources were equitably distributed and opportunities accessible to all, regardless of social standing

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tribute article to Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur, said that one of Karpoori Thakur's most significant contributions to India was his role in strengthening the affirmative action apparatus for backward classes, (File Photo: PTI)Premium
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tribute article to Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur, said that one of Karpoori Thakur's most significant contributions to India was his role in strengthening the affirmative action apparatus for backward classes, (File Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Today marks the birth centenary of Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji, a figure whose relentless pursuit of social justice positively impacted the lives of countless people. Although I never had the privilege of meeting Karpoori Ji personally, his legacy was often recounted to me by Kailashpati Mishra Ji, who worked closely with him. Rising from the Nai Samaj, one of society's most backward segments, he overcame numerous challenges to achieve great things and work for societal betterment.

Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji's life was a testament to the principles of simplicity and social justice. Until his last breath, his modest lifestyle and humility deeply resonated with the common people. Many anecdotes attest to his simplicity. Those who worked with him remember his preference to spend his own money on personal matters, including his daughter's wedding. As the chief minister of Bihar, he refrained from taking land or money for himself when a colony was being built for political leaders. His modest dwelling at his village moved several leaders to tears when they visited to pay tribute after his passing in 1988.

Another instance of his simplicity dates back to 1977, just after he became the chief minister of Bihar. The Janata government was in power in Delhi and Patna. That time, Janata leaders had gathered in Patna to mark Loknayak JP’s birthday. Among the galaxy of top leaders walked in chief minister Karpoori Thakur Ji, with a torn kurta. In his own style, Chandrashekhar Ji asked people to donate some money so that Karpoori Ji could purchase a new kurta. But, Karpoori Ji was Karpoori Ji - he accepted the money but donated it to the CM Relief Fund.

Social justice was a cornerstone in Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji's life. He tirelessly worked to establish a society where resources were equitably distributed and opportunities accessible to all, regardless of social standing. He sought to address the systemic inequalities in Indian society. 

His commitment to these ideals was so strong that, despite the omnipresence of the Congress Party in his era, he maintained an anti-Congress stance, believing that the party had strayed from its founding principles.

His electoral career began in the early 1950s and since then, he became a force to reckon with in the legislative chambers, powerfully voicing the struggles of the working class, labourers, small farmers and youngsters. Education was a subject very close to his heart. Throughout his political career he worked to improve education facilities for the poor. He was a proponent of education in local languages so that people from small towns and villages can climb the ladder and attain success. As chief minister, he took many measures for the welfare of senior citizens as well.

Democracy, debate and discussion were integral to Karpoori Ji’s personality. This spirit was seen when he immersed himself in the Quit India movement as a youngster and it was again seen when he resisted the Emergency tooth and nail. His unique perspectives were great admired by the likes of JP, Dr. Lohia and Charan Singh Ji.

Perhaps one of Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji’s most significant contributions to India was his role in strengthening the affirmative action apparatus for the backward classes, with the hope that they were given the representation and opportunities they deserved. His decision was met with heavy opposition but he did not bow to any pressure. Under his leadership, policies were implemented that laid the groundwork for a more inclusive society, where one's birth did not determine one’s fate. He belonged to the most backward strata of society but he worked for all the people. He had no trace of bitterness in him, which is what makes him truly great.

Over the last ten years, our government has walked on the path of Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji, reflecting in our schemes and policies that have brought transformative empowerment. 

One of the biggest tragedies of our polity has been that barring a few leaders like Karpoori Ji, the call for social justice was restricted to being a political slogan. Inspired by Karpoori Ji’s vision we implemented it as an effective governance model. 

I can say with confidence and pride that Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji would have been very proud of India's feat of freeing 25 crore people from the clutches of poverty in the last few years. These are people from the most backward sections of society, who were denied basic facilities nearly seven decades after freedom from colonial rule. 

At the same time, our efforts towards saturation, of ensuring every scheme reaches 100% coverage echoes his commitment to social welfare. Today, when people from OBC, SC and ST communities are becoming entrepreneurs due to MUDRA Loans, it fulfills Karpoori Thakur Ji’s vision of economic independence.

Likewise, it was our government which had the privilege of extending SC, ST and OBC reservation. We also had the honour of setting up the OBC Commission (which was opposed by Congress, sadly), which is working on the path shown by Karpoori Ji. Our PM-Vishwakarma Scheme will also bring new avenues of prosperity for crores of people belonging to OBC communities across India.

As someone from the backward classes, I owe a great deal to Jan Nayak Karpoori Thakur Ji. We lost him at a relatively young age of 64, a time when we needed him the most. Yet, his legacy continues in the hearts and minds of millions. He was indeed a true Jan Nayak!

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Published: 24 Jan 2024, 01:01 PM IST
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