Indian Thinkers: Nehru, Patel and Mother Teresa

Jawahar Lal Nehru

Nehru was born on November 14, 1889, in Allahabad, India. In 1919, he joined the Indian National Congress and joined Indian Nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi’s independence movement. The British withdrew and Nehru became independent India’s first prime minister. He died on May 27, 1964, in New Delhi, India.

Views on democratic socialism

  • Democratic Socialism as an ideology is an extension of the liberal propagation of democracy altered to suit the needs of all the countries of the world. It is an ideology that believes that the economy and society should function democratically to meet the needs of the whole community.
  • The ideology believes that democracy and socialism are one and indivisible, there cannot be a true democracy without true socialism, and there cannot be true socialism without true democracy. The two come together in equality, social justice, fair share for all and an irreversible shift in the balance of wealth and power to workers and their families.

Views on Freedom

Nehru highly esteemed freedom. By his concept of freedom, he meant the freedom of speech and expression, association and several other aspects of creativity. He had given an integrated conception of political, social and economic freedom which will only operate in a socialistic pattern of society.

Views on secularism

  • Nehru was a rationalist knowing well that human values were superior to religious orthodoxies. 
  • His secular credentials were based upon his rational humanistic attitude towards life, and this life was more important than the one after death. His emphasis on the development of scientific temperament is a great contribution to India because it initiated the fight against religious obscurantism and superstition which the whole country was steeped in. 
  • Nehru’s concept of secularism implied the existence of a uniform civil code for the people of India. He considered the existence of different sets of laws governing different communities as inconsistent with his ideal of a secular society.

Vallabhbhai Patel

He was born on October 31, 1875, in Nadiad village of modern-day Gujarat, Sardar Patel started his academic career in a Gujarati medium school and later shifted to an English medium school. He went on to pursue a degree in law and travelled to England in 1910. He completed his law degree in 1913 from the Inns of Court and came back to India to start his law practice in Godhra, Gujarat. For his legal proficiency, Vallabhbhai was offered many lucrative posts by the British Government, but he rejected all.


  • Sardar Patel dominated the Indian political scene from 1917 to 1950 and dedicated himself to the freedom struggle and reorganised the Indian National Congress. After Independence, he managed sensitive portfolios such as Home and the States. Following the Partition, he restructured the bureaucracy and integrated the princely States.
  • Patel laid the foundation of political democracy by being an important member in drafting the Indian Constitution. Thus, he emerged as an astute leader and a sagacious statesman acknowledged as the ‘Iron Man’ and a founder of modern India.

Political and Social Views

  • As a fiery champion of fundamental rights and liberty, he was convinced that these values were essential prerequisites for the development of the individual and a nation. He always raised his voice on several issues against exploitation and criticised the high-handedness of authority, the exploitative revenue policy of the Government and maladministration in the Princely states.
  • He not only criticised the arbitrary policies of confiscation of movable and immovable properties but also insisted on guarded regulations on land reforms and nationalisation of key industries. His efforts to reform the Hindu religion and protect the people of other faiths reflected his longing for the right to religion.
  • He encouraged the duly elected authority to bring restrictions through various legislative measures to freedom for all. Thus, his political value system was a fine synthesis of liberalism, conservatism and welfarism.
  • His vision of the State was in tune with the pattern of his political values. In his concept, the State was founded and held together by a high sense of nationalism and patriotism. Individual liberty was to be in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution, to create a Nation-State, he pressed for the emancipation of backward communities and women and bring about Hindu-Muslim unity through the Gandhian constructive program and skilfully utilised the higher castes for social integration and political mobilisation.
  • Thus, he strengthened the plural basis of the nation-state by bringing electoral participation as effective political mobilisation. He saw a nation as ‘democratic in structure, nationalistic in foundation and welfarist in spirit and function’.

Patel worked extensively against alcohol consumption, untouchability, and caste discrimination and for women’s emancipation in Gujarat and outside.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world. She spent many years in Kolkata where she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation devoted to helping those in great need. In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became a symbol of charitable, selfless work. In 2016, Mother Teresa was canonised by the Roman Catholic Church as Saint Teresa.

Contributions towards society

  • Mother Teresa had numerous values and beliefs that shaped her work and guided her. She was a Christian and followed in the footsteps of Jesus, constantly caring for the poor in Calcutta.
  • Mother Teresa believed that she served God by serving and nursing the poor. She believed in the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and also took an extra one – that she would give ‘wholehearted and free service to the poor’.
  • She believed that no one should be left behind and that everyone should feel wanted and loved. These few beliefs contributed greatly to her life and affected her choices, relationships with others and society.

Major contributions are:

  • In 1950, Mother Teresa established the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation. It began as a small community with 12 members in Kolkata, India. It then began attracting recruits and donations; by the 1960s it had opened hospices, orphanages and leper houses throughout India. In 1965, Pope Paul VI approved Mother Teresa’s request to expand her congregation to other countries. Its first house was opened in Venezuela the same year. It continues to care for refugees, former prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, people with AIDS, and the aged and convalescent.
  • In 1952, Mother Teresa opened her first hospice for the sick, destitute and dying in Kalighat, Kolkata with help from Indian officials. She did so by seeking permission to use an old abandoned Hindu temple for the goddess Kali. Known as the Kalighat Home for the Dying, the hospice provided medical attention to those in need, and it allowed people to die with dignity in accordance with their faith.
  • In 1955, Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity opened Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart. It was their first children’s home that cared for orphans. The centre took homeless children and provided them with food, shelter and medical care. When possible, the children were adopted. Those not adopted were given an education, learned a trade skill and found marriages.
  • Mother Teresa created a Leprosy Fund and a Leprosy Day to help educate the public about leprosy as many people feared the contagious disease. She also established several mobile leper clinics to provide the infected with medicine and bandages near their home.
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