Important Personalities

Mains Marks Booster     2nd August 2023        
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Lord Cornwallis (Governor-General of India from 1786 to 1793):

Key contributions of Lord Cornwallis:

Cornwallis Reforms:

  • He is known as father of civil services in India as he improved and contemporised civil services and presented covenanted civil services.
  • He aimed to create a more efficient and transparent system of governance in India. 
  • Introduced the Permanent settlement in Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. It brought stability to land revenue collection.

Judicial Reforms: 

  • He introduced the Cornwallis Code or the Indian Penal Code, which aimed to standardize and codify criminal laws.
  • Cornwallis also established separate civil and criminal courts, ensuring a more streamlined and efficient administration of justice.
  • He introduced strict regulations and disciplinary measures to combat corruption among civil servants.

Military Reforms: 

He introduced better training, modernization of weaponry, and improved organizational structures.

Lord Dalhousie (Governor-General of India from 1848 to 1856)

Lord Dalhousie's major contributions in India:

  • Annexation of Princely States through Doctrine of Lapse, such as Satara, Nagpur, etc.
  • Introduction and expansion of Railways, Telegraph and Postal Systems.
  • Modernization of Infrastructure like the construction of bridges, canals, and roads.
  • Educational Reforms: He established universities in Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta, and introduced a modern curriculum.
  • He also expanded the Legislative Council of India.
  • He reformed civil services by starting a system of open competition for recruitment through Charter Act of 1853.

Dadabhai Naoroji

Dadabhai Naoroji was a prominent Indian nationalist and social reformer who made significant contributions to India's freedom struggle and socio-economic development.

Some key contributions of Dadabhai Naoroji are:

  1. Economic Drain Theory: In his book "Poverty and Un-British Rule in India," he highlighted how the British through economic exploitation caused impoverishment of India.
  2. Indian National Congress: He played a pivotal role in the formation of INC in 1885. 
  3. Voice for Indian Representation: He became the first Indian to be elected to the British Parliament where he passionately advocated for Indian interests.
  4. Social Reforms: He worked towards the upliftment of women and supported the cause of female education. He founded the East India Association in London, which aimed to promote Indian welfare.
  5. Journalism and Publications: He published several articles and books, including "Poverty and Un-British Rule in India" and "The Causes of Indian Famines." 
  6. Swadeshi Movement: He believed that promoting Indian industries and self-reliance would help India break free from economic dependency on Britain.

Dadabhai Naoroji's ideas on economic exploitation, representation, and self-reliance continue to inspire generations of Indians fighting for justice and equality.

Mahatma Gandhi 

Gandhi in South Africa

  • Indian immigrants in South Africa were primarily indentured laborers from South India, Meman Muslim merchants who followed the laborers, and ex-indentured laborers who settled down after their contracts expired.
  • These immigrants faced racial discrimination and were subject to various restrictions, such as not being allowed to vote, being forced to live in unsanitary and congested areas, and having curfews imposed on them.
  • Gandhi discovered that the masses could participate in and sacrifice for a cause that moves them.
  • He succeeded in uniting Indians of various religions and classes. He developed his own leadership and political style, along with new techniques of struggle.

Gandhi’s Technique of Satyagraha:

  • Gandhi developed the technique of Satyagraha in South Africa, based on truth and nonviolence.
  • A satyagrahi (practitioner of Satyagraha) was required to be truthful, nonviolent, fearless, and ready to suffer for their cause.
  • Satyagraha involved principles of boycott and withdrawal of cooperation, refusing to pay taxes, and declining honors and positions of authority.
  • A true satyagrahi would have no ill will toward the wrongdoer, and would never bow down to evil.
  • The practice of Satyagraha was for the brave and strong, not the weak or cowardly.
Gandhi’s Technique of Satyagraha

Gandhi in India:

  • Gandhi returned to India in 1915, and spent the next year touring the country.
  • He resolved not to take a stance on any political issue for at least a year.
  • He was aware of the limitations of moderate politics and opposed the Home Rule agitation that was gaining popularity.
  • He believed non-violent Satyagraha was the only method capable of achieving nationalist goals.
  • Gandhi participated in three struggles in Champaran, Ahmedabad, and Kheda before launching the Rowlatt Satyagraha.


Key Points

Champaran (1917)

Gandhi led a non-violent protest against the mistreatment of indigo farmers by British planters. This was his first significant civil disobedience campaign in India, and it resulted in the government agreeing to reforms and concessions for the farmers.

Ahmedabad (1918)

Gandhi organized a strike by mill workers in Ahmedabad, demanding better wages. The strike was resolved when the mill owners agreed to grant a wage increase, following Gandhi's use of a hunger strike as a means of protest.

Kheda (1918)

Faced with famine and a high tax rate, farmers in Kheda were unable to pay their taxes. Gandhi supported a non-violent protest, resulting in the suspension of revenue collection until the famine ended.

Shyamji Krishna Varma

Shyamji Krishna Varma was an Indian freedom fighter, scholar, and philanthropist who advocated for Indian self-rule, and promoting Indian culture and education.

Some key contributions of Shyamji Krishna Varma are:

  1. In 1905, he established the Indian Home Rule Society in London which aimed to promote the cause of Indian self-rule and provided support to Indian students studying in England.
  2. He started, "The Indian Sociologist" and "The Indian Review," through which he disseminated nationalist ideas and criticized British colonial rule.
  3. He provided financial assistance, legal aid, and ideological support to Savarkar and his associates.
  4. He played a key role in raising awareness about the economic exploitation of India by the British and advocated for self-reliance.
  5. He founded the "Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan" in 1918, to  promote Indian arts, culture, and education.

Jai Prakash Narayan

Jayaprakash Narayan was an Indian independence activist, theorist, socialist, and political figure.

Contribution to Freedom Struggle:

  • In 1929, he joined the Indian National Congress.
  • He played a key role in the formation of the Congress Socialist Party (1934).

Post-Independence Role:

  • In 1952, he formed the Praja Socialist Party (PSP).
  • In 1954, he was devoted to the Bhoodan Yajna Movement, of Vinoba Bhave, which demanded land redistribution to the landless.
  • In 1959 he argued for a “reconstruction of Indian polity” by a four-tier hierarchy of village, district, state, and union councils (Chaukhamba Raj).
  • After the end of the Emergency, JP Narayan played a pivotal role in the formation of the Janata Party.
  • He launched Total Revolution against Indira Gandhi Regime as she was found guilty of violating electoral laws. 
  • He was posthumously conferred with the Bharat Ratna (1999), for his contribution to the freedom struggle and upliftment of the marginalised.

Narayan was a staunch advocate of socialist principles and worked towards establishing a more egalitarian society and played a significant role in shaping India's political landscape.

APJ. Abdul Kalam

Born on 15th October 1931 at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. His birth anniversary is celebrated as the National Innovation Day. Some of his contributions are:

  • He pioneered fiberglass technology for composites rocket motor cases. 
  • He made a significant contribution as Project Director to develop India's first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3).
  • He played a key role in evolving ISRO's launch vehicle program and led the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). 
  • He led to the weaponization of strategic missile systems and the Pokhran-II nuclear tests.
  • His Technology Vision 2020 aimed at transforming India into a developed society. 
  • He advocated rural prosperity through PURA and authored books like "Wings of Fire," "My Journey," and "Ignited Minds - Unleashing the Power Within India." 
  • He received the Padma Bhushan in 1981, Padma Vibhushan in 1990, and Bharat Ratna in 1997.

Important Personalities in news:


Why in news? 

100 years of Periyar because of whom Tamil Nadu became modern and progressive.

  • Born in 1879, E V Ramasamy ‘Periyar’ is remembered for the Self Respect Movement.
  • Periyar started his political career as a Congress worker. 
  • He associated himself with the Justice Party and the Self Respect Movement.
  • He would later be referred to as Vaikom Veerar due to his participation in Vaikom satyagraha of 1924.
  • As a social reformer, he focused on social, cultural and gender inequalities.
  • Periyar died in 1973 at the age of 94.
  • Periyar is revered as Thanthai Periyar, the father figure of modern Tamil Nadu.


Why in News?

Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati Jayanti is celebrated every year to mark his birth anniversary.

  • He was an Indian philosopher, social leader and founder of the Arya Samaj.
  • His vision of India included a classless and casteless society.
  • He considered Veda’s to be infallible. He gave the slogan “Back to the Vedas”.
  • He wrote Satyarth Prakash, which became the moral and spiritual foundation of the Arya Samaj.
  • He was the first to give the call for Swaraj as “Indian for India”.
  • Dayanand was a staunch advocate of women’s rights.

Sri Aurobindo Ghosh:

Why in news?

In 2022, PM Participated in a Programme Commemorating Sri Aurobindo's 150th Birth Anniversary.

  • His theory of nationalism was based on Vedanta philosophy which saw unity and oneness in man and God.
  • He helped establish the Anushilan Samiti of Calcutta in 1902.
  • He and his brother revolutionary Barin Ghose contributed articles to the magazine Jugantar.
  • He was the editor of Bande Mataram.
  • In May 1908, Aurobindo was arrested in connection with the Alipore Conspiracy Case.
  • In 1914, he started publishing a magazine Arya.
  • His greatest literary achievement was ‘Savitri’, an epic poem.

Madan Mohan Malviya:

Why in news?

In 2022, Nepal celebrated 161st Birth Anniversary of Bharat Ratna Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya.

  • He was midway between the Liberals and the Nationalists, the Moderates and the Extremists.
  • He was given the title of ‘Mahamana’ by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. S.Radhakrishnan gave him the status of a ‘Karmayogi’.
  • Popularized the term ‘Satyamev Jayate’. 
  • He helped establish the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915.
  • He founded the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1916.
  • Malaviya was the editor of Hindi weekly, the Hindustan and Indian Union.
  • In 2014, he was posthumously conferred with Bharat Ratna.

Subhramaniyam Bharati:

Why in news?

In 2022, Tamil Nadu CM Stalin inaugurated statue of 'Mahakavi Subramanian Bharathiyar' at Varanasi.

  • Indian nationalist writer recognised as the father of modern Tamil style.
  • He was famously known as 'Mahakavi Bharathiyar'.
  • He fought for self-determination.
  • He joined the Tamil daily newspaper Swadesamitran after 1904.
  • Bharathi had the weekly newspaper ‘India' printed with red paper in order to announce its revolutionary zeal.
  • His poem "Pudiya Russia", written in response to the 1917 Russian Revolutions, is a remarkable example of the poet's political ideology.
  • Kannanpattu, Panchali sapatham, Kuyil pattu are among of his most important works.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad:

Why in news?

The President of India paid floral tributes to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, on his birth anniversary at Rashtrapati Bhavan on 3rd December 2022.

  • He joined the Indian National Congress in 1911 and played a crucial role in the Champaran and Kheda Satyagrahas.
  • Gandhiji's non-cooperation movement and salt satyagraha in Bihar was supported by Dr. Prasad.
  • In 1946, he joined the Interim Government as the Minister of Food & Agriculture.
  • Rajendra Prasad was elected as the President of the Constituent Assembly of India in 1946 and was the first President of the Republic of India.
  • He headed committees of constituent assembly such as Finance and Staff Committee, Steering Committee, etc.
  • He was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1962.