Gian Singh, Rarevala
Administrator and Politician (1901-1979)
He was born on 16 December 1901 at his mother’s village Bhari in Ludhiana district. His own ancestral village was Rara, also in Ludhiana district, where his father Ratan Singh was a bisvedar (fief-holder) of the former princely state of Patiala. Gian Singh having received his early education at Bhari, Samrala and Ludhiana, passed his matriculation examination from Model High School, Patiala, and Bachelor of Arts examination from Mohindra College, Patiala, in 1925. He then entered the Patiala state service as a naib nazim (assistant deputy commissioner) and after a year’s training at Patiala he was posted to Sunam. He later served in different positions as under-secretary in the state’s foreign office; as district magistrate at Narnaul; as revenue commissioner of the state of Patiala where he simultaneously functioned as president of the municipal committee of Patiala; as excise commissioner; as judge of the state’s high court; and as revenue and agriculture minister. After the formation of Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) in 1948, Sardar Gian Singh Rarevala was appointed its prime minister, and later became the first elected chief minister of PEPSU at the head of a nonCongress coalition ministry formed on 20 April 1952. In this capacity his major achievements were integration of the services of different constituent states of PEPSU and rehabilitation of Hindu and Sikh refugees from West Pakistan. He made a sterling contribution towards the development of the Punjabi language.
Already during the primeministership of Sardar Hardit Singh Malik (1944-47), he had persuaded the Patiala state government to establish a Punjabi cell in the department of education. During his own prime-ministership of PEPSU, he upgraded this cell into a full-fledged Punjabi department and made the knowledge of Punjabi compulsory for all government servants. The Rarevala ministry was, however, short-lived. As a result of an adverse judgement on an election petition moved against him, the ministry was dismissed and the state placed under President’s rule on 5 March 1953. Sardar Rarevala sympathized with and worked for the Punjabi Suba agitation in 1955. He was personally not ‘in favour of the Regional Formula scheme, although in the general body meeting of the Shiromani Akali Dal held on 11 March 1956 it was he who commended the plan to the house. The general body approved it after a prolonged discussion. Consequently, PEPSU merged with the Punjab on 1 November 1956, and many Akalis including Rarevala joined the Congress party.
He was sworn in as minister for irrigation and power in the Kairoh ministry on 3 April 1957 after the second general election. He was re-elected to the Punjab Assembly in 1962 and 1967 on Congress nomination. On 31 August 1965 he convened a meeting of all Sikh legislators. The meeting asked the government to accept the Punjabi Suba demand in principle. The demand was later accepted and Punjab was reorganized on linguistic basis into two states, Haryana and Punjab, with effect from 1 November 1966. During the Akali ministeries that were subsequently formed, Gian Singh Rarevala functioned as leader of the Opposition.
Sardar Gian Singh Rarevala left active politics in 1969. He died at Delhi on 31 December 1979 after a prolonged illness. His body was cremated at Rara on 2 January 1980