The process of independence has not been easy for India in many areas. The problems to come were manifold, ranging from the future political configuration, the economic system, vast migration, national integration.

In the context of the circumstances prevailing at the time, integrating the region into one country was undoubtedly the most complex. India was at the time a region made up of more than 500 sovereign princely states.

These states were diverse in many ways and integrating them into a political unit was a tall order. The strategic action of Valabhai Patel and VK Menon in this regard is certainly commendable and to examine it would be an insightful lesson in politics.

This task was accomplished with many different action plans. An important aspect of this achievement was the “private bags”.

What are private scholarships?

Private scholarships are a very interesting part of modern Indian history. It began with the guarantees of the Indian constitution to the rulers in return for their cooperation in integrating their states into the union and ended in the form of a constitutional amendment.

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At the time of independence, over 555 princely states large and small existed in India. Under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, these states had the option of joining India or Pakistan or remaining independent.

Even if independence was not logically possible, many states have indicated their intention to do so. Many states in India have even attempted to join Pakistan. After many hectic strategies, most of these states entered the Union of India.

Many agreements have been signed with the leaders of these states. An important part of almost all of these deals were private exchanges.

The private scholarship was a specific amount of money that was to be paid annually by the Indian government to the rulers of the princely states and their successors who had joined India.

Private scholarships were guaranteed to these rulers under Article 291 of the Indian constitution. These payments were tax exempt and were to be taken out of the Consolidated Fund of India. Private scholarships were intended to cover all expenses of rulers, including those for religious and ceremonial purposes.

The amount of the private scholarship was determined by many factors such as state income, state status under British rule. The amount was almost ¼ of what executives previously earned from their income. In 1970, the total amount of private scholarships was around 58 crore rupees.

The ruler of Mysore received the highest, 26 lakh rupees per year, while the ruler of Kotodia received the lowest, 192 rupees per year.

Private scholarships

Privileges and recognition received by princely sovereigns

Another important aspect of these private scholarship arrangements was the privileges and recognition received by princely rulers. These rulers received customary privileges and official recognition as titular rulers. This was in accordance with Article 362 of the Indian Constitution.

According to the article, the Indian president officially recognized the prince or head of state as the ruler. Even if no authority or power was held by them. According to privileges, the sovereign had official titles, could conduct his ceremonial durbars, could have official vehicles, could accommodate dignitaries.

In total, there were about 34 privileges enjoyed by the rulers. These also included exemption from the application of Indian laws, enjoyment of jagirs, payment by states of marriage expenses of siblings of rulers, immunity from certain legal proceedings.

After independence, all princely states signed two agreements with the Indian government, namely the instrument of accession and the merger agreement. The Instrument of Accession would allow a state’s accession to India with only defense, foreign affairs and communications matters being transferred to the Indian government, while with the merger agreement, all state authority was transferred to the Indian government.

Most of the small states signed the two agreements together, while many of the larger states initially only signed the instrument of accession. The rest of the business was still ruled by the sovereign.

Many of these states have been merged to form a larger state. By 1949, all states except J&K due to the plebiscite condition had signed the merger agreement ceding all control to the Indian state.

It was under this merger agreement that the princely states finally integrated into India. In accordance with the agreement, the leaders ceded to the Indian government full and exclusive authority, jurisdiction and powers with regard to the governance of the state.

The Indian constitution was enforced in these princely states via a merger agreement. These states were then organized into a federal structure. However, an important part of the merger deal was the private stock exchange. Under the merger agreement, executives and their successors were to receive a tax-free amount each year to cover all expenses of the executive and his family.

Sovereigns were entitled to full ownership of all their private property. Rulers and their families were to enjoy all the personal privileges they enjoyed inside and outside their territories immediately prior to August 15, 1947.

They were also assured of the succession according to their customs, privileges, dignity and titles. Even though they recognized all these customs, privileges, titles were customary or nominal without any authority. During the development of the constitution, these provisions were incorporated into the constitution in Articles 362 and 291.

Private scholarships

What was 26th amending law?

In 1971, former Prime Minister Indra Gandhi passed the 26th Amendment Law and abolished the privileges and private scholarships of all princely rulers. In accordance with the amendment, Articles 291 and 362 were omitted from the Indian constitution and the President of India no longer recognized any of the princes or chiefs as sovereign.

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