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UNLESS INDIA’S YOUTH are educated and empowered, progress is going to be tough, says India’s youngest Maharajah, 17-year old Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur – who is already working on a game plan for a future political career, one that includes boosting India’s too-often down-trodden female children.
He’s still a student at boarding school in the U.K., but Singh, officially known as His Highness Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh, is the ceremonial head of one of India’s strongest and wealthiest former royal states. He has inherited a legacy that he plans to take seriously.
“We don’t officially hold titles, but for people in cities such as Jaipur, the connect is still strong,” he says, “politics is a good platform for us.”
Singh’s grandfather, Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh was the last official title-bearing Royal of Jaipur; in 1971, all titles and privileges associated with Indian princely states were abolished as the nation saw increasing political integration post 1947 independence from British rule.
Adopted as his maternal grandfather’s male heir at the age of 4, and passed the baton at the age of 12, Singh has been exposed to the world of politics from a young age. His mother, Princess Diya Kumari of Jaipur, is the elected member of the Rajasthan Sawai Madhopur constituency within India’s current ruling party, the BJP.
“I’m a strong believer that education is the way forward, we need to educate all out people to move forward,” he says commenting on India’s historical hesitancy when it comes to female children. “It’s very important, especially in our society – the stories you hear of girl children being buried alive in villages, we need to empower women and give them full rights.”
Singh’s mother is the brand ambassador of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Beti Bachaon, Beti Padhaon’ (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) campaign in the state of Rajasthan.
The family also manage several heritage properties throughout Jaipur including: City Palace, a portion of which continues to serve as the main family home, Jaigarh Fort, Amer Fort, Hotel Rajmahal Palace, Hotel Jaipur House, and Hotel Lal Mahal Palace. They run the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum Trust, the Jaigarh Charitable Trust, and administer two schools in the city.
The Princess has been the influential force, spurring the young Maharajah to aspire toward a political future – he’s studying politics, history, and business at Millfield School in the U.K., an institution he picked in part for it’s excellent sporting facilities – something else he is entirely passionate about.
“Sport unites us as a country – I am so grateful to the Indian cricket team for such a positive, healthy influence on people,” says Singh, himself a keen competitive polo-player, now playing alongside his father – and following in the heels of his grand father and great-grandfather, both well-renowned sportsmen.
He’d like to change the perception of polo as a “rich man’s sport”, citing the evergreen pertinence of Winston Churchill’s once-upon-a-time declaration that ‘a polo handicap is a passport to the world’. But Singh says he’d also like to create better accessibility to all sports and relevant facilities for the people of Jaipur.
The Maharaja has a 10-year plan; first up is a goal to complete a degree in politics from the University of Oxford, next is to garner a little experience before hitting the decks in his native Rajasthan.
What would he do first? “I’d get things in place,” he says, “clean out corruption, put in people who are actually willing to work for the betterment of society; with that in place I’d like to empower the youth, educate them, create jobs.”
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