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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Babu Jagjivan Ram

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

Jagjivan Ram, popularly known as Babuji, was a national leader, freedom fighter, crusader of social justice, champion of depressed classes, outstanding parliamentarian, true democrat, distinguished Union Minister, an able administrator and exceptionally gifted orator. He had a towering personality and remained over a half-century in Indian politics with commitment, dedication and devotion. He was a member of the All India Congress Committee from 1940 to 1977 and was in the Congress Working Committee from 1948 to 1977. He was in the Central Parliamentary Board from 1950 to 1977. Due to his astute political acumen, he was dear to stalwart Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indra Gandhi.

Jagjivan Ram (April 5, 1908 - July 6, 1986) was born at Chandra near Arrah in Bihar into a Dalit family. He had an elder brother and three sisters. His father Sobhi Ram was in British Indian Army and he bought land in his native village and did farming. He also became a Mahant of the Shiv Narayan sect and being skilled in calligraphy, he illustrated many books for the sect. Jagjivan Ram attended a local school in 1914. Upon the premature death of his father, Jagjivan Ram and his mother Vasanti Devi were left in a harsh economic situation. He joined Aggrawal Middle School in Arrah in 1920, where the medium of instruction was English. He joined Arrah Town School in 1922, where he faced cast discrimination for the first time, but he faced it boldly. A turning point in his life came in 1925, when Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya visited his school and impressed by his welcome address, invited him to join the Banaras Hindu University. He did F.Sc. from BHU and B.Sc. from the University of Kolkata in 1931. While at BHU, he organized some castes to protest against social discrimination. He organized conferences to draw attention to the issue of discrimination, and also participated in the untouchability movement started by Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1935, he was elected to the Bihar Legislative Assembly and in 1937, he organized the rural labour movement. In 1946, he became the youngest minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s interim government, the first cabinet of India as a Labour Minister and also a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. He went to serve as a minister with various portfolios for more than forty years (Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation, Defence, Labour, Communications, Transport, Railways Labour employment and Rehabilitation). Babu Jagjivan Ram was the Defence Minister of India during the Indo-Pak War of 1971, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. He contributed to the Green Revolution in India and modernizing of Indian agriculture, during his two tenures as Union Agriculture Minister.

Though he supported Indra Gandhi during the emergency (1975-77), he left Congress in 1977 and joined the Janta Party alliance, along with his Congress for Democracy. He later served as the Deputy Prime Minister of India (1977-79). He formed Congress J (Jagjivan Ram). He is remembered by his statue at Andhra University, the training academy for Railway Protection Force Officers, electronic locomotive, a WAM-1 model by the Eastern Railway, Babu Jagjivan Ram English Medium Secondary School in Gandhi Nagar, Yerawada, Pune and Jagjivan Ram Hospital in Mumbai.

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