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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Lal Bahadur Shastri Prime Minister of India

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Lal Bahadur Shastri was the second Prime Minister of India, who also played significant role in the freedom struggle of India. He was a true follower Of Mahatma Gandhi and Jwahar Lal Nehru and followed their footsteps throughout his life. He lived a life of absolute honesty and when died, left no house, no land , and no cash after him. His honesty has no parallel in world history in modern times. He proved himself to be towering statesman. He is best known for his qualities of simplicity, leadership, and unblemished career. He coined the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” to enthuse farmers and soldiers. He promoted “Green Revolution” and “White Revolution” in a big way to solve food problem. He wished to be remembered by his work rather than well-rehearsed speeches proclaiming lofty promises.

Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on October 2, 1904 at Mughalsarai , Uttar Pradesh. His parents were Sharda Prasad and Ramdulari Devi. Lal Bahadur’s surname was Srivastava but he dropped it, he did not want to indicate his caste. His father was a school teacher and later on he became a clerk in the Revenue Office at Allahabad. Though Sharada Prassad was poor, he lived a life of honesty and integrity. Lal Bahadur lost his father when he was only one year old. His mother raised him and two sisters at her father’s house.

He went to Varanasi for higher education. He joined Kashi Vidya Perth and studied Philosophy for four years. In 1926 he earned the degree of Shastri. In 1921, he took part in the Non-Cooperation movement. He joined “The Servants of the People Society”, which Lala Lajpat Rai had started in 1921. The aim of the Society was to train youths that were prepared to dedicate their lives in the service of the country. In 1927, he was married Lalitha Devi. The marriage ceremony was very simple and Shastri took only a charka ( spinning wheel ) and few yards of Khadi in dowry.

In 1930, Lal Bahadur joined Civil Disobedience Movement and encouraged people not to pay land revenue and taxes to Government. He was arrested and put in jail for two and half years. In jail he became familiar with the work of Western philosophers, revolutionaries and social reformers. After Second World War, started in 1939, Congress launched “Individual Satyagraha” in 1940 to demand freedom. Lal Bahadur was arrested during Individual Satyagraha and released after one years. On August 8, 1942 Gandhi gave call for “Quite India Movement “. Lal Bahadur participated in the movement and was arrested and released in 1945 along with other leaders.

In 1947 he became the Minister of Police and Transport in Uttar Pradesh. In 1952 Jwahar Lal Nehru appointed Lal Bahadur the Railway and Transport Minister in the Central Cabinet. He reduced the vast disparity between first class and third class in the Railways. He resigned from the Railways in 1956, owing moral responsibility for a Railway accident. In the next general elections he became the Minister of Transport and Communications and later Minister of Commerce and Industry, and Home Minister in 1961.

After the death of Nehru in 1964, he was unanimously elected as the Prime Minister of India. It was difficult time and the country was facing huge challenges. There was food shortage in the country on the security front Pakistan was creating problems. To enthuse soldiers and farmers he coined the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”. Shastri tackled many elementary problems like food shortage, unemployment and poverty. To overcome the acute food shortage, he asked the experts to devise a long-term strategy. This was the beginning of “Green Revolution “. He also instrumental in promoting the “White Revolution “. The National Dairy Development Board was found in 1965 during Shastri’s stint as Prime Minister.

In January 1966, to broker peace between India and Pakistan, Russia mediated a meeting between Lal Bahadur Shastri and Ayub Khan in Tashkent, Russia. India and Pakistan signed a joint declaration under Russian medicetion. Under the treaty India agreed to return to Pakistan all the territories occupied by it during the war. The joint declaration was signed on January 10, 1966 and Lal Bahadur Shastri died of heart attack on the same night. His biography consist of an inspiring account of his life, how humble orphan boy of a poor family rose to become the Prime Minister of India and displayed such a strength of character and leadership qualities that Indian sailed through smoothly in the toughest times of national security, food shortage, and unemployment. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna.

Shastri was known for his honesty and humility throughout his life. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, and a memorial “Vijay Ghat” was built for him in Delhi. Several institutes were established in his memory like, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration Massorie, Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management Delhi, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, and Lal Bahadur Shastri National Memorial Trust Delhi.

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