How many of you know that 2nd October is not only the birth-date of Mahatma Gandhi, but also of Lal Bahadur Shastri, one of the most honest, noble, and able Prime Ministers of India?
Lal Bahadur Shastri was known for his simplicity, leadership qualities and the famous slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’. He was a true administrator and an inspiration for the youth as well as nation builders. He was also an indispensable part of the Indian freedom struggle. Such leaders are hard to find in today’s world.
Shastri was born on 2nd October 1904 at Mughal Sarai, Uttar Pradesh in a very simple family. His original name was Lal Bahadur Srivastava. He was against the caste system and had dropped his surname as a mark of protest. The title ‘Shastri’, meaning scholar, was added to his name after he completed his course at Kashi Vidyapeeth in 1926. At present, India has many roads, monuments, public squares, and stadiums after his name.
Lal Bahadur Shastri was a man full of honesty and truthfulness. He joined ‘Servants of People Society’ founded by Lala Lajpat Rai after completing his studies at Kashi Vidyapeeth. He was a very active freedom fighter and a great disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. Shastri participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930. In the same year, he was appointed as the General Secretary of Allahabad District Congress Committee. Shastri was imprisoned many a times by the British during the freedom struggle. After Independence, he became a minister in the state government of Uttar Pradesh. From 1952 to 1956, he served the federal as the minister of transport; from 1957 to 1961, as minister of industry; and from 1961 to 1963 as home affairs minister. He set an exceptional example in politics by resigning from cabinet, taking a moral responsibility of a railway accident. His resignation was accepted by Jawaharlal Nehru just to set an example, though he was not at fault. After the demise of Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri was sworn in as the second Prime Minister of India on June 9, 1964. He held the office for 582 days from June 9, 1964 to January 11, 1996.
During his short tenure, he came across many problems but faced each with flexibility and firmness. He was an able administrator. Rather than conflict, he gave preference to cooperation. Personal views of every member at cabinet meeting were taken very seriously before taking any decision. To collect information and advice, Lal Bahadur Shastri set up his own Prime Minister’s Secretariat, independent of the ministries. He maintained the norms of a democratic system.
Lal Bahadur Shastri revolutionized the agriculture sector of India and gave the slogan “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan”. He formulated the strategies for Green Revolution in order to increase agriculture output, which were taken up more vigorously in Indira Gandhi’s tenure.
He became the Minister of Police and Transport in Uttar Pradesh under Govind Ballabh Pant’s Chief Ministership, and was the first one to appoint women conductors. He also institutionalized the Central Bureau of Investigation to combat corruption. With this quick follow-up, actions were taken on the Das Enquiry Report against then Punjab Chief Minister Pratap Singh Kairon.
He was an honest person who never used his position for personal benefit. An incident highlights this. Once his son Anil went to deposit admission fee at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. He was standing in a long queue. The day was very hot and because of this he fell on the ground and became unconscious. Some students took him to the dispensary. When he came to, teachers asked him his father’s name and address. On hearing the name, everyone was shocked and said, ‘Lal Bahadur Shastri, our Prime Minister!’
Lal Bahadur Shastri died on 11 January 1966 in Uzbek city of Tashkent just few hours of signing a peace agreement.
In 1966, Lal Bhadur Shastri was posthumously awarded with the Bharat Ratna award. A memorial was built at Vijay Ghat, New Delhi to honor the great son of India.
Today our nation needs leaders like Lal Bahadur Shastri who can lead India and devote everything to the nation.
Who do you think is ideal for the job today?
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