Jawaharlal Nehru as a Social Reformer

Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of independent India. He was a key figure in the Indian independence movement. Nehru also initiated the process of social reform in the independent Indian Republic. The importance of Jawaharlal Nehru as a social reformer in Indian history cannot be denied.

India gained independence on 15 August, 1947. The India that existed in the 1940's was a cauldron of social unrest. The age-old problem of caste had reared its ugly head and was threatening to tear the social fabric apart. Religious tensions were also a reigning problem in India during those days. The partition of pre-independent India had divided the Indian sub-continent into two countries, India and Pakistan. Pakistan became an Islamic Republic as envisaged by its creator Mohamed Ali Jinnah. India became a secular republic by choice.

Jawaharlal Nehru inherited from the British a country that was bereft of social and economic stability. He inherited a mish-mash of people speaking as many as 16 different languages with different cultural moorings.

The genius of Jawaharlal Nehru as a social reformer shone through in this post-independence period. He took decisive steps to eradicate the evils of the all pervasive caste system. Nehru undertook corrective measures by changing existing Indian legal laws. Legal procedures were enacted to make caste discrimination illegal and punishable by law. The enacted laws were strictly enforced.

Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the few Indian statesmen at that time who understood the need of proper intellectual development of the Indian populace. He had exposure to European educational ideals during his stay at England, where he received education. Nehru also knew that British stress on proper education to run their colonial empire. He understood the importance of proper and healthy intellectual development to run the nascent Indian state. Jawaharlal Nehru wished to combine the best of both worlds, the winning combination of western scientific prowess and Indian civilization wisdom.

Nehru realized that the only way the Indian Republic can reestablish its presence in the world stage is through the intellectual power of its citizens. Jawaharlal stressed on the teaching of science and its practical application fields. He took cognizance of the need of learning vocational science. The teaching of vocational science attracted him. Special focus was put on the development of technology. The famed Indian Institutes of Technology or IIT's were conceived and established during his Prime Minister-ship.

The Indian Institutes of Technology are now regarded as one of the premier scientific institutes of higher technological learning throughout the world. IIT graduates are much in demand among the corporate sector. The establishment of such learning centers also indirectly contributed to the emergence of the Indian Republic as a pharmaceutical major in the late 1980's. The cheapest medicines in the world are produced and sold in India. The capabilities of the Indian software industry have also amazed the world.

Jawaharlal Nehru was born in an era when the principal mode of communication was the postal service. Telephones were affordable only by the minuscule economically empowered Indian populace. There were few government hospitals. The rural Indian population lived in pitiable conditions amidst abject poverty.

Nehru was acutely aware of the rural situation of India. He had contested and won democratic elections in Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh. Jawaharlal Nehru knew the many problems faced by the rural populace. The rural environment was feudal at that time. Literacy was low and social tensions were simmering below the societal surface. Nehru initiated the construction and functioning of a number of schools. The schools provided primary and secondary education to the rural population. The schools are spread throughout India. Primary education was provided free of cost.

The government schools also provided free meals to its students. This scheme was the trump card of Jawaharlal Nehru. The great statesmen understood the importance of food to attract students to schools. The purchasing power of the rural Indian population at that time was very low. A majority of the rural population subsisted on one meal a day. All members of the family were required to work to keep the home-fires burning. The children were also roped in to earn for the family. Jawaharlal Nehru knew the importance of food in the educational scheme. The food acts as a magnet for the impoverished hungry child. The family of the prospective student was also happy with the subsequent tangible cost savings.

The food given in the primary education programs included milk in addition to pulses for a healthy meal. The specter of malnutrition in the 1950's and 1960's India were fought in this way. Jawaharlal Nehru also established vocational schools for adults. Adult education centers were created both in rural and urban areas. Higher technical schools were also established.

The Indian Republic has a substantial population. Almost half of the population is women. Jawaharlal Nehru enacted laws to guarantee practical universal suffrage to the women population of the country. The laws aimed to secure the social freedoms of Indian women. Female legal rights were also increased under Nehru's able Prime Minister-ship.