Lal Bahadur Shastri
General Studies I
- Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
- The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.
- Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country
About Lal Bahadur Shastri
- The 2nd Prime Minister of India
- Deeply impressed and influenced by Mahatma Gandhi
- Joined the Indian independence movement in the 1920s
- Led the country during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965
- In 1961, he was appointed as Home Minister, and he appointed the Committee on Prevention of Corruption. He created the famous “Shastri Formula” which consisted of the language agitations in Assam and Punjab.
- In 1964, he signed an agreement with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, in concern with the status of Indian Tamils in Ceylon. This agreement is known as Srimavo-Shastri Pact.
- His slogan of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (“Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer”) became very popular during the war. The war formally ended with the Tashkent Agreement on 10 January 1966. Many years later, former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee added “Jai Vigyan” to Shastri’s slogan in order to hail achievements of Indian scientists.
- His vision for self-sufficiency in foodgrains led to sowing the seeds of the Green Revolution, and promotion of the White Revolution.
- Following a train accident at Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu, in which more than 140 people were killed, he resigned as railway minister taking moral responsibility for the incident. Lauding him for his integrity, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said that he was accepting his resignation because it would set an example in constitutional propriety, although Shastri was in no way responsible for it.
Mystery Surrounding Shastri’s death
Shastri’s sudden death immediately after signing the Tashkent Pact with Pakistan raised many suspicions. His wife, Lalita Devi, alleged that Shastri was poisoned and the Russian butler serving the Prime Minister was arrested. But he was released later as doctors certified that Shastri died of cardiac arrest. The media circulated a possible conspiracy theory hinting at the involvement of CIA in the death of Shastri. The RTI query posted by author Anuj Dhar was declined by the Prime Minister Office citing a possible souring of diplomatic relations with the US.
Life-lessons from his Life
Protested against the caste system: Since he didn’t believe in the caste system (he was a Kayastha from birth), he gave up his surname as a young schoolboy. The title “Shastri” was bestowed on him upon graduating from Kashi Vidyapeeth, as a mark of scholarly achievement.
Patriotic from a young age: As a patriotic young boy, he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his call to join the Non-Cooperation Movement at the young age of 16. In his maiden Independence Day speech in 1964, Shastri told the youth to strive for moral strength and character, “I appeal to our young men to inculcate discipline in themselves discipline and work for the unity and advancement of the nation.”
Simple living, high thinking: When he married in 1928, at the insistence of his in-laws to accept dowry, he took a charkha (spinning wheel) and some khadi cloth. Even when he passed away, he reportedly had no property in his name and left behind a few books and a dhoti-kurta. As a child, Shastri is known to have swum across the river to reach school to save his impoverished family money to pay for a boat ride.
A compassionate, forward-thinking leader: He had many pioneering initiatives to his credit, such as using water jets to disperse crowds instead of a lathi-charge and making it possible for women to be appointed as conductors in public transport facilities. He also raised the slogan of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” during the Indo-Pakistan war in 1965 and paved the way for India’s food self-sufficiency.
During the short Tenure of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, India faced two major challenges, the Indo-Pak war which has been discussed above and failed monsoon and drought.
Honesty was always the best policy: Since the children were rarely allowed to use the official car to go to school when their father was Prime Minister, the family decided to buy a Fiat car for Rs. 12,000. A bank loan for Rs. 5,000 was taken, which Shastri’s widow had to clear after his sudden death, from his pension. On a visit to a textile mill as Prime Minister, when the owner offered to gift him expensive sarees, Shastri insisted on buying and paying for only those he could afford. He also had an undue promotion for his son overturned.
Quotes (For Ethics paper)
- The economic issues are most vital for us and it is of the highest importance that we should fight our biggest enemies – Poverty, unemployment
- India will have to hang down her head in shame if even one person is left who is said in any way to be untouchable.
- I had always been feeling uncomfortable in my mind about giving advice to others and not acting upon it myself.
- There has no doubt to be fundamental research in science, but applied research is equally important for new improvements and changes in our techniques.
- We must fight for peace bravely as we fought in war.
- There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the crossroads of history and must choose which way to go.
- We can win respect in the world only if we are strong internally and can banish poverty and unemployment from our country. Above all, we need national unity. Communal, provincial and linguistic conflicts weaken the country. Therefore, we have to forge national unity. I appeal to all to work for national unity and usher in a social revolution to make our country strong. In the ultimate analysis, the strength of the country does not lie in its material wealth alone. It requires people like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore. It requires the force of character and moral strength. I appeal to our young men to inculcate discipline in themselves discipline and work for the unity and advancement of the nation.
- We must inject new elements in the services. Let us introduce professors, economists, teachers, engineers and others, even outsiders, so that there is some freshness, a real exchange of views, a meeting of different approaches
Connecting the dots:
- What are the contributions of Lal Bahadur Shastri to post-Independent India’s polity and economy? Do you think he is relevant in today’s time? Discuss.