A young satyagrahi with a slight figure, mild manners, a gentle smile and a frugal demeanour joined India’s Independence movement in 1921. The very same satyagrahi went on to become a loyal Gandhian, a staunch Nehruvian Socialist and India’s 2nd Prime Minister. We are of course talking about India’s Man of Peace – Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Shastri was born on 2nd October into a simple household, to Sharada Prasad Shastri, a clerk in the revenue office and Ramdulari Devi, a local English teacher’s daughter. His life was a shining example of modesty, honesty and righteousness. Shastri’s – “Jai Jawan! Jai Kisan!” is and will always be remembered as the slogan that united the entire nation during the 1965 war against Pakistan. During his short lifespan, he made many such memorable contributions that shaped India and the lives of Indians alike.
Shastri’s key contributions
A follower of Gandhian Economics, Shastri worked at the grass root levels – the villages, with an aim to improve the social-economic conditions of the farmers. He visited Anand for the inauguration of the cattle feed factory at Amul. He also spent a lot of time with the farmers and discussed with Verghese Kurien the possibilities of replicating Amul’s successful co-operative model in other parts of India. Thus, he played an instrumental role in the promotion of the Amul Milk Co-operative and the setting up of the National Dairy Development Board.
After the White Revolution, India was facing a constant shortage in the food supply. During this period, he asked his family to give up one meal per day. He insisted that the adults must stay hungry and the children could only eat fruits and milk. After ensuring that his family managed this Vrat for a week, he made a speech where he requested every Indian to skip a meal every day. This act came to be known as the Shastri Vrat and was religiously followed by all Indians.
Popularly known as the “Janak” of the Indian Green Revolution, Shastri was one of the first proponents of increasing investment in irrigation, agricultural research, seeds and fertilizers to enhance agricultural produce.
Victory in the 1965 war against Pakistan India’s war against Pakistan in 1965 lasted for 22 days. During the war, Shastri’s slogan – “Jai Jawan! Jai Kisan!” which means “Hail the soldier! Hail the farmer!” was seen as an apt seminal that shaped India’s political-economic strategies in the years to come. Shastri was hailed as a national hero after India’s win over Pakistan.
Being a politician with integrity
Today, politicians amassing property or misusing power to get higher offices seem to be commonplace. India’s 2nd Prime Minister was anything but corrupt. Leading a frugal life, he ensured his sons never got special favours. Until the end, he didn’t have a single house to his name. He, in fact, took a loan of Rs.5000 to a buy a Fiat car which he was unable to repay due to his untimely death in Tashkent. His integrity was India’s biggest asset.
On his 113th birth anniversary, we would like to salute India’s Man of Peace for his invaluable contributions in shaping India’s future.