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Lal Bahadur Shastri: A man of simplicity, honesty and dignity

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Besides Gandhi Jayanti, October 2, also marks the birth anniversary of India’s second Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was born on this day one hundred and seventeen years ago. Born thirty five years after Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri is often referred to as a quintessential Gandhian. 

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With his long political career which began at the Allahabad (now Prayagraj) municipality and ended in the highest office of the land – Prime Minister of India, Shastri left the stamp of his uniqueness in every responsibility he was entrusted with. As a Prime Minister he led a life of simplicity, honesty and dignity. One salutes his contribution to the building of Modern India and on his 117th birth anniversary, let us remember the short man with five feet height with tall stature:

-Born on October 2, 1904, to Sharada Prasad Srivastava and Ramdulari Devi in Mughalsarai, Lal Bahadur Shastri shares his birth anniversary with Mahatma Gandhi.

-Lal Bahadur Shastri went to East Central Railway Inter College and Harish Chandra High School, which he left to join the non-cooperation movement. 

-Lal Bahadur Shastri is one of the legends who led India to its freedom, and actively participated in India’s fight for freedom, and served the country even after that.

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-While working for the betterment of the Harijans at Muzaffarpur, Shastri dropped his caste-derived surname of “Srivastava”.

-He also first served as Railway Minister (1951-56), and then at various prominent positions including the Home Minister. After Jawaharlal Nehru’s death, Lal Bahadur Shashtri went on to become the second prime minister of India.

-Shastri led the country during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. His slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” (“Hail to the soldier, Hail to the farmer”) became a popular slogan during the war.

-Lal Bahadur Shastri succeeded Jawaharlal Nehru in June 1964 and became the second Prime Minister of India.

-His nineteen-month tenure as Prime Minister was sandwiched between seventeen years of Nehru and eleven years of Indira Gandhi (excluding her near five-year term between January 1980 and October 1984).

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-Shastri emerged as a consensus candidate for the leadership of the Congress Parliamentary Party in 1966 as he had no enemies either within his own Congress party or in the Opposition. However, his brief tenure as Prime Minister saw him moving from one crisis to another. Shastri was required to deal with the food crisis across the country and the anti-Hindi agitation that had erupted in South India.

-He promoted the White Revolution, a countrywide campaign to increase milk production. He supported the Amul milk co-operative at Anand in Gujarat and created the National Dairy Development Board

-Shastri also worked to boost India’s food production, and promoted the Green Revolution in India in 1965, which led to an increase in food grain production, especially in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

-Shastri was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1966.

-He died at the age of 61 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on January 11, 1966, after signing a peace treaty to end the Indo-Pakistan War with President Ayub Khan of Pakistan, with Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin playing the mediatory role. While the cause of death was disputed – which was later reported as cardiac arrest, Shastri’s family to date refuse to believe the circumstances of his death and allege foul play.

Here are a few inspiring quotes by Lal Bahadur Shastri:

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-“The basic idea of governance, as I see it, is to hold the society together so that it can develop and march towards certain goals”.

-“Discipline and united action are the real sources of strength for the nation”.

-“I had always been feeling uncomfortable in my mind about giving advice to others and not acting upon it myself”.

-“True democracy or the swaraj of the masses can never come through untruthful and violent means!”

-“India will have to hang her head in shame if even one person is left who is said in any way to be untouchable”.

-“As a nation, we must fight for peace as we fought in a war”.

-“Discipline and united action are the real sources of strength for the nation”.

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-“We believe in peace and peaceful development, not only for ourselves but for people all over the world”.

-“True democracy or the swaraj of the masses can never come through untruthful and violent means, for the simple reason that the natural corollary to their use would be to remove all opposition through the suppression or extermination of the antagonist”.

-“The economic issues are most vital for us and it is of the highest importance that we should fight our biggest enemies – Poverty, unemployment”.

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