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Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Forgotten Hero, the real ‘Mahatma’ Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri

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2nd October holds a lot of importance for our Nations, as two of our greatest leaders born on this day, Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri both shared their birthdays, both are known for their selfless service to the nation and both continue to inspire everyone. However, its a matter of grave concern that his birthday is usually eclipsed by Gandhi’s birthday.

It is easily noticeable that the entire limelight is hogged by politicians like Gandhi, Nehru and Indira Gandhi, etc, and Shastri Ji hardly gets his due. On one hand, we had Gandhi, who was known for his charisma and connect with the masses. He is still considered a huge brand today, and even though there are not many people who believe in Gandhi’s ideas and principles but still they like to keep that brand alive as they can exploit it for their own benefit. On the other hand, Shastriji doesn’t have any brand value associated with him, and that is why history has forgotten this giant, it’s really sad and unfortunate but that’s what it is.

Shastri Ji is still considered as one of the best Prime Minister we ever had. He was an epitome of simplicity and honesty, he was a Gandhian by soul and he lived a very simple life. He came from a very modest background and never forgot his roots and his people. For him, politics was not a profession, it was a medium to serve the people and to fulfill their aspirations.

For us Shastri Ji is a symbol of a person who selflessly served the country without expecting anything in return, he laid down an example that how politicians should conduct themselves in public life. We certainly need more such people in our administration and political circle. For us, he is still a hero and will remain a hero for the generations to come.

Today, we will talk about Shastri Ji, who has left such a legacy, that can’t be replicated by anyone. We will discuss a few instances which show the character of Shastri ji.

No VIP tantrums

Shastri Ji was the home minister of India, he was in Calcutta and about to catch a flight to Delhi. As the flight was in the evening and due to high traffic, it was extremely difficult for him to reach the airport on time. The then Commissioner of police decided to send a car with a siren, which can clear out the road. However, Shastri politely rejected this idea as he didn’t want to make the people of Calcutta feel any inconvenience due to a VIP movement.

No Travel with Exchequer’s money

When he was the Prime Minister, one of his sons used to go drive his official car, sometimes for a personal cause. Shastri Ji used to deposit adequate money into the government account to pay for the distance traveled by car for personal use. He never wants to become a burden on exchequers.

He made no money

It is said that when Shastri Ji passed away in 1966, he had no house or land in his possession. He had only left behind a government loan which he had taken to buy a Fiat car after he became prime minister. Past his death, the bank asked his wife, Lalita Shastri for the repayment of the loan, which she repaid from her family pension.

Public Fasting

During 1965 War with Pakistan, India was facing an acute shortage of food. Amid such a crisis, Shastri Ji announced that for the next few days they would all give up on their evening meal. He declared that “Kal se ek hafte tak sham ko chulha nahin jalega” (From tomorrow we would not cook in the evenings for a week),”. He further added that kids would get only milk and fruits, while the adults will stay hungry. It is only after he was sure that his own family could survive without a meal a day that he announced on All India Radio, urging the public to sacrifice one meal at least once a week. For the next few weeks, all people, restaurants, and eateries across India strictly followed this clarion call.

He didn’t believe in Class

When he was PM, he visited a state and due to some issues, he had to cancel the programme on account of some urgent work. The Chief Minister of that state pleaded him to not change his plans as he had made ‘first-class arrangements for his visit’, Shastri Ji responded asking ‘why do you make first-class arrangements for a third-class person?’

Architect of Green Revolution

Since independence, farmers were ignored by the then PM Nehru, who was more inclined towards factories & dams. IT was Shastri Ji who started some fundamental reforms that initiated the Green Revolution. He coined the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”. He had cleaned up his backyard where he used to grow crops. When news of the “Prime Minister growing his own crops” reached the common man & farmer, he became a role model and a source of inspiration for the nation which had all the resources to solve it’s food problems but was lacking a political will & a sense of direction which was solved by Shastri. That is one of the reasons he is still known as “India’s farmer PM”.

India was facing a drought situation in 1965 and literally “begging” for grains from the USA. Shastri Ji formed a group of agricultural scientists and motivated them to come up with adequate solutions to counter this situation. He identified M.S.Swaminathan’s pioneering efforts in the field of Agriculture and made him the head of the Team and ensured his full support. This triggered the Green Revolution which made India self-sufficient in grains within a decade.

The force behind Milk Revolution

India was also witnessing the shortage of Milk products, he started observing a revolutionary movement in Gujarat in the form of milk cooperatives. He invited Dr. Kurien, who was the General Manager at Amul, and leading the milk revolution in Gujarat, he requested him to replicate the same model across India. This triggered the White Revolution (Operation Flood) which drastically increased milk production throughout India through the means of several cooperatives which were administered by villagers themselves, thereby producing large scale employment as well.

Shastri was an Ironman, who defeated Pakistan

While Shastri Ji was working on fundamental reforms, it was Pakistan, which underestimated the abilities of Shastri and assumed that India would quickly decay after Nehru’s death and psychological issues after 1962’s loss, and hence thought it was the right time to strike. The Pakistan army crossed the International border with 100 battle tanks, Shastri surprised everybody by asking the Armed forces to retaliate with full force. During the independence day speech, he said “Hathiyaron ka jawab hathiyaron se dange. Hamara desh rahega to hamara tiranga rahega“. This act as a great morale booster for entire India and he also further played a great role in motivating the army. The way in which he led the war to victory made him an overnight hero in India and it left Pakistan trembling for the next few years. India defeated Pakistan and forced to sign the peace treaty in Tashkent.

Unfortunately, our Nation didn’t treat him well past his death

It is a matter of utmost disgust that Shastri Ji’s death is still a secret. During his visit to Tashkent, he breathed his last. The reason for his death is still unknown to the common man. Several Politicians and other groups asked the Government to put forth the facts and evidence, but Congress Govt rejected it citing security reasons.

The Congress party did not show sufficient courtesy to perform his last rites and wanted his body to be taken to Allahabad for cremation. It was only after his wife, Lalita Devi, who fought really hard with the party leadership, the party finally agreed to cremate him with national honors at Vijay Ghat in Delhi.

In our Opinion, Lal Bahadur Shastri is a leader who never to his due. He was born in a poor family, led a simple personal life, austere family life, ethical professional life, did some important reforms to help the country to regain self-reliance, finally died a poor man. He was one of the rare breeds of politicians who made no money. On the occasion of his birthday, we would like to salute him for all his efforts and dedication.

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