October 02, 2013

2nd October is also the birthday of a unsung hero..Lal Bahadur Shastri!


On October 2, 1904, seven miles from Kashi is Mughalsarai in Uttar Pradesh, India's second Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri ji, born on the same day as India's greatest statesman and Father of Nation Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (born 35 years before Shastri ji).  In 1921, getting inspired by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, he left his studies to join India's freedom movement. Later he joined the Kashi Vidyapeeth and earned the epithet 'Shastri' by obtaining a degree on philosophy.

As we all have studied about Shastri Ji in our school textbooks in which we were taught that he was initially a freedom fighter then becomes Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru and died in Tashkent. That's all we know about Shastri Ji. Am I right?

I remember when I was in school, we were asked to write an essay on our Favourite Political Leader, almost each and everyone wrote about Gandhi ji. I also remember, I asked my teacher that I want to write about Shastri ji and requested her to shed some light on his life. She politely ignored my request. At that time we didn't have Google, else I would have searched about him.

Once my grand father told us about how our former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri ji had appealed for a weekly fast during the food shortage. May be that was the reason why I was fascinated about this man.

As I grown up I started searching about Shastri ji , the more I read the more I respect him.
Some interesting facts about this forgotten hero, also the reasons why we must salute this man:
  • During the Independence struggle, Lal Bahadur Shastri protested when his wife smuggled two mangoes to him when he was in the Faizabad prison. He was angry because it was illegal for prisoners to have anything other than jail food.
  • In 1942 during the Quit India Movement he was jailed by British. At that time he was informed that his daughter was sick, So he asked for 15 days parole and was granted on the condition that he will not participate in freedom movement in between days. By the time he reached his home, his daughter had died. He could not save her life because doctors had recommended costly drugs . After performing the funeral and rituals, he immediately returned back to jail within 3 days in spite of having 12 more days of freedom from jail.
  • In the same way, one day while in jail he was told that his son was sick and this time he got a permission of 7 days of leave from jail. He stayed with his son all the 7 days.  The son had still not recovered, but he went back to jail on the 7th day to keep up his word.
  • In 1956, when a major train accident killed 144 passengers near Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu. At that time Shahtri ji was the railway minister, he took moral responsibility and offered his resignation. That shows the moral standards he maintained.  However, our then Prime Minister Nehru did not accept it, but Shastri ji prevailed upon Panditji to accept it. On the following day in Parliament, Nehru said no one could wish for a better comrade than Lal Bahadur. ‘A man of the highest integrity and devoted to ideas is called Lal Bahadur’, said Nehru at that time.
  • Once he was sent to Kashmir by Nehru to help resolve the theft in the Hazaratbal shrine. Nehru asked him whether he had enough woollens for the trip. Nehru asked him, "Are you aware Kashmir must be having snowfall at this time?". Shastri ji showed him the jacket he was wearing and Nehru immediately gave his own mink overcoat. Shastri ji was short in stature so he told Nehru the coat was quite long. But Nehru said woolen overcoats were always longer. That no one would know it was a borrowed one. On his return from Kashmir he went to return the overcoat. Nehru asked him to keep it and the next day newspapers reported: "Nehru's Mantle Falls on Shastri".
  • In 1962, during Indo-china war...India faced food shortages. At that time Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri advocated fasting for one day so that food will go round to feed the huge population. Shastri ji believed, even if one goes without food for a day in a week in effect he saves fifty two day's food expenses in a year. This is good savings. If the 1.2 billion people of India fast for a single day imagine the national savings generated and the extent of relief on food resources. His appeal got people's support.
  •  These days when corrupt Indian politicians misuse the power, Shastri ji was so upright that he deposited money in government treasury because his son had used his official car.
  • Shastri ji's wife Lalita Devi decided to learn Hindi, she paid the tuition fees by dispensing with the domestic maid and doing the household chores herself.
  • He often handed over to his wife his khadi kurtas when they became unusable and asked her to make handkerchiefs out of them. He lived on the simple philosophy of 'waste not, want not'.
  •  He traveled like a commoner in trains even when he was railway minister. He lived according to his principles.
  • Despite his preoccupations as prime minister, Shastri ji was a family man who devoted time to his mother and others when he returned home. It helped him get over the day's fatigue and worries.  
  • As a young man, once he swam across a river to go back home instead of borrowing money for boat fare.  
  • Lal Bahadur Shastri ji is the only politician worked as Prime Minister of India who made no money. That’s why he is popularly called “The politician who made no money”. Born in a poor family, he lived his life in simplicity and soberness.  At the time of his death, his total assets were an old car that he purchased on installments. Just name any other politician who was born poor and died as a poor? Shastri ji really knew what austerity meant.
  • Kuldip Nayar was Shastri ji's press advisor from 1960 to 1964. In 1963, on the day when Shastri ji was dropped under the Kamaraj plan Kuldip went to meet him. Shastri ji was sitting in his home without a light, so Kuldip asked, "Why are you sitting in the dark?". To which Shastri ji replied, "From today all expenses will be borne by me." He told Kuldip as a MP and minister he didn't earn enough to save for his rainy day.
  • Later Kuldip told him to turn a columnist to earn some money. Shastri ji agreed and wrote a column on Lala Lajpat Rai. That was the first syndicated column in India. Kuldip syndicated it to four newspapers and collected Rs 500 from each (which was quite a hefty sum at that time). The second column was on Nehru but before he could write more he was recalled to the Cabinet.
  • A day before his first press conference after becoming PM when Kuldip asked him what will be your message tomorrow? Shastri ji said: "I'll tell them that during my tenure there will not be any increase in food price and as PM of India I would ask members of the Planning Commission to have one more column in their charts to show me how many jobs will be created after spending thousands of crores of rupees." This shows he was a man concerned about the common man of India.

He served altruistically for India and us without expecting anything in return. He is an ideal example how a politicians should conduct themselves, he was a politician who never played dirty politics just to survive in political world. I read somewhere that if you combine devotion, ethics, truthfulness, integrity, responsibility, soberness & austerity, you get Shastri ji. His message of life was that if he could become PM anybody could because he was a common man. As the Bible says the meekest shall inherit the earth, he proved it.
Salute to this hero, source of motivation and a giant personality.
-K Himaanshu Shuklaa...



Copyright © 2013 - ScrutinyByKHimaanshu

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