An Ode To Lal Bahadur Shastri: Nobody Remembers The Second, But We Must

Very few people know that Shastriji, when railway minister in Nehru’s cabinet, started the concept of third class in the country. In fact, he was the one who started the trend of ‘˜resigning on the moral grounds’…

We have a habit of remembering those who come first in their field or who have been first to do something.

We also tend to forget those who are standing behind the great figures, giving equal amount of hard work and effort towards betterment of the humankind.

This is the thing which has happened with the second prime minister of free India, late Lal Bahadur Shastri.

He became PM only after Indira Gandhi refused to fill up the space her father and first prime minister of the country Pt Jawahrlal Nehru left after his demise.

And one thing, which stuck with him since his birth, was that he shared his birth date with the great Mahatma Gandhi.

Now the October 2 has become Gandhi Jayanti for the people of this country. Every event, every campaign and every new thing goes in the name of Mahatma.

But what did a ‘second’ prime minister do for this country has been remembered only by a handful.

It is not necessary that people paint multiple pages of newspapers with giant advertisements marking the birthday of Shastriji wasting tons of money which they do in the case of Mahatma, but to remember the work of a non-Gandhi prime minister and to spread his message is what we must do.

While we were young, we were taught about the slogan that Shastriji gave (Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan) and made to memorise it. Everybody is taught the story of ‘Nanhe’ who used to swim across a river everyday to go to school. But what else?

Shastri was a life member of the Servants of the People Society (Lok Sevak Mandal), founded by Lala Lajpat Rai. He worked for the upliftment of the Harijans under Mahatma Gandhi’s direction at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. Later he became the president of the society.

Following India’s independence, Shastriji was appointed parliamentary secretary in Uttar Pradesh. He became the minister of police and transport under Govind Ballabh Pant’s state government. As the transport minister, he was the first to appoint women conductors.

During his tenure as a police minister (as home minister was called prior to 1950), he took upto several reform measures. It was him who ordered that police use jets of water instead of lathis to disperse unruly crowds. During his tenure, the country saw successful curbing of communal riots in 1947, mass migration and resettlement of refugees.

Very few people know that Shastriji, when railway minister in Nehru’s cabinet, started the concept of third class in the country. In fact, he was the one who started the trend of ‘resigning on the moral grounds’ when he did so after a railway accident in Mahbubnagar in 1956.

The credit of first appointing the committee on Prevention of Corruption also goes to Lal Bahadur Shastri during his tenure as union home minister.

It was during Shastriji’s tenure that the Madras anti-Hindi agitation of 1965 took place. The riots and student agitation subsided after his assurance that English will continue to be used for official purpose.

Shastriji was a natural choice after Nehru’s death because he followed Nehruvian socialism to the ‘T’. He became a hero when India won the 1965 war from Pakistan under his leadership. It was during this 22-day war with Pakistan in 1965, On October 19, 1965, when Shastriji gave the seminal ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kishan’ (“Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer”) slogan at Urwa in Allahabad that became a national slogan.

The Food Corporation of India was set up under the Food Corporation’s Act 1964 due to his continuous efforts.

The list is long but nobody dared to look beyond the first.

Thankfully today, even after launching the “Clan India Mission” for his love of Gandhiji and cleanliness, prime minister Narendra Modi visited Vijay Ghat – the Shastri Memorial – and paid homage to the leader.

Shastriji wouldn’t have mind for he too loved Gandhiji and was one of his ardent followers.

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