The second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, whose 115th birth anniversary is being observed today was known as a statesman par excellence for his contribution towards India’s efforts towards self-sustenance and self-reliance. A frail and soft-spoken person, Shastri is remembered as a great mind who was known for his exceptional will power. Born on October 2, 1904 in Mughalsarai (modern day Uttar Pradesh), he is best remembered for his slogan, ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’. He was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi with whom he shared his birthday.
After the sudden demise of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Shashtri took oath of office. Despite being relatively new to the high office, he led the country successfully through the Indo-Pakistan War in 1965.
It was on January 11, 1966 that he took breathed his last in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a day after signing the Tashkent Declaration, reportedly due to cardiac arrest. However, his death remains surrounded by several controversies as no postmortem examination was carried out, making it a great mystery even today.
At Vijay Ghat, paid tributes to Shastri Ji.
India will never forget the valuable contribution of Shastri Ji. He was a stalwart who never deviated from his ideals and principles, come what may. pic.twitter.com/myP7h3erqt
Here are some of the lesser-known facts about him.
1. Lal Bahadur Shastri was born Lal Bahadur Shrivastava to Ramdulari Devi and Sharada Prasad Shrivastava. However, being against the prevailing caste system, he decided to drop his surname. The title ‘Shastri’ was given after he completed his graduation at Kashi Vidyapeeth, Varanasi in 1925. The title ‘Shastri’ refers to a ‘scholar’ or a person, adept in the holy scriptures.
2. On August 15, 1947, he became the Minister of Police and Transport. It was during his tenure that the first women bus conductors were appointed. He was the one who suggested the use of jets of water instead of lathis to disperse unruly crowds.
3. He underlined the importance of increasing milk production and supply, and promoted White Revolution. The National Dairy Development Board was formed in 1965.
4. It is said that when he was the Prime Minister, his family asked him to buy a car. The Fiat car he bought was for Rs 12,000. Since he had only Rs 7,000 in his bank account, he applied for a bank loan of Rs 5,000 from the Punjab National Bank. The car is today kept at the Shastri Memorial in New Delhi.
5. He was the first person to be posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award.
6. It is said that he had a Chevrolet Impala car for official use, which his son once used for a drive. When Shastri learned about it, he asked his driver to check the distance the car was used for and later deposited the money in the government account.
7. Being a part of the freedom movement landed up him in jail quite often which is why he had to be on parole of 15 days when his daughter fell sick. He was there with her when she succumbed to the disease. However, even after having some parole time at hand, he went back to jail soon after performing his daughter’s last rites.
8. When Shastri was completing his term in prison, his wife received a pension of Rs 50 every month. Once, when his wife visited him in the jail and told him that she was able to save Rs 10 from the pension, he got annoyed and asked the servants of People’s Society to cut down his pension and give that Rs 10 to some needy family.
9. It is also said that when his son received an undue promotion at his job, it irked Shastri so much that he immediately released an order to reverse the promotion.