During the 22-day war with Pakistan in 1965, On 19 October 1965, Shastri gave the seminal ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kishan’ (“Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer”) slogan at Urwa in Allahabad that became a national slogan. Under his leadership India faced and repulsed the Pakistani invasion of 1965. It is not only a matter of pride for the Indian Army but also for every citizen of the country. Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan Jai Jawan! Jai Kisan!! reverberates even today through the length and breadth of the country.
While speaking on the chronic food shortages across the country, Lal Bahadur Shastri urged people to voluntarily give up one meal so that the food saved could be distributed to the affected populace. However he ensured that he first implemented the system in his own family before appealing to the country. He went on air to appeal to his countrymen to skip a meal a week. The response to his appeal was overwhelming. Even restaurants and eateries downed the shutters on Monday evenings. Many parts of the country observed the “Shastri Vrat”. He motivated the country to maximize the cultivation of food grains by ploughing the lawn himself, at his official residence in New Delhi.
Lal Bahadur Shastri promoted the White Revolution – a national campaign to increase the production and supply of milk – by supporting the Amul milk co-operative of Anand, Gujarat and creating the National Dairy Development Board. He visited Anand on 31 October 1964 for inauguration of the Cattle Feed Factory of Amul at Kanjari. As he was keenly interested in knowing the success of this co-operative, he stayed overnight with farmers in a village, and even had dinner with a farmer’s family. He discussed his wish with Mr Verghese Kurien, then the General Manager of Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd (Amul) to replicate this model to other parts of the country for improving the socio-economic conditions of farmers. As a result of this visit, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was established at Anand in 1965.
As the Transport Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first to appoint women conductors. As the minister in charge of the Police Department, he ordered that police use jets of water instead of lathis to disperse unruly crowds. His tenure as police minister (As Home Minister was called prior to 1950) saw successful curbing of communal riots in 1947, mass migration and resettlement of refugees.
Lal Bahadur Shastri graduated with a first-class degree in philosophy and ethics from the Vidyapith in 1925. He was given the title Shastri (“scholar”). The title was a bachelor’s degree awarded by the Vidyapith, but it stuck as part of his name.
While Lal Bahadur Shastri’s family had no links to the independence movement then taking shape, among his teachers at Harish Chandra High School was an intensely patriotic and highly respected teacher named Nishkameshwar Prasad Mishra, who gave Shastri much-needed financial support by allowing him to tutor his children. Inspired by Mishra’s patriotism, Shastri took a deep interest in the freedom struggle, and began to study its history and the works of several of its noted personalities, including those of Swami Vivekananda, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gandhi and Annie Besant. In January 1921, when Shastri was in the 10 standard and three months from sitting the final examinations, he attended a public meeting in Benares hosted by Gandhi and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. Inspired by the Mahatma’s call for students to withdraw from government schools and join the non-cooperation movement, Shastri withdrew from Harish Chadra the next day and joined the local branch of the Congress Party as a volunteer, actively participating in picketing and anti-government demonstrations. He was soon arrested and jailed, but was then let off as he was still a minor.
In Shastri’s family, as with many Kayastha families, it was the custom in that era for children to receive an education in the Urdu language and culture. This is because Urdu/Persian had been the language of government for centuries, before being replaced by English, and old traditions persisted into the 20th century. Therefore, Shastri began his education at the age of four under the tutelage of a maulvi (a Muslim cleric), Budhan Mian, at the East Central Railway Inter college in Mughalsarai. He studied there until the sixth standard. In 1917, Bindeshwari Prasad (who was now head of the household) was transferred to Varanasi, and the entire family moved there, including Ramdulari Devi and her three children. In Varanasi, Shastri joining the seventh standard at Harish Chandra High School. At this time, he decided to drop his caste-derived surname of “Verma” (which is a traditional optional surname for all Kayastha families).
In April 1906, When Shastri was hardly one year old, his father, had only recently been promoted to the post of deputy tahsildar, died in an epidemic of bubonic plague. Ramdulari Devi, then only 23 and pregnant with her third child, took her two children and moved from Ramnnagar to her father’s house in Mughalsarai and settled there for good. She gave birth to a daughter, Sundari Devi, in July 1906. Thus, Shastri and his sisters grew up in the household of his maternal grandfather, Hazari Lal. However, Hazari Lal himself died from a stroke in mid-1908, after which the family were looked after by his brother (Shastri’s great-uncle) Darbari Lal, who was the head clerk in the opium regulation department at Ghazipur, and later by his son (Ramdulari Devi’s cousin) Bindeshwari Prasad, a school teacher in Mughalsarai. Thus, the greatness of the traditional Indian joint family system, and the traditions of family responsibility and kinship, are deeply evident in Shastri’s case, where the orphan child of a penniless widow was raised by his distant relatives in a manner which enabled him to become Prime Minister of India.
In May 1998, India conducted five underground nuclear tests in Pokhran desert in Rajasthan, 24 yrs after India conducted its first nuclear test (Smiling Buddha) in 1974. This test is called Pokhran-II. The tests were held just a month after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government had been in power. Two weeks later, Pakistan responded with its own nuclear tests making it the newest declared nation with nuclear weapons. While some nations, such as Russia and France, endorsed India’s right to defensive nuclear power, others including the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain and the European Union imposed sanctions on information, resources and technology to India. In spite of the intense international criticism and the steady decline in foreign investment and trade, the nuclear tests were popular domestically. Effectively the international sanctions failed completely in swaying India’s decision to weaponize their nuclear capability, something that was planned for and anticipated by the Vajpayee administration.
In 1951, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was seconded by the RSS, along with Deendayal Upadhyaya, to work for the newly formed Bharatiya Jana Sangh a political party associated with the RSS. He was appointed as a national secretary of the party in charge of the Northern region, based in Delhi. He soon became a follower and aide of party leader Syama Prasad Mukherjee. In 1954, Vajpayee was with Mookerjee when he went on a fast-unto-death in Kashmir to protest against perceived inferior treatment of non-Kashmiri Indian visitors to the state. Mookerjee died in prison during this strike. In 1957, Vajpayee lost to Raja Mahendra Pratap in Mathura for the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament of India, but was elected from Balrampur. There, his oratorical skills so impressed Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that he predicted that Vajpayee would someday become India’s Prime Minister.