Lal Bahadur Shastri, India's second Prime Minister, whose birth anniversary is on October 2, was regarded as a statesman par excellence for his contributions to the country's aspirations for self-sufficiency and independence. Shastri was a frail and soft-spoken man who was recognised as a brilliant thinker with extraordinary willpower. He was born on October 2, 1904, in Mughalsarai (modern-day Uttar Pradesh) and is primarily renowned for his slogan, "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan." Mahatma Gandhi, with whom he shared his birth date, had a profound influence on him.
Shashtri took the oath of office after India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, died suddenly. Despite being a newcomer to the high office, he effectively guided the country through the Indo-Pakistan War in 1965.
He passed away on January 11, 1966, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a day after signing the Tashkent Declaration, purportedly from a heart attack. His death, however, is still surrounded by various controversies because no postmortem examination was performed, leaving it a big mystery to this date.
Here are some lesser-known facts about Lal Bahadur Shastri.
- Lal Bahadur Shastri was born to Ramdulari Devi and Sharada Prasad Shrivastava as Lal Bahadur Shrivastava. However, because he was opposed to the caste system at the time, he opted to abandon his surname. After graduating from Kashi Vidyapeeth in Varanasi in 1925, he was given the title "Shastri." The term 'Shastri' refers to a 'scholar' or a person who is knowledgeable about the holy scriptures.
- He was appointed Minister of Police and Transport on August 15, 1947. During his time in office, the first female bus conductors were hired. He was the one who proposed using water jets rather than lathis to disperse unruly crowds.
- He promoted White Revolution and emphasised the need of expanding milk production and supply. In 1965, the National Dairy Development Board was established.
- His family is believed to have asked him to buy a car when he was Prime Minister. He paid Rs 12,000 for the Fiat car. He applied for a Rs. 5,000 bank loan from the Punjab National Bank because he only had Rs 7,000 in his account. The car is now on display at New Delhi's Shastri Memorial.
- He was the first person to receive the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, posthumously.
- Being a part of the freedom movement placed him in jail frequently, which is why he had to serve a 15-day parole period when his daughter became ill. When she died of the sickness, he was by her side. Even though he was eligible for parole, he returned to prison immediately after performing his daughter's death rites.