Lal Bahadur Shastri (1964–66)

Lal Bahadur Shastri, (born Oct. 2, 1904, Mughalsarai, India—died Jan. 11, 1966, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, U.S.S.R.), Indian statesman, prime minister of India (1964–66) after Jawaharlal Nehru.

A member of Mahatma Gandhi’s noncooperation movement against British government in India, he was imprisoned for a short time (1921). Upon release he studied in the Kashi Vidyapitha, a nationalist university, where he graduated with the title of shastri (“learned in the scriptures”). He then returned to politics as a follower of Gandhi, was imprisoned several more times, and attained influential positions in the Congress Party of the state of the United Provinces, now Uttar Pradesh state.

Shastri was elected to the legislature of the United Provinces in 1937 and 1946. After Indian independence, Shastri gained experience as minister for home affairs and transport in Uttar Pradesh. He was elected to the central Indian legislature in 1952 and became union minister for railways and transport. He gained a reputation as a skillful mediator after his appointment to the influential post of minister for home affairs in 1961. Three years later, on Jawaharlal Nehru’s illness, Shastri was appointed minister without portfolio, and after Nehru’s death he became prime minister in June 1964.

Shastri was criticized for failing to deal effectively with India’s economic problems, but he won great popularity for his firmness on the outbreak of hostilities with neighbouring Pakistan (1965) over the disputed Kashmir region. He died of a heart attack after signing a “no-war” agreement with Pres. Ayub Khan of Pakistan and was succeeded as prime minister by Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter.

Lal Bahadur Shastri was a senior leader of the Indian National Congress, a key figure in the Indian Independence movement, and India’s second Prime Minister. He succeeded Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, after the latter’s sudden demise. He is remembered for leading India though the Indo-Pakistan War in 1965, being relatively new to the high office. He realised the need for self-sustenance and self-reliance in India, and raised the slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ which he is remembered for even today.

He was the first minister to appoint female conductors as Transport Minister. As Minister in charge for the police department, he instructed authorities to use water-jets instead of ‘lathis’ to disburse unruly crowds. He was successful in mitigating the communal riots of 1947, as a result of mass immigration and also oversaw the re-settlement of refugees from the newly formed Pakistan.

Here is a list of the major achievements of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.

I. Appeasement of Non-Hindi speaking States

During the Indian Freedom Struggle, there was mass mobilisation under the leadership of Gandhi for the replacement of the English language to Hindi and regional languages. The intention behind this was to bridge the gap between the elite class and the common folk, in a bid to associate them towards constructive works in nation building.

The Nehru report supported the making of ‘Hindustani‘ as the official language of India, in a bid to give encouragement to provincial languages. However, as English was used in all official correspondences by the leaders, it couldn’t be gotten rid of. Moreover, little attention was paid to the details of the vernacular language notion, in terms of how the choice of the national language would affect North-South states’ relations.

Though voices and protests against Hindi were observed in different parts of the country, it was Madras that vehemently voiced its opposition to the notion. An Anti-Hindi Conference was held on January 17th 1965, and was attended by D.M.K. leaders and C. Rajagopalachari.

The conference deeply criticised the ‘language policy of the Union government’ and expressed a firm determination of the people to resist the imposition of Hindi. Students organised widespread Anti-Hindi agitations in Madras and Madurai, where the agitations took a violent turn and went on for two months.

Students in Madras were able to compete better in the All Indian Administrative Service with their proficiency in English, and feared losing their lead in the service as a result of the imposition.

Lal Bahadur Shastri, though initially reluctant to translate Nehru’s assurances to Non-Hindi states that ‘no switch over to Hindi would take place until they were ready for it’, following the agitations in Madras; gave assurances to these states that English would remain as the official language. Following this, the agitations died down.

II. White Revolution

A significant section of India’s population are largely agrarian, with dependencies on agricultural produce and cattle milk production for their livelihoods. The milk industry, according to Dr. Verghese Kurian, is the only industry that allows a marginalised family to earn a small amount of cash everyday; requiring a small amount of investment in purchasing a milch cow, and providing nutritional supplement to the children of the house.

According to Kurien, the absence of an efficient collection and distribution system for milk, were reasons for the marginalisation of cattle owners.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Dr. Kurien set up the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) or the Amul Dairy Co-operation, in 1965.

The White Revolution eventually gave rise to ‘Operation Flood‘, a project by NDDB, which became the world’s largest dairy development program. It transformed India from a milk-deficient nation to the world’s largest producer of milk, surpassing USA in 1998. In 30 years, the milk production per person doubled making dairy farming India’s largest self-sustainable rural employment generator. As of 2010-2011, India accounted for 17% of the global output in milk production.

III. Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan – Green Revolution

The British Raj in India saw the nation being reduced from a net exporter of food to a net importer in 1919. Moreover, the food shortages in the Bengal Famine of 1943 caused the estimated deaths of between 1.5 to 3 million people due to starvation. Following the partition of India by the British, Punjab was split between both the nations. Punjab is the wheat growing centre of India, but following partition; most of the irrigated croplands went to Pakistan along with a majority of India’s agricultural research and education facilities, including the ‘Agriculture College and Research Institute at Lyallpur’.

Food shortage was one of the biggest problems for India, following the exit of colonial rulers. Lal Bahadur Shastri’s tenure as PM was characterised by acute food shortages, with  imports of food touching 10 million tonnes which helped avoid a famine. He appealed for a one-day fast every week to reduce the demand for food.

At the time that Shastri ascended to the role of Prime Minister, India was attacked by Pakistan. This period, as mentioned earlier, saw a scarcity in food grain production in the country. He raised the slogan ‘Jai Kisan, Jai Jawan’ (Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer) slogan in a big to boost the morale of the Indian Army, and to encourage the farmers to do their best to increase food production of grains for reducing imports.

At the time of his Prime Ministership, C. Subramaniam was the elected Minister of Food and Agriculture. Subramaniam and Shastri worked together to increase food production via increased government support. Taking recommendation of the Foodgrains Prices Committee offer incentive prices for grains that are higher than procurement and market costs. Subramaniam also favoured increasing government reserves of grains buy purchasing them in the open market on incentive prices.

Subramaniam published the ‘Agricultural Production in the Fourth Five-Year Plan: Strategy and Plan’ in 1965, which marked the government’s commitment towards the ensuing Green Revolution.

IV. Sirima-Shastra Pact

The Sirima-Shastri Pact was bilateral agreement signed between India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) which focused on the citizenship of Indian workers in Ceylon. The pact was signed by Ceylon’s Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on October 30th, 1964.

The issue at hand went back to pthe re-independence colonial rule where, in 1833, the Colebrook Reforms brought several changes to the island’s socio-economic structure. These reforms abolished the trade monopolies of the government, by paving the way for a capitalistic system characterised by private enterprise.

The introduction of the Waste Land Ordinance in 1840 saw the occupation of large quantities of unused land, and selling them to newly arriving classes of private planters and entrepreneurs. The British then authorised the large-scale establishment of commercial plantation leading to the arrival of South-Indian workers.

They were brought because they were willing to provide labour services for cheap payments, and they were familiar with the cultivation of Tea. Moreover, the local Sinhalese refused to be employed in plantations.

The Island-nation gained its independence in 1948, where the citizenships of these Indian workers were questioned. The Citizenship Act of 1949 stripped the legal citizen statuses of the Indian workers. A series of unsuccessful negotiations led Mrs. Bandarnaike to visit in India in 1964, and the pact was drafted after six days of negotiations.

The objectives of this pact was to recognise all people of Indian-origin in Ceylon who weren’t citizens of either India or Ceylon; should become citizens of either India or Ceylon. The Indian government would accept repatriations of persons within a period of 15 days. Ceylon agreed to allow those people who were employed during the signing of this pact, to continue with their jobs until the date of their repatriation.

V. Repatriation of Indians from Burma

Between 1948 and 1962, Burma (Myanmar) had a democratic, Parliamentary government. It was, however, plagued with widespread conflict and internal struggle. The political and ethnic tensions weakened the Burmese government, following constitutional disputes as well. By 1958, the Prime Minister of Burma, U Nu was forced to accept military rule, under the interim rule of General Ne Win, to restore political order. The military eventually stepped down after 18 months, but there were gaping holes in U Nu’s government which left it vulnerable for rivals to exploit weaknesses.

On March 2nd, 1962, a military coup d’état was staged by General Ne Win, thereby negating the constitutional and democratic government, and establishing military rule.

Under the military rule, many Indians who had been assimilated into the Burmese culture for centuries becomes targets for oppression and discrimination by the people and the government. General Ne Win ordered the large-scale expulsion of Indians from Burma.

The Central government monitored all the processes of repatriation and arranged for the identification and transport of Indians from Burma. Local governments were asked to providee adequate facilities to repatriates upon disembarking on Indian soil.

In December 1965, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri made an official visit to Rangoon in Burma, along with his family, and re-established cordial relations with the military government of General Ne Win in Burma.

VII. Indo-Pakistan War and Tashkent Agreement

The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 highlighted one of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s greatest moments as leader of the nation. The war was initiatied when Pakistan laid claim to half of the Kutch Peninsular in a skirmish against the Indian Army.

Shastri said that, while India had no intentions of causing trouble with its bordering neighbours, and that the country’s focus of utilising its limited resources was for the economic progress; under the possibility of an incursion, the government would be quite clear in its objective of protecting the nation, and its duty in this regard would be wilfully and uncompromisingly discharged.

“We would prefer to live in poverty for as long as necessary but we shall not allow our freedom to be subverted.”, Shastri said, in his report to the Lok Sabha.

The war with Pakistan went on for 5 months, between April and September of 1965, and resulted in around casualties of about 3000 to 4000 people on both sides.

On September 23rd, 1965, the United Nations mandated a ceasefire resulting with the war ending between India and Pakistan. After the declaration of the ceasefire with Pakistan in 1965, Prime Minister Shastri and the then President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, entered an agreement in Tashkent (formerly of USSR, now part of Uzbekistan), mediated by Premier Alexei Kosygin.

The Tashkent Declaration was signed between India and Pakistan on January 10th 1966- to give away the conquered regions of each other by both parties, and return to the 1949 ceasefire line in Kashmir.