Lal Bahadur Shastri was the second Prime Minister of independent India. Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on October 2, 1904, to Ramdulari Devi and Sharada Prasad Shrivastava, in Moghalsarai, United Province (Uttar Pradesh). He shares his birthday with Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. Lal Bahadur was against the prevailing caste system and therefore decided to drop his surname. The title "Shastri" was given after the completion of his graduation at Kashi Vidyapeeth, Varanasi in 1925. The title "Shastri" refers to a "scholar" or a person, adept in the "Holy Scriptures".
Lal Bahadur's parents were agriculturists. Initially his father was a poor teacher who did not earn much by way of income. Then he became a clerk in the Revenue Office at Allahabad. Here, too, he earned very little. But, even though he was poor, he never accepted bribes. He always lived a life of honesty and integrity. When Lal Bahadur was barely two years old his father was died. His mother Ramdulari Devi took him and his two sisters to their maternal grandfather Hazari Lal's house. Lal Bahadur acquired virtues like boldness, love of adventure, patience, self-control, courtesy, and selflessness in his childhood. After completing his primary education at Mirzapur, Lal Bahadur was sent to Varanasi, where he stayed with his maternal uncle.
There is a very famous incident regarding Lal Bahadur Shastri's childhood which took place when he was six years old. One day, while returning from school, Lal Bahadur and his friends went to an orchard that was on the way to home. Lal Bahadur Shastri was standing below while his friends climbed the trees to pluck mangoes. Meanwhile, the gardener came and caught hold of Lalbahadur Shastri. He scolded Lal Bahadur Shastri and started beating him. Lal Bahadur Shastri pleaded to gardener to leave him as he was orphan. Taking pity on Lal Bahadur, the gardener said, "Because you are an orphan, it is all the more important that you must learn better behavior." These words left a deep imprint on Lal Bahadur Shastri and he swore to behave better in the future.
Lal Bahadur stayed at his grandfather's house till he was ten. By that time he had passed the sixth standard examination. He went to Varanasi for higher education. In 1921 when Mahatma Gandhi launched the non-cooperation movement against British Government, Lal Bahadur Shastri, was only seventeen years old. When Mahatma Gandhi gave a call to the youth to come out of Government schools and colleges, offices and courts and to sacrifice everything for the sake of freedom, Lal Bahadur came out of his school. Though his mother and relatives advised him not to do so, he was firm in his decision. Lal Bahadur was arrested during the Non-cooperation movement but as he was too young he was let off.
After his release Lal Bahadur joined Kashi Vidya Peeth and for four years he studied philosophy. In 1926, Lal Bahadur earned the degree of "Shastri" After leaving Kashi Vidya Peeth, Lal Bahadur Shastri joined "The Servants of the People Society", which Lala Lajpat Rai had started in 1921. The aim of the Society was to train youths that were prepared to dedicate their lives in the service of the country. In 1927, Lal Bahadur Shastri married Lalitha Devi. The marriage ceremony was very simple and Shastriji took only a charkha (spinning wheel) and few yards of Khadi in dowry.
In 1930, Lal Bahadur Shastri became the secretary of the Congress party and later the president of the Allahabad Congress Committee. He played a crucial role during the "Salt Movement". Lal Bahadur leads a door-to-door campaign, urging people not to pay land revenue and taxes to the British authority. The leader was also sent to jail for the campaign. During the long span of nine years he spent in jails, Lal Bahadur utilized the time in reading the social reformers and western philosophers. He was one of the leading and prominent faces that continued the Quit India movement, called by Mahatma Gandhi. Lal Bahadur, in 1937, was elected to the UP Legislative Assembly.
Lal Bahadur Shastri had served in various positions before being elected as the Prime Minister. After Independence, he became the Minister of police in the Ministry of Govind Vallabh Panth in Uttar Pradesh. His recommendations included the introduction of "water-jets" instead of sticks to disperse the unruly mob. Impressed with his efforts in reforming the state police department, Jawaharlal Nehru, invited Shastri to join the Union cabinet as a Minister for railways. He was a responsible man and known for his ethics and morality. In 1956, Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned from his post, following a train accident that killed around 150 passengers near Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu. Nehru, had once said, "No one could wish for a better comrade than Lal Bahadur, a man of the highest integrity and devoted to ideas".
Lal Bahadur Shastri returned to the Cabinet in 1957, first as the Minister for Transport and Communications, and then as the Minister of Commerce and Industry. In 1961, he became Minister for Home and formed the "Committee on Prevention of Corruption" headed by of K. Santhanam. In the 1962 India-China war Shastriji played a key role in maintaining internal security of the country.
After the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri was unanimously elected as the Prime Minister of India. It was a difficult time and the country was facing huge challenges. There was food shortage in the country and on the security front Pakistan was creating problems. In 1965, Pakistan tried to take advantage of India's vulnerability and attacked India. Mild-mannered Lal Bahadur Shastri rose to the occasion and led the country ably. To enthuse soldiers and farmers he coined the slogan of "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan". Pakistan lost the war and Shastriji's leadership was praised all over the world.
In January 1966, to broker peace between India and Pakistan, Russia mediated a meeting between Lal Bahadur Shastri and Ayub Khan in Tashkent, Russia. India and Pakistan signed the joint declaration under Russian mediation. Under the treaty India agreed to return to Pakistan all the territories occupied by it during the war. The joint declaration was signed on January 10, 1966 and Lal Bahadur Shastri died of heart attack on the same night. He is the only Indian Prime Minister, to have died in office, overseas. Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first person to be posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, (India's highest civilian award).