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Ethical values from the life of Lal Bahadur Shastri

GS Paper 4


Context: The second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, whose birth anniversary is being observed on 2nd October was known as a statesman par excellence. He is best remembered for his slogan, ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’.

Shastri’s leadership was laden with values and ethics.

Ethical lessons from Shastriji’s life:

  • Against societal prejudice and discrimination: Shastri was born Lal Bahadur Shrivastava – being against the prevailing caste system, he decided to drop his surname.
    • The title ‘Shastri’ refers to a ‘scholar’ or a person, adept in the holy scriptures. During the adverse situations too, he came forward, made himself accountable and showed the signs of a true leader- one who leads from the front.
  • Accountability: He served as the Railway Minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet and was so conscientious that he resigned following a train accident at Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu in 1956.
    • His gesture was hailed by all including Nehru, whom he considered his “hero”.
  • Leadership Qualities: When the Opposition brought a motion of no-confidence against his government in September 1964, Shastri candidly accepted its successes and failures – thus taking it as constructive criticism.
  • Practice before preaching: In 1965, India was embroiled in a war with Pakistan and the country was facing an acute food shortage. He asked his family to give up a meal a day. It is only after he was sure that his own family could survive this he announced on All India Radio, urging the public to sacrifice one meal at least once a week. 
  • Moral public and private life: Shastriji 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.
  • Believed in “Sheelam Param Bhushanam”: In his maiden independence day speech, he had laid emphasis on character and moral strength – not only for personal growth but for the development of the nation.