(Last Updated on : 21/08/2012)
Jawaharlal Nehru, undisputed leader of the country who helped shape the growth and advancement of India, was born on November 14, 1889 and died on May 27, 1964. He was a political leader of the Indian National Congress
, and became the first Prime Minister
of independent India. Nehru was an important person during the Indian independence movement, and popularly referred to as Panditji. Nehru was a writer, scholar, an amateur historian and the patriarch of India's most influential political family.
Early life of Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru was the son of the wealthy and affluent Indian barrister and politician Motilal Nehru
. Jawaharlal Nehru was born in the city of Allahabad
. Jawahar literally means a "gem" in Arabic and is a name similar in meaning to Moti, "pearl". He was the eldest child of Swarup Rani, the wife of Motilal Nehru. The Nehru family had come from Kashmiri heritage and belonged to the Saraswat Brahmin caste of Hindus. Training as a lawyer, Motilal had moved to Allahabad and developed a successful practice and had become active in India's largest political party, the Indian National Congress
. Nehru, along with his sisters, lived in a large mansion called Anand Bhavan and was raised with British customs, mannerisms and attire. While learning Hindi language
and Sanskrit language
, Nehru was also trained to converse fluently in English.
After being tutored at home and attending some of the most modern schools in India, Nehru was sent to England, at the age of 15, to attend Harrow. He would proceed to study Natural Sciences from Trinity College, before choosing to get train as a barrister at the Middle Temple in London. Nehru always went to the theatres, museums and opera houses of London, to spend his vacations in Europe. Many observers had later described him as a sophisticated, charming young intellectual socialite. Nehru would also actively participate in the political activities of the Indian student community, growing increasingly attracted to socialism and liberalism, which were beginning to influence the politics and economies of Europe.
When he returned to India, Nehru's marriage was arranged with Kamala Kaul (Kamala Nehru
). The first few years of their marriage suffered obstacles because of the cultural differences between the English minded Nehru and Kamala, who observed Hindu traditions and focused on family affairs. Kamala gave birth to their only child, their daughter Indira Priyadarshini. Having made few attempts to establish himself in a legal practice, Nehru was immediately attracted to Indian political life, which at the time was emerging from divisions over World War I. Although frequently acclaimed as the future leader of the Congress and India, Nehru's political rise did not begin until the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi
on India's political arena.
Nehru was very strongly attracted to Gandhi's philosophy and leadership. Emerging as a key orator and prominent organiser, Nehru became one of the most popular political leaders in northern India, especially with the people of the United Provinces, Bihar
and the Central Provinces. His youth and passion for social justice and equality attracted India's Muslims, women and other minorities.
Achievements of Jawaharlal Nehru
Nehru had become one of the youngest leaders of the Indian National Congress. Rising under the mentorship of Mahatma Gandhi
, Nehru became a charismatic, radical leader, advocating complete independence from the British Empire. An icon for Indian youth, Nehru was also an exponent of socialism as a means to address long-standing national challenges. On December 31, 1929 serving as President of Indian National Congress
, Nehru raised the flag of independent India in Lahore. A forceful and charismatic orator, Nehru was a major influence in organising nationalist rebellions and spreading the popularity of the nationalist cause to India's minorities. He was imprisoned nine times between 1921 and 1945 for his political activity.
As India's Prime Minister, Nehru introduced major national programmes of industrialisation, agrarian and land reforms, infrastructure and energy development. He enthusiastically worked for women's rights, secularism and advancement of education and social welfare. Nehru introduced the policy of non-alignment and developed India's foreign policy under the ideals of Pancasila. However, he was criticised for his failure of leadership during the Sino-Indian War in 1962.
Political Achievements of Jawaharlal Nehru
In the years following independence, Nehru frequently turned to his daughter Indira Gandhi
to look after him and manage his personal affairs. Following Vallabhbhai Patel
's death in 1950, Nehru became the most popular and powerful Indian politician. Under his leadership, the Congress won an overwhelming majority in the elections of 1952, in which his son-in-law Feroze Gandhi
was also elected.
Economic Policies by Jawaharlal Nehru
Nehru implemented his socialist vision by introducing a modified version of state planning and control over the economy. In 1951, Nehru drew up the first 'Five-Year Plan' which formulated the investments of Government of India
in industries and agriculture. Nehru had also created the Planning Commission of India. Nehru envisaged a mixed economy in which the government would manage strategic industries such as mining, electricity and heavy industries, serving public interest and a check to private enterprise. While encouraging the construction of large dams, irrigation works and the generation of hydroelectricity, Nehru also launched India's programme to control nuclear energy. Nehru chased land redistribution and launched programmes to build irrigation canals, dams and spread the use of fertilisers to increase agricultural production.
Education and Social Reforms Jawaharlal Nehru was an ardent advocate of education for India's children and youth, believing it essential for the country's future progress. His government established many institutions of higher learning, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences
, the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management. Nehru also committed in his five-year plans to guarantee free and compulsory primary education to Indian children. Nehru also launched schemes such as the provision of free milk and meals to children in order to fight malnutrition. Adult education centres, vocational and technical schools were also organised for adults, especially in the rural areas.
Under Nehru, the Indian Parliament
amended the Constitutional Hindu law to criminalise caste discrimination and increase the legal rights and social freedoms of women. A system of reservations in government services and educational institutions was created to eradicate the social inequalities and disadvantages faced by peoples of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Nehru also promoted secularism and religious harmony, increasing the representation of minorities in government.
In 1956, Nehru had criticised the joint invasion of the Suez Canal by the British, French and Israelis. Accepting the arbitration of the UK and World Bank, Nehru signed the Indus Water Treaty in 1960 with Pakistani ruler Ayub Khan to resolve long lasting disputes about sharing the water of the major rivers of the Punjab region. Jawaharlal Nehru had led the Congress to a major victory in the 1957 elections; but because of continuous rising problems and criticism, Nehru suffered a stroke and later a heart attack.
He died in the early hours of May 27, 1964. Nehru was cremated as per Hindu rites at the Shantivana on the banks of the Yamuna River
, witnessed by hundreds of thousands of mourners who had gathered into the streets of Delhi
and the cremation grounds.
Jawaharlal Nehru was the first to be elected to lead free India's Government; Nehru remained India's Prime Minister and head of the Congress, until his death. He had been a pioneer and a visionary who made considerable changes for the betterment of the country.