Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India (1947-64), who established parliamentary government, the initiator of Non Alignment policy in foreign affairs, often referred with the epithet of Panditji, was born on Nov. 14, 1889, in Allahabad.
His father, Motilal Nehru, was a barrister and a moderate nationalist leader and congressman. Jawaharlal was educated at home by tutors; most of them were English or Scottish. Under the influence of a tutor, Nehru joined the Theosophical Society at 13. For further education at the age of 15 he left for England, where he studied at Harrow and Cambridge and then for the Bar in London. His English experience reinforced his elegant and cosmopolitan tastes. As Nehru said once at Cambridge, “In my likes and dislikes I was perhaps more an Englishman than an Indian.” Through out his life, Nehru advocated Fabian Socialism and a strong Public sector as the means by which economic development could be pursued by poorer nations. Jawaharlal Nehru took active part in the Non-Cooperation Movement; elected President of the Allahabad Municipal Corporation in 1924, and served for two years as the city’s chief executive; Presided over Congress’ annual session in Lahore in 1929 and passed a resolution demanding India’s independence; elected as Congress President in 1936, 1937 and 1946; was one of the main architects of Non Aligned Movement. Jawaharlal Nehru is widely regarded as the architect of modern India. He set India on the path of democracy and nurtured its institution – Parliament, multi-party system, independent judiciary and free press. He also encouraged Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI).
He was a great statesman and it was his foresight that he created institutions like Planning Commission, National Science Laboratories and laid the foundation of a vast public sector for developing infrastructure for industrial growth. Along with public sector, Nehru also wanted to encourage the private sector to establish a social order based on social justice that is why he emphasized on planned development. With Nehru’s vision India emerged as a leader nation with the policy of non alignment and the principle of Panchsheel, the five principles of peaceful coexistence at a time when the rivalries of cold-war were playing with humanity. He had distinct vision that eradication of poverty and better living style is possible with the extensive application of science and technology and industrialization. Education to him was very important for internal freedom and development. He was a passionate advocate of education for India’s children and youth, believing it is essential for India’s future progress.
His government oversaw the establishment of many institutions of higher education, including the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the National Institute of Technology (NIT). Nehru envisioned the developing of nuclear weapons and established the Atomic Energy Commission of India (AEC) in 1948. He was the survivor of India’s great cultural heritage and wanted to combine tradition with modernity.
Nehru was a successor to Gandhi, his real inspiration into politics came in contact with Mahatma Gandhi. At that time Gandhi had launched a campaign against Rowlett Act. Nehru was instantly attracted to Gandhi’s commitment for active but peaceful, civil disobedience. Gandhi himself saw India’s future in the young Jawaharlal Nehru. On 15 January Gandhi said, “Some say Pandit Nehru and I were estranged. It will require much more than difference of opinion to estrange us. We had differences from the time we became co-worker and yet I have said for some years and say so now that not Rajaji but Jawaharlal will be my successor.”
As the ideologue of the Indian Constitution and the Indian polity, Nehru’s contribution cannot be denied. It is his doctrine of secularism and his approach to harmonizing the diversities of India. For Nehru secularism did not mean ‘a state where religion as such is discouraged. It meant freedom of religion and conscience, including freedom for those who may have no religion’. For Nehru, the word secular was not opposed to religion. Jawaharlal Nehru played a key role in building modern India. He set up a Planning Commission, encouraged development of science and technology, and launched three successive five-year plans. As a result there was huge growth in agricultural and industrial production. He also had great contribution in developing independent India’s foreign policy. He called for liquidation of colonialism in Asia and Africa. He played constructive, mediatory role in some disputes in international arena such in Korean crisis, Suez Canal conflict and so on.
Jawaharlal Nehru was a prolific writer, a great visionary, a charismatic leader, a successful statesman and he wrote a number of books like ‘The Discovery of India’, ‘Glimpses of World History’, his autobiography, ‘Towards Freedom’ (1936) ran nine editions in the first year alone. In 1955 he was awarded Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour. But Jawaharlal Nehru couldn’t improve India’s relation with Pakistan and China. The Kashmir issue was always a thorn in Indo-Pak relation and the border dispute with China. The Chinese invasion in 1962, which Nehru failed to anticipate, probably caused his death. Jawaharlal Nehru died of a heart attack on May 27, 1964.
Pandit Nehru was very fond of children and they affectionately called him Chacha Nehru. His birthday is observed as Children’s Day. He believed that children are the future of the nation.