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Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964): Architect of India's modern temples


He launched a policy of planned economic development with emphasis on heavy industries and multi-purpose projects. His tenure saw the establishment of a string of major industries, dams and steel plants in the country. He secured funds from both the West and the Soviet Union in his efforts at industrialisation.

That was Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and the architect of India's foreign policy. He, along with Tito (Yugoslavia) and Nasser (Egypt), founded the Non- Aligned Movement. He considered that the non-aligned policy does not necessitate taking a neutral stand. On the other hand, it allowed the member-nations to get aid and maintain good relations with both power blocs.

Nehru declared that India's economic policy must be based on a humane outlook and must not sacrifice men for money. Thus, the policy was socialist in leaning and gave India a mixed economy and five-year plans. He described the dams and power plants as `Modern Temples', which are necessary for the nation's economic progress.

He had a special liking for children and they fondly called him `Chacha', meaning uncle. His birthday is celebrated as Children's Day every year.

Born to Motilal Nehru and Swarup Rani on November 14, 1889, Nehru was tutored by Ferdinand T. Brookes between 1902 and 1904 and then sent to Harrow, one of England's leading schools. He obtained a degree in natural science from the Trinity College, Cambridge, and a law degree from the Inner Temple. While in England, he kept himself informed about the developments in India through Indian newspapers. He was a voracious reader.

He acquainted himself with the Irish Republican Movement on a holiday to Dublin in 1907. On his return to India in 1912, Nehru, despite his European upbringing, was full of nationalist ideas. He married Kamla Devi in 1916 and the same year he met Mahatma Gandhi for the first time at the annual convention of the Indian National Congress. In 1917, Kamla gave birth to Indira Priyadarshini.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 had a tremendous influence on the young Nehru. Both father and son gave up flourishing practice to participate in the nationalist movement. Motilal gave up his horses, cars, carriages and suits and adopted Khadi and the Gandhi cap. Nehru joined the Congress in 1919. Later along with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, he founded the Indian Independence League.

In the agitation against the Simon Commission in 1928, he was severely beaten up by the British soldiers in the lathi-charge on the demonstrators. He joined the Civil Disobedience Movement and spent long periods in jail along with his father. Nehru spent nearly 10 years in prison between 1920 and 1947. His father died in 1921 and his wife, Kamla, died in 1936 after a prolonged illness.

After the death of his wife, Nehru devoted all his time to Congress activities. He travelled all over the country to inspire people to fight for freedom from the British rule. In 1937, he along with Bose founded the Congress Planning Committee, which listed the economic programmes to be taken up by the Government of Free India.

On September 2, 1946, an interim Government led by the Congress and the Muslim League was formed under the leadership of Nehru. The two parties did not see eye to eye on many issues, and Nehru and the Congress agreed to the partition of India. Two separate nations, India and Pakistan, came into existence.

India became independent on August 15, 1947, and Nehru was elected the Prime Minister. He won the subsequent elections in 1952, 1957 and 1962 and thus was the first and the longest serving Prime Minister of India.

When his attempts to persuade the Portugese to vacate Goa failed, he ordered the Armed Forces to liberate the colony. In December 1961, Goa became part of India.

The only blot on Nehru's foreign policy was the breakdown of the `Panchsheel' agreement signed with China. The Chinese aggression on India in 1962 was a big blow to Nehru. India suffered a humiliating defeat in the Sino-Indian war and it had a devastating effect on the health of the Prime Minister.

He suffered a stroke in 1963 and again a second attack in January 1964. He died on May 27, 1964. A statue of this architect of modern India has been installed on the Beach Road.

B.M.G.

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