Icon of Simplicity Dr. Rajendra Prasad – Lessons for Youths

Tuesday, February 28, 2023


Every year on 28th February the country remembers Dr. Rajendra Prasad – the first and the longest serving President of the Indian Republic on his Death Anniversary. It is but natural as Rajendra Prasad was an exceptional leader, a brilliant scholar, a legal luminary and above all a very down-to-earth and simple human being. He was born on 3rd December,1884 in a village named Ziradei in erstwhile Saran district of Bihar and breathed his last on 28th February,1963 in Patna. He wrote eight books, had earned the rarest distinction of “Examinee is better than examiner” remarks in his examination answer sheet in Presidency College, Calcutta, served as Food and Agriculture Minister in the Interim Government formed in 1946 and had the honour of presiding over the functions of Constituent Assembly to finalise the contents of Constitution of India. He used to reiterate that in attaining our ideals, our means should be as pure as the end.

It is time for the largest youth force of the largest democracy of the world to know more about the eventful life of this great son of the country and emulate at least the following five lessons in their life in order to achieve their life goals and also to contribute significantly to make India a far better place in every respect.

1. Simple living, high thinking:  Throughout his political and public life, he practised the principle of “simple living and high thinking.” In fact, he set the tone of simplicity in President House, the erstwhile Palace of British Viceroy, just after he started living there as the First President of Indian Republic thereby sending a strong message to the common people that their president is their true representative who not only value simplicity, but also practise it in his day-to-day life. He was very humble and down-to-earth. The aura of high office of even the President of India could not affect his basic humane approach. He was easily accessible and loved to talk in Bhojpuri – his mother tongue. His knowledge of ground realities was astounding which was reflected in his decisions even as the Congress President, the Central Minister or the longest serving President of India. He was a thinker of very high order and was greatly respected throughout the country.  

2. Passion for learning: Since his childhood, he had been an avid learner and had a sharp memory. All along he was a brilliant student. He graduated with science, did his masters in economics, was engaged as a college lecturer, thereafter left it to study law in Calcutta University and completed his doctorate degree in law from Allahabad University, and finally started practicing law and became a very successful lawyer of Patna High Court. He was a voracious reader having great interest in religion and spiritualism as well. He wrote articles in newspapers and magazines on important socio-political issues.

3. Leading by example: As the old saying goes, “A leader is a person who knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.” To say, a leader should be a knowledgeable person who knows well where to go, what should be the plan of action to achieve the goal, how to take his people along and guide them well to ensure success of the mission or movement and when to lead from the front to inculcate a sense of confidence and trust among the masses? All the actions of Rajendra Prasad were the outcome of this broad thinking. As the President of India, he initiated some novel measures including substantial reduction in the number of his personal staff, availing only half of his salary; maintaining austerity; forbidding guests from offering gifts during marriage ceremony etc. and showing firm commitment for ensuring social and equitable justice.

4. True patriot: National interest and good of the common people remained very special to his life goals. Being the president of the constituent assembly to help prepare, frame and finalise the constitution of the country, he impressed upon the members to have the best of safeguards for protecting national interest and the rights of common people, especially the disadvantaged section of the society. His courage, conviction and dedication to the cause of freedom struggle was so profound that he asked his son to drop out of his school soon after Gandhiji’s call to boycott government educational institutions as part of the non-cooperation movement of 1920. Notwithstanding, in order to take care of the studies of such drop out students in Bihar, Rajendra Prasad enrolled his son too, in Bihar Vidyapeeth, an educational institution established by Maulana Majharul Haque in 1921  based on Indian  tradition and culture. Very soon Rajendra Babu also joined Haque very actively by residing in Bihar Vidyapeeth campus in a thatched-roof house and conducting all activities related to freedom struggle for 25 long years till 1946.

5. Helping Attitude: Rajendra Prasad was helping by nature. He was also a very good communicator, facilitator and organiser. At the age of 22 he played the leading role in organising Bihari Students Conference in Patna College in 1906. This conference was the first of its kind in British India which provided the right platform for young leaders of Bihar to participate more actively in the freedom struggle. Rajendra Babu was very actively involved in helping flood affected people of Bihar and Bengal in 1914. During the devastating earthquake that affected Bihar in 1934, Rajendra Prasad took up the relief work with his colleagues and set up Bihar Central Relief Committee and raised reasonable funds to help the victims. Even though he was barred by the British Government from going to the affected places of the 1935 earthquake in Quetta, he involved himself in all possible manners and also set up the Quetta Central Relief Committee. During the Quit India Movement the atrocities of the British Administration increased unimaginably. All popular leaders including Rajendra Babu were behind the bars. After his release in June 1945, he could know exactly about the magnitude of suffering thousands of freedom fighters had gone through due to the oppressive policy of the British Government. He immediately decided to help these victims legally and financially. Accordingly he started touring different places in Bihar despite his bad health condition and collected about five lakhs within a few weeks and helped the needy persons. The pages of history are replete with such selfless acts of Dr. Rajendra Prasad. 

Published in "Morning India" daily.
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