Jagjivan Ram
Ram on a 1991 stamp of India
4th Deputy Prime Minister of India
In office
24 January 1979 – 28 July 1979
Serving with Charan Singh
Prime MinisterMorarji Desai
Preceded byMorarji Desai
Succeeded byYashwantrao Chavan
Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha
In office
29 July 1979 – 22 August 1979
Preceded byYashwantrao Chavan
Succeeded byVacant
Minister of Defence
In office
24 March 1977 – 28 July 1979
Prime MinisterMorarji Desai
Preceded byBansi Lal
Succeeded byChidambaram Subramaniam
In office
27 June 1970 – 10 October 1974
Prime MinisterIndira Gandhi
Preceded bySardar Swaran Singh
Succeeded bySardar Swaran Singh
Member of Constituent Assembly of India
In office
9 December 1946 – 24 January 1950
Personal details
Born(1908-04-05)5 April 1908
Arrah, Bengal Presidency, British India (now Bihar, India)
Died6 July 1986(1986-07-06) (aged 78)
New Delhi, NCT of Delhi, India
Political partyIndian National Congress-Jagjivan (1981–1986)
Other political
Indian National Congress (Before 1977)
Congress for Democracy (1977)
Janata Party (1977–1981)
Indrani Devi
(m. 1935; died 1986)
ChildrenSuresh Kumar
Meira Kumar
Alma materBanaras Hindu University
University of Calcutta

Jagjivan Ram (5 April 1908 – 6 July 1986),[1] known popularly as Babuji, was an Indian independence activist and politician from Bihar. He was instrumental in the foundation of the All India Depressed Classes League, an organisation dedicated to attaining equality for untouchables, in 1935 and was elected to Bihar Legislative Assembly in 1937, after which he organised the rural labour movement.

In 1946, he became the youngest minister in Jawaharlal Nehru's interim government, the first cabinet of India as a Labour Minister and also a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, where he ensured that social justice was enshrined in the Constitution. He went on to serve as a minister with various portfolios for the next 30 years as a member of the Indian National Congress (INC). Most importantly, he was the Defence Minister of India during the Indo-Pak war of 1971, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. His contribution to the Green Revolution in India and modernising Indian agriculture, during his two tenures as Union Agriculture Minister are still remembered, especially during the 1974 drought when he was asked to hold the additional portfolio to tide over the food crisis.[2][3]

Though he supported Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the Emergency (1975–77), he left Congress in 1977 and joined the Janata Party alliance, along with his Congress for Democracy. He later served as the Deputy Prime Minister of India (1977–79); then in 1981, he formed Congress (J). At his death, he was the last surviving minister of the Interim Government and the last surviving original member of the first cabinet of independent India. Including his service during the Interim Government, his total tenure of over 30 years in various ministries remains the longest of any Indian federal minister.

Early life and education

Jagjivan Ram was born at Chandwa liability in Arrah in Bihar into the [CHAMAR] caste of Indian Caste System.[4] He had an elder brother, Sant Lal, and three sisters. His father Sobhi Ram was with the British Indian Army, posted at Peshawar, but later resigned due to some differences, and bought farming land in his native village Chandwa and settled there. He also became a Mahant of the Shiv Narayani sect, and being skilled in calligraphy, illustrated many books for the sect that were distributed locally.[5][6]

Young Jagjivan attended a local school in January 1914. Upon the premature death of his father, Jagjivan and his mother Vasanti Devi were left in a harsh economic situation. He joined Aggrawal Middle School in Arrah in 1920, where the medium of instruction was English for the first time, and joined Arrah Town School in 1922. It was here that he faced caste discrimination for the first time, yet remained unfazed. An often cited incident occurred in this school; there was a tradition of having two water pots in the school, one for Hindus and another for Muslims. Jagjivan drank water from the Hindu pot, and because he was from an untouchable class, the matter was reported to the Principal, who placed a third pot for untouchables in the school. Jagjivan broke this pot twice in protest, until the Principal decided against placing the third pot.[5][6] A turning point in his life came in 1925, when Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya visited his school, and impressed by his welcome address, invited him to join the Banaras Hindu University.[7]

Jagjivan Ram passed his matriculation in the first division and joined the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1927, where he was awarded the Birla scholarship, and passed his Inter Science Examination. While at BHU, he organised the scheduled castes to protest against social discrimination.[8] As a Dalit student, he was denied basic services like meals in his hostel and haircuts by local barbers. A Dalit barber would arrive occasionally to trim his hair. Eventually, Jagjivan left BHU and continued his education at Calcutta University. In 2007, the BHU set up a Babu Jagjivan Ram Chair in its faculty of social sciences to study caste discrimination and economic backwardness.[9][10]

He received a B. Sc. degree from the University of Calcutta in 1931, where again he organised conferences to draw attention toward issues of discrimination, and also participated in the anti-untouchability movement started by Mahatma Gandhi.[8]

Early career

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose took notice of him at Kolkata, when in 1928 he organised a Mazdoor Rally at Wellington Square, in which approximately 50,000 people participated. When the devastating 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake occurred he got actively involved in the relief work and his efforts were appreciated.[11] When popular rule was introduced under the 1935 Act and the scheduled castes were given representation in the legislatures, both the nationalists and the British loyalists sought him because of his first-hand knowledge of the social and economic situation in Bihar. Jagjivan Ram was nominated to the Bihar Council. He chose to go with the nationalists and joined Congress, which wanted him not only because he was valued as an able spokesperson for the depressed classes, but also that he could counter B. R. Ambedkar; he was elected to the Bihar assembly in 1937. However, he resigned his membership on the issue of irrigation cess.[12] He criticized Ambedkar as a "coward" who could not lead his people.[13]

In 1935, he contributed to the establishment of the All-India Depressed Classes League, an organisation dedicated to attaining equality for untouchables. He was also drawn into the Indian National Congress. In the same year he voted in favor of a resolution presented in the 1935 session of the Hindu Mahasabha demanding that temples and drinking water wells be opened up to Dalits;[14] and in the early 1940s was imprisoned twice for his active participation in the Satyagraha and the Quit India Movements. He was among the principal leaders who publicly denounced India's participation in the World War II between the European nations and for which he was imprisoned in 1940.[15]

Role in the Constitution

In the Constituent Assembly[16] he advocated for the rights of Dalits and argued for affirmative action based on caste in elected bodies and government services.[citation needed]

Parliamentary career

In 1946, he became the youngest minister in Jawaharlal Nehru's provisional government and also the subsequent First Indian Cabinet, as a Labour Minister, where he is credited for laying the foundation for several labour welfare policies in India.[17] He was a part of the prestigious high-profile Indian delegation that attended the International Labour Organization (ILO)'s International Labour Conference on 16 August 1947 in Geneva, along with the great Gandhian Bihar Bibhuti Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha,[18] his chief political mentor and also the then head of the delegation, and a few days later he was elected President of the ILO.[19] He served as Labour minister until 1952. He was member of the Constituent assembly that drafted India's constitution. Ram also served in the interim national government of 1946.[20] Later, he held several ministerial posts in Nehru's Cabinet – Communications (1952–56), Transport and Railways (1956–62), and Transport and Communications (1962–63).[21]

In Indira Gandhi's government, he worked as minister for Labour, Employment, and Rehabilitation (1966–67), and Union Minister for Food and Agriculture (1967–70), where he is best remembered for having successfully led the Green Revolution during his tenure.[22][3][23] When the Congress Party split in 1969, Jagjivan Ram joined the camp led by Indira Gandhi, and became the president of that faction of Congress. He worked as the Minister of Defence (1970–74) making him the virtual No. 2 in the cabinet, Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation (1974–77). It was during his tenure as the minister of Defence that the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was fought, and Bangladesh gained independence. While loyal to prime minister Indira Gandhi for most of the Indian Emergency, in 1977 he along with five other politicians resigned from the Cabinet and formed the Congress for Democracy party, within the Janata coalition.

A few days before the elections, on a Sunday, Jagjivan Ram addressed an Opposition rally at the famous Ram Lila Grounds in Delhi. The national broadcaster Doordarshan allegedly attempted to stop crowds from participating in the demonstration by telecasting the blockbuster movie Bobby. The rally still drew large crowds, and a newspaper headline the next day ran "Babu beats Bobby." [24] He was the Deputy Prime Minister of India when Morarji Desai was the prime minister, from 1977 to 1979. Though initially reluctant to join the cabinet, he was not present at the oath-taking ceremony on 24 March 1977, but he eventually did so at the behest of Jai Prakash Narayan, who insisted that his presence was necessary, "not just as an individual but as a political and social force."[25] However, he was once again given the defence portfolio. His last position in government was as Deputy Prime Minister of India in the Janata Party government of 1977–1979,[26][27][28]

When the split in Janata Party forced early General Election in 1980, Janata Party contested it with Jagjivan Ram as its Prime Ministerial candidate, but the party won only 31 seats out of 542. Disillusioned with the Janata party he joined Congress (Urs) faction. In 1981, he separated from that faction as well, and formed his own party, the Congress (J).[29]

He remained a member of Parliament right from the first election in 1952 till his death in 1986, after over forty years as a parliamentarian. He was elected from Sasaram parliament constituency in Bihar. His uninterrupted representation in the Parliament from 1936 to 1986 is a world record.

Positions held

Politics and government

Left-right: Indian Defense Minister Jagjivan Ram, Indian Minister of Commerce Mohan Dharia, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and Indian Minister of external Affairs Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Other positions held with Thanmai

Personal life

After death of his first wife in August 1933 after a brief illness, Jagjivan Ram married Indrani Devi, a daughter of Dr. Birbal, a well-known social worker of Kanpur. The couple had two children, Suresh Kumar and Meira Kumar, a five-time Member of Parliament, who won from his former seat Sasaram in both 2004 and 2009, and became the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha in 2009.


The place of his cremation has been turned into a memorial, Thanmai, and his birth anniversary is observed as Thanmai, (Equality Day) in India. His birth centenary celebrations were held all over the nation in 2008. Demands for awarding him a posthumous Bharat Ratna have been raised from time to time in Hyderabad.[34][35] Andhra University conferred an honorary doctorate on him in 1973, and in 2009 on the occasion of his 101st birth anniversary, his statue was unveiled on the university premises.[36]

To propagate his ideologies, the 'Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation' has been set up by Ministry of Social Justice, Govt. of India in Delhi.[37]

The training academy for Railway Protection Force officers is named after Jagjivan Ram.[38]

The first indigenously built electric locomotive, a WAM-1 model, was named after him and was recently restored by the Eastern Railway.[39]

In 2015, the Babu Jagjeevan Ram English Medium Secondary School was established in Mahatma Gandhi Nagar, Yerawada, Pune. As of March 2016, the school serves 125 7th and 8th graders from Yerawada. The school honours Babuji and his advocacy of education and opportunity for all people of lower castes by being the first Pune Municipal Corporation public school to offer education past the 7th grade.[40]

He also has a hospital named in his honour – Jagjivan Ram Hospital – in the Mumbai Central Area of Mumbai.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Jagjivan Ram at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ Swaminathan, M. S. (7 February 2008). "Jagjivan Ram & inclusive agricultural growth". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 10 February 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Prez, PM call for a second green revolution". The Times of India. 6 April 2008. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
  4. ^ "INDIEN : In den Staub - DER SPIEGEL 35/1979". Der Spiegel. 26 August 1979.
  5. ^ a b Profile Jagjivan Ram:Early life Archived 9 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Bakshi, S. R. (1992). Jagjivan Ram: The Harijan Leader. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD. pp. 1–2. ISBN 81-7041-496-2.
  7. ^ "Our Inspiration - BABU JAGJIVAN RAM". Indian Congress. Jagjivan Ram's biography by Indian Congress mentioning their studies.
  8. ^ a b Jagjivan ram Research Reference and Training Div., Ministry of I & B, Govt. of India.
  9. ^ "Denied table, given Chair". The Telegraph (Kolkata). 1 November 2007. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  10. ^ "BHU News: A chair for late Jagjivan Ram inaugurated". IT-BHU. August 2007. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2009.
  11. ^ "Valedictory Centenary Lecture by President of India on Jagjivan Ram Centenary Function". President of India website. 5 April 2008.
  12. ^ Past Presidents Archived 5 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine Indian National Congress INC Official website.
  13. ^ "Learning the Use of Symbolic Means: Dalits, Ambedkar Statues and the State in Uttar Pradesh". 18 April 2019.
  14. ^ "All-India Hindu Maha Sabha, 17th Session Poona, December 1935, Full Text Of Resolutions". INDIAN CULTURE. 1935. p. 4.
  15. ^ "Jagjivan Ram an example of development politics". The Hindu. 6 April 2007. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Jagjivan Ram". Constituent Assembly Debates. Centre for Law and Policy Research. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  17. ^ Kohli, Atul (2001). The success of India's democracy. Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge University Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0521805308. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  18. ^ Kamat. "Biography: Anugrah Narayan Sinha". Kamat's archive. Retrieved 25 June 2006.
  19. ^ Nehru, Jawaharlal (1984). Selected works of Jawaharlal Nehru, Volume 14, Part 2. Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund. p. 340.
  20. ^ Sharma, Jagdish Chandra (2002). Indian prime ministership : a comprehensive study. New Delhi: Concept. p. 19. ISBN 9788170229247.
  21. ^ Haqqi, Anwarul Haque (1986). Indian Democracy at the Crossroads I. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. p. 122.
  22. ^ Brass, Paul R. (1994). The Politics of India since Independence (The new Cambridge history of India.) (2. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. p. 249. ISBN 978-0521453622.
  23. ^ "Babu Jagjivan Ram Bhavan to be built". The Hindu. 6 April 2007. Archived from the original on 6 December 2007.
  24. ^ "Emergency: Memories of the dark midnight". The Hindu, Business Line. 25 June 2005.
  25. ^ Mirchandani, G.G. (2003). 320 Million Judges. Abhinav Publications. p. 178. ISBN 81-7017-061-3.
  26. ^ Sharma, Jagdish Chandra (2002). Indian prime ministership : a comprehensive study. New Delhi: Concept. pp. 39–40. ISBN 9788170229247.
  27. ^ Mirchandani, G.G. (2003). 320 Million Judges. Abhinav Publications. pp. 95–96. ISBN 9788170170617.
  28. ^ "Niece vs aunt in battle for Jagjivan Ram legacy". Indian Express. 20 March 2014.
  29. ^ Andersen, Walter K.. India in 1981: Stronger Political Authority and Social Tension, published in Asian Survey, Vol. 22, No. 2, A Survey of Asia in 1981: Part II (Feb. 1982), pp. 119-135
  30. ^ Mirchandani, G. G. (2003). 320 Million Judges. Abhinav Publications. pp. 90–100. ISBN 81-7017-061-3.
  31. ^ "Babu Jagjivan Ram". Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  32. ^ Andersen, Walter K. (1982) India in 1981: Stronger Political Authority and Social Tension, published in Asian Survey, Vol. 22, No. 2, A Survey of Asia in 1981: Part II. pp. 119–135
  33. ^ Bharat Scouts and Guides. Bsgindia.org. Retrieved on 6 December 2018.
  34. ^ "Confer Bharat Ratna on Jagjivan Ram: Naidu". The Hindu. 6 April 2006. Archived from the original on 5 November 2007.
  35. ^ "Tributes paid to Jagjivan Ram". The Hindu. 6 April 2007. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012.
  36. ^ "Jagjivan Ram's services recalled". The Hindu. 6 April 2009. Archived from the original on 10 April 2009.
  37. ^ "A brief on Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation" (PDF). socialjustice.nic.in. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2009.
  38. ^ "Ministry of Railways (Railway Board)". www.indianrailways.gov.in. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  39. ^ "Reincarnation of WAM1 20202 Jagjivan Ram". www.irfca.org. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  40. ^ "The Need at iTeach Schools". iteachschools.org. Archived from the original on 15 March 2016.

Further reading and bibliography

Political offices Preceded byBansi Lal Minister of Defence 1977–1979 Succeeded byChidambaram Subramaniam Preceded byMorarji Desai Deputy Prime Minister of India 1979–1979 Served alongside: Charan Singh Succeeded byYashwantrao Chavan Preceded bySardar Swaran Singh Minister of Defence 1970–1974 Succeeded bySardar Swaran Singh Honorary titles Preceded byDharma Vira President of the Bharat Scouts and Guides 1976–1983 Succeeded byShankarrao Chavan