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Biography of Bharat Ratna “Morarji Desai” complete biography for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Morarji Desai


Morarji Ranchhodji Desai, popularly known as Morarji Desai, is a dynamic personality, who rose to higher heights from a humble beginning. His life is full of conflicts — ups and downs — out of which evolved the heroic character. Moarji was born ‘on 29 February 1896, in Bhadeli, a small village three miles from Bulsar, in the Surat District of Gujarat in a middle class Anavil Brahmin family.

 His father, Ranchhodji a teacher, a strict disciplinarian, moulded his son’s mind into tough stuff, which would not succumb to temptations. Timid as a child, Morarji consciously cultivates fearlessness and asks people to be free from fear. He faces challenges of life and finally triumphs. He started his career as a servant of an alien government, but soon revolted and courted imprisonment on different occasions. Gradually but relentlessly, he climbed up to the top position in the public life of the country. He held high offices, but high offices had no hold over him. He would not compromise his dignity for clinging to his position. He courageously laid down the office of the Deputy Prime Minster of the world’s largest democracy. Morarji’s father died when he was in the Matriculation and soon after he was married, at 15 in 1911 to Gajaraben.

Morarji began his schooling at Bhadeli when he was five, and had his primary education in his village and secondary education at Bulsar. After passing the Matriculation examination’ in 191, he attended the Wilson College, Bombay (1913 to 1917), from where he graduated with a First Class Honours. He was a Viceroy’s Commissioned Officer in the University Training Corps.

 After graduation Desai entered the Bombay Provincial Civil Service in 1918 and served in various capacities for 12 years: Deputy Collector, Ahmedabad; Deputy Collector, Thana; Personal Assistant to Collector, Ahmedabad; Personal Assistant to Collector, Panchamahal; Prant Officer, Broach. When he was 25, he started reading the Gita. He became Vice-Chancellor of the Gujarat Vidyapith and later its Chancellor in 1963.

 In response to the call of Mahatma Gandhi to Government servants to give up their jobs, Morarji resigned his post in 1930 and joined the Civil Disobedience Movement. He remained a loyal Congressman ever since. During the next four years he was thrice imprisoned for participating in the freedom movement.

 Though Morarji did not join the Salt Satyagraha, he took an interest and actively participated in the no-tax campaign which began soon after. In June and July 1930 Congress workers went from village to village to prepare the peasants for this campaign. They believed the movement could be carried on successfully if they could persuade the peasants, who withheld their taxes, to migrate to the neighbouring territories of Baroda or such other Indian States to avoid harassment by the authorities. As the Indian States had their own police forces and judicial systems, independent of the British Indian administration, the British Indian police could not pursue them across the borders of the Indian States. In this campaign Morarji was active in Bardoli taluka. This was how he first got acquainted with the people of  Bardoli. Kunvarjibhai Mehta and his collegues were tourning Bardoli taluka in connection with this work and Morarji joined them.

 It was not easy to go about in Bardoli taluka on foot at that time on account of the monsoon, but as Morarji was used to walking a great deal he did not feel any difficulty. Kunvarjibhai had thought Morarji would not be able to go from village to village, walking through the black soil in the fields. He therefore asked Morarji whether he would be willing to do so. Morarji told him that he was very willing and they moved about together. While Kunvarjibhai would often tire of walking through the sticky soil, Morarji went on without any fatigue. They became very good friends. After touring Bardoli, Morarji also toured many villages in ‘Iroach and Kaira districts.

The Government declared the Congress illegal in October 1930. Hariprasad Mehta, who was one of the Congress leaders of the Ahmedabad District, was at that time working as the President of the Pradesh Congress Committee. He nominated Morarji as the ‘Dictator’ after him. This was how the work was carried on because the organisation had been declared illegal. Morarji was arrested within about ten days of his taking charge of the Pradesh Congress Committee.

    He was tried for violating the law. He did not defend himself and pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months’ rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs.300, with one month’s extra imprisonment if he did not pay the fine. This was how he went to jail for the first time. Later he was imprisoned in 1932, 1934, 1940, 1942 and 1943.

    During his last jail period he read commentaries on the Gita, including that of Sri Aurobindo, and books on socialism. He also had an opportunity of reading the books of D. Alexis Carrel and Reinhold Neibuhr. This reading confirmed his faith in the values of life that he believed in.

             In jail he had an opportunity for clearing his thoughts through frequent discussions with different colleagues on political, economic and social problems. All these discussions convinced him about the correctness of his faith in religion and in the principles of Mahatma Gandhi. His faith became clearer and more specific. He used to recite the Gita once or twice a day and used to think over it. This made it easier for him to pass the various tests that life put him through. It also helped him to understand the Gita fully. Without this stay in jail, he felt that he would not have understood all this and implemented it in his life.

       He had read some books on political and religious subjects when he was in jail in 1932-33. Amongst them were books on communism and socialism. Communism had no attraction for him and he considered only socialism the proper means to abolish poverty  which was in accordance with the principles of Gandhi. He had no doubt left in his mind that sarvodava, which Mahatma Gandhi gave to them, was the proper ideal.

      Morarji was elected a member the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee and was also made its Secretary, in which capacity he continued for six years (1931-37) and again from 1939 to 1946. He has been a member of the All India Congress Committee since 1931. Morarji had the privil1edge of meeting Sri Aurobindo on August 15, 1935 at the Pondicherry Ashram. He bowed to Aurobindo and had the good fortune c-4 receiving his blessing.

     In 1937, Desai was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly and was Minister for Revenue and Forests in the first Congress Government (1937-39). After relinquishing office in 1939, he participated in the Individual Civil Disobedience Movement and was later detained for about three years in connection with the 1942 Movement – the Quit India Movement.

       Morarji started the Home Guards Organisation in Bombay State in December 1946 when he realised from the violent communal riots and strikes that it was not possible for the police alone to cope with the situation. In 1946, he was again elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly and served as Home and Revenue Minister from 1946 to 1952. Morarji lost in the first General Elections in 1952  by 19 votes. Later, after he was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council, the Congress Legislative Party elected him its leader unanimously and he became the Chief Minister of Bombay and cons cued in that capacity till the reorganisation of States in 1956. He was instrumental in introducing far reaching reforms in the land revenue administration and also in police and jail reorganisation He thought of the peasant and tenant both and enacted progress legislation for them, much before any State of India did anything in this direction. His administration in Bombay State was known for its efficiency, strength and integrity.

    He joined the Union Cabinet as Minister for Commerce and Consumer and Heavy Industries on November 1, 1956. Later, he was redesignated as Minister for Commerce and Industry.

      On March 22, 1958, II: took over the portfolio of Finance. He led the Indian Delegation to the annual meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bail for Reconstruction and Development in New Bharat Ratnas 147  Delhi in 1958 and in Washington in 1959, 1960 and 1961. He also attended the Commonwealth Trade and Economic Conference in Montreal in 1958 and the Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ Conference in London in 1960 and 1961.

             In July 1962, he paid a visit to Brussels, Bonn, Geneva, Paris and Rome to mobilise foreign aid for India’s Third Five-Year Plan, and also Washington, Ottawa and Tokyo during September-October 1962 for similar purposes.

          Defence through development, creation of a climate of confidence and initiative, export promotion and austerity in government administration, public corporations and companies in the private sector and the personal lives of the privileged segments of the society formed the main theme of his economic and fiscal policies.

    He was elected to Lok Sabha in 1962 and 1967 General Elections from Surat Constituency. He again became the Union Minister for Finance in 1962 in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet, but for strengthening the stability of the Congress party he volunteered to retire under the Kamaraj Plan in August 1963. He was then assigned the Chairmanship of the Administrative Reforms Commission, Government of India, during 1966-67.

      Desai joined Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet in March 1967 as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (1967-69). He made a goodwill visit to Japan in August 1967 and a long foreign tour to London, Montreal, Washington, Rio-de-Janeiro, Port of Spain, Paris and Bonn in September-October 1967. He resigned from the post of Deputy Prime Minister in July 1969 following differences with the Prime Minster. After the split in the Congress, he became the Chairman of the Opposition Congress Party in Parliament in November 1969. He was imprisoned during Emergency (June 1975- January 1977). Became first Chairman of Janata Party in 1977. And later became Prime Minister of India in 1977 and held the post till 1979. 

      He is a firm believer in the Swadeshi and nationalistic education and is closely connected with the Gujarat Vidyapith at Ahmedabad and Lok Bharati at Sanosara, and also with several cultural, religious, academic and social bodies.

        His esteem and stature as a front-rank national leader is tribute to his unswerving loyalty to the Congress, to the catholicity of his outlook and to the devoted services to the nation for a long period of four decades.

       Years lie lightly on him. His whole career is a record of self-confidence, courage, fearlessness and guarded innovations based on Gandhian concepts punctuated by introspection and amends, whenever necessary.

     His foreign tours include : Australia, Austria, Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, Common Market countries, Czechoslovakia, France, Ghana, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iran, Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad, UAR, UK, USA, Venezuela, West Germany, Yugoslavia.

    Morarji Desai is always khadi-attired and walks with straight spine. He is a theist but not a ritualistic. Vegetarian, nephropathy, non-smoker and teetotaller, Morarji is a Spartan and a person with strong convictions. Compromising with truth and morality is against the grain of his character.

    His valuable books include : A View of the Gita, Nature Cure, In My View, The Story of My Life. 3 Volumes and Mahabharat Bhagavadgita-Sanskrit-and English. At present he is leading contented retired life in Bombay.

 In recognition to his great services to the country, nation conferred upon him its highest honom  Bharat Ratna in 1991, at the age of 95.

 On May 18, 1991, Morarji Desai received the highest Pakistani civilian award, Nishan-E-Pakistan’ from Pakistan High Commissioner in India Abdul Sattar at a special investiture ceremony held in his government-allotted flat in the multi-storeyed ‘Sarang’ building in South Bombay. With Desai’s ill-health not allowing him to travel to Pakistan to accept the award, it was decided to hold the function at his residence.

  The presentation of the award took place after nearly three years of its announcement by the military ruler late President General Zia-ul-Haq in Pakistan’s appreciation of improvement in Indo-Pak relationship during his Prime Minister ship.

Desai was dressed in churidar pyjama, khadi kurta and a jacket and wore a Gandhi cap while receiving the award. The function, which began with the national anthems of both the countries, lasted 45 minutes. No official of the Central or the State Governments was present at the function. Subramaniam Swamy, Union Minister for Commerce, was present in his personal capacity.

 The Pakistan High Commissioner presented Desai with a medal, sash, collar chain and the roundel with the letter of warranty and the citation. He also conveyed to Morarji Desai greetings and felicitations of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Stiarif.

The citation listed the “crowning achievement” of Desai’s long and distinguished career on his election as the Prime Minister of India in 1977, and said that during his tenure as the Indian Head of Government, he pursued “high principled policy on international affairs, making valuable contribution to promotion of international peace and expansion of cooperation especially in South Asia.”

In recognition of Desai’s “signal contribution” to the promotion of good-neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan; as a tribute to his outstanding achievements in public service and token of the highest regard of the people of Pakistan for the people of India, the Government of Pakistan conferred on the former Prime Minister of India on August 14, 1988, the country’s highest civilian award ‘Nishan-I-Pakistan’.

 Describing Morarji as an “exemplary politician and statesman with profound commitment to ethical values in public service”, Abdul Sattar said that Desai had demonstrated extraordinary courage and fortitude in the face of suffering and sacrifice, during the struggle for the liberation of country from alien rule. He added, Desai displayed laudable courage of conviction, convincing consistency between precepts and policies and high standards of probity in decision-making. Desai said he was glad to receive the award and expressed hope that friendship between the two countries would further strengthen.

Responding to the citation, 95-year-old Morarji Desai emphasised the need for friendship and amity between India and Pakistan and claimed that the relations between the two countries were most cordial when he was the Prime Minister. He recalled how he had assured General Zia that Pakistan could always count on India’s willing and liberal assistance in any hour of need. He was confident that the award, so thoughtfully bestowed on him, would perpetuate the type of cordiality that was generated between the two countries in 1978.

Speaking on the occasion, eminent jurist Nani Palkhiwala said that this function should mark the beginning of an era that would prove the truth of prophecy made on August 15, 1947 by Aurobindo Ghosh that one day India and Pakistan would come together—may be a sort of confederation. This, he added, could change the history of this region for the next 100 years. Instead of spending on armament, India and Pakistan could devote themselves to the growth and welfare of their people.


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