The Green Revolution: Ms. Gandhi worked towards transforming the face of agriculture in the pre-dominantly agriculture dependent country. She spent considerable time on structuring as well as executing new programmes that included increasing crop diversification and food exports. These strategies were planned towards rendering the country self-sufficient in food grains and simultaneously created better job opportunities. Marking the beginning of the Green Revolution, Ms. Gandhi also launched a new branch of the Congress known as the Congress (I), where she recruited many senior MPs to her segment.
Indo-Pakistan War: As her popularity wheeled with the rapid improvement in the agricultural sector and the measures introduced under her leadership, Gandhi had to grapple with a challenging international conflict. At that time, thousands of refugees were voyaging into India from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to escape the lethal attacks of the West Pakistani forces. While prolonged shelter to East Pakistanis was an unsuitable option for India, Ms. Gandhi declared war on the West Pakistani forces as she was also faced with the challenge of maintaining diplomatic relations with the United Nations. India gained victory and Ms. Gandhi managed to negotiate the formation of Bangladesh as a separate entity.
The Emergency: The 21 month long Emergency period declared in India from 1975-1977 spread a panic wave across the country. The Indian economy had previously experienced its low phase with the devaluation of Rupee, where Ms. Gandhi was accused of “illegal handling” in the 1975 elections. The opponent party had already called for her immediate resignation. However, she refused to step down and instead convinced the then President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, to declare a state of National Emergency under Article 352(1) of the Constitution on 25 June, 1975.
While the emergency has been heavily condemned due to the prevailing internal disturbances, the period correspondingly witnessed some advances in favour of the country. In response to the growing agitation across the nation during Emergency, Indira Gandhi introduced the Twenty Point Program which primarily aimed at reducing inflation and invigorating the Indian economy by punishing smugglers, black marketers, tax evaders, and several other criminals. The country gained from the rising production indexes and reduced prices.
Many civic liberties were curtailed and press censorship was introduced during the emergency period. Under her orders, CRPF arrested Morarji Desai and Jayaprakash Narayan for raising their voices against the emergency. Records show that “The following General Elections, held in 1980, saw Congress (I) winning 351 of the 525 contested Lok Sabha seats, as against 31 for Janata. Gandhi was back to the Prime Minister’s chair and the continued to occupy it till her assassination in 1984 by two of her trusted Sikh body-guards, due to her decision to counter the Punjabi insurgency.”
While Ms. Gandhi’s reign went through several highs and lows, her leadership, strength, bold decisions and measures exhibited throughout her tenure in every way defines her as the ‘Iron Lady of India.’
Article by Rochita.