Remembering ‘Iron Lady’ Indira Gandhi On Her Death Anniversary
“The power to question is the basis of all human progress”
-Indira Gandhi (November 19, 1917- October 31, 1984)
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was one of the most prolific women in the history of India. Born in Allahabad to Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamla Nehru, she was destined for an illustrious political career. Indira was the only child of the couple, a younger brother dying in infancy. Her childhood wasn’t a happy one, as her father was mostly away from home due to his political commitments and her mother frequently suffered from bouts of illness.
As a young girl Indira played her part in India’s freedom struggle by forming a “Monkey Brigade” who spied on police and distributed flags. She was imprisoned for 13 months in 1942 for political demonstrations against British rule.
After the death of Kamla Nehru, Indira Gandhi attended the University of Oxford in Britain, where she studied history, political science and economics. As the Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi was known for her political ruthlessness and exceptional centralization of power.
She served as Prime Minister of India from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her death in October 1984, making her the second longest serving Indian Prime Minister after her father Jawaharlal Nehru. She is the only woman in India to have served as the Prime Minister of the country.
During her term as Prime Minister, Gandhi brought about a radical change in the country’s economic, political, international and national policies. She oversaw the implementation of over three Five-year plans, two of which were successful in meeting the targeted growth.
She also spearheaded the nationalization of 14 major commercial banks, which lead to increased household savings and investment in small and medium-sized enterprises and agricultural sector. She nationalized the coal, steel, copper, refining, cotton textiles, and insurance industries and brought the private sector under strict regulatory control.
Indira Gandhi was also the flag-bearer of ‘Green Revolution’ brought remarkable change in the agricultural production in India, making the country a self-sufficient one in terms of food production. She also supported the East Pakistan in the Pakistan Civil War, which led to the formation of Bangladesh. Furthermore, Sikkim was incorporated as an Indian state in 1975, through a referendum.
Under her sharp administrative policy, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were given statehood. Indira Gandhi also brought social reforms by introducing clauses in the Indian Constitution related to wages – equal pay for equal work to both men and women.
On the personal front, Indira Gandhi married her childhood friend Feroze Gandhi in 1942. The couple were later blessed with two sons- Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. She imposed ‘Emergency’ in the country in June 1975 and also initiated the ‘Operation Blue Star’ to end militancy in Punjab. However, hurt by her actions, two of her bodyguards assassinated her on 31st October, 1984 at Safdarjung Road residence in New Delhi. She was cremated at Shakti Sthala near Rajghat.
In an attempt to honour the great leader, University of Oxford conferred Gandhi with an honorary degree. It also selected her as one of the ten Oxasians, illustrious Asian graduates from the University of Oxford. The Government of India also launched the low-cost housing programme for the rural poor under her name, ‘Indira Awaas Yojana’.
Indira Gandhi was voted as the greatest Indian Prime Minister in a poll organised by India Today. She was also named ‘Woman of the Millennium’ in a poll organised by the BBC in 1999.