Indira Gandhi, a towering statesman gets scant attention from government
It was during Indira Gandhi’s regime that India attained self sufficiency in food grain production on account of green revolution
The death anniversary of Indira Gandhi, who was Prime Minister of our country, a charismatic and beloved leader of our people and a towering personality of global stature, fell on October 31 and the ruling leadership hardly did any thing to pay tribute to her and recall her extraordinary legacy. She made history for her bold and progressive measures for abolishing privy purses of the princely rulers and nationalising banks. It was under her strong leadership that India decisively defeated Pakistan in war which resulted in liberation and birth of Bangladesh.
It was during her regime that India attained self sufficiency in food grain production on account of green revolution and she unilaterally terminated PL 480 agreement with the USA based on which we used to get wheat and rice from that country to meet our massive food shortage. In fact India attaining self sufficiency in food grain production in 1971 has been described by Professor MS Swaminathan as more remarkable than man walking on the moon. Her courageous decision to conduct Peaceful Nuclear Explosion in 1974 in Pokhran heralded the new brave nuclear era for our country.
After her tragic assassination in 1984 she was described by the editors of the world famous science journal The Nature as the heroine of Indian Science. It was during her tenure as the Prime Minister that women's issues were given a separate category by taking them from the broad category of welfare. For the first time in the history of our planning she introduced a separate chapter entitled Women and Development in the sixth Five Year Plan Document and thereby outlining their distinctive role and contributions in building our nation.
Indira Gandhi gave a new perspective to environment
More than that, Indira Gandhi would be remembered for her lasting contributions in looking at environmental issues from the perspective of poor and developing countries.
When Maurice Strong, the Chairman of the first UN Conference on Environment, came to India in 1971 to invite Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to participate in the said UN Conference in 1972 being organized in Stockholm, he sent his request through Indian External Affairs Ministry to get an appointment with her. He got a reply that the Prime Minister of India who was busy in handling the rising tension between India and Pakistan had no time to discuss peripheral issues like environment.
Not happy with such a reply from our Foreign Office Strong approached Indira Gandhi through his friends in Delhi for an appointment. Immediately, Indira Gandhi agreed to see him for fifteen minutes. However, the meeting lasted for two hours. After the tragic assassination of Indira Gandhi Strong wrote a piece to pay tribute to her. In that piece he glowingly acknowledged that it was because of that meeting with Indira Gandhi in 1971 in Delhi that he decided to change the agenda of the first ever UN Conference on Environment by incorporating the perspectives of developing countries on environment. It may be mentioned that Indira Gandhi was the only Head of the Government who attended that UN Conference and famously stated that poverty is the worst source of pollution.
Maurice Strong stated that the formulation of Indira Gandhi that Poverty is the Worst Source of Pollution became part of the folklore of environmental movement in the world. He went on to candidly admit that it was Indira Gandhi who changed his notion of pollution by looking at it beyond high levels of industrialisation and the resultant toxic emission contaminating air and water. It is she who educated him for the first time to look at the problem of environment and pollution from the angle of poverty which she considered as worst source of pollution. In that brilliant article, Maurice Strong very elaborately outlined her contributions to environment and hailed her as a Planetary Citizen of the World.
When Maurice Strong was conferred with Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1996 for his seminal contributions to protect environment, KR Narayanan, the then Vice President of India, desired a well-researched draft note on Maurice Strong for enabling him to write a speech on him. Out of more than ten of speeches and writings of Maurice Strong obtained from Canada one was his article on Indira Gandhi. That was how I came to know about Maurice Strong's writings including the one he wrote paying tribute to Indira Gandhi in which he gave her the exalted status of a PLANETARY CITIZEN. While recalling her monumental contributions, let the present generation remain tuned to that remarkable legacy and enrich it.
The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan
Published: 05 Nov 2018, 7:00 PM