Matters India reporter
Siliguri — A college in North Bengal marked the birth centernary of India’s only woman prime minister with a national seminar attempting to make a critical study of Indira Gandhi’s contribution both in the national and internationl politics of her ‘turbulent times’.
Salesian College Siliguri Campus Department of Political Science orgnaised the two days study on 24 & 25 November 2017.
“This year we are celebrating the birth centenary of Indira Gandhi (1917-1984), a leader who was charismatic, controversial and polarizing, and yet redefined democrac politics in India,” says convenor of the seminar and Assistant Professor Dr Veera Lobo.
Indira Priyadarshini was born in Allahabad on 19th November 1917.
Head of Political Science Department Mr Biju Mathew explained, “Indira Gandhi has been proclaimed the ‘Iron lady of India’ for her fierce political announcements and the garb of authoritarianism that has come to mark her tenure.”
Speaking at the inaugural address Principal of Salesian College Sonada and Siliguri campus Dr Gerge Thadathil posed few pertinent questions asking, “How do we rate the opponents of her ‘corruption’ and ‘authoritarianism’ being it in leading the student protests or in distrituting incognito the anti-emergency leaflets, having bettered the same plots of ’corruption’, in the decades that followed? Do we look at the anti-corruption campaigns unleashed today as even more mega corruptions imposed on the gullible to favor another set of family /business enterprises?”
Congressman and Professor of International Law at Jadavpur University Dr Om Prakash Mishra pointed out, “The world of Indira, her pitfalls and legacy has to be seen in the context of the ‘trubulent times’ she lived through.”
He was emphatic when he said, “It is foolishness to crtiticise Indira Gandhi from today’s standpoints. Everything has to be evaluated from the stand point of history.”
As a compliment to her political astuteness Prof Mishra said,”She imposed emergency and lifted emergency. That is courgae and conviction.”
He also recalled Mrs Gandhi’s answer to journlaists at Heathrow airport, London who asked,” What has been the gains of emergency?”
Mrs Gandhi replied nonchalantly, “It succeeded in alienating all sections of the people.”
Topics of two academic sessions which followed in the first day included “Foreign Policy and Indira Gandhi” and “Indira Gandhi as a Historical Subject: Politics, Literature and Society.” Speakers at the sessions included academicians from New Delhi, Sikkim, Kolkata and North Bengal.
Aademic sessions on the second day included the following topics: India’s Financial and Fiscal Development : An Assessment by Professor Pinaki Chakraborty of National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi; Society, State and Politics: An Exploration into Indira Gandhi’s ‘Realpolitik’ by Prof. M. Yasin of Sikkim University; and Nationalisation of Bank, Insurance and Elimination of Privy Pursue, along with its subthemes.
Mrs. Gandhi was neither attracted by long-winded theories of international relations, nor by an abstract conceptualisation of the configuration of international forces despite the fact that she had frequented Marxist circles.
Her continuous exposure to international affairs had given her an incomparable background and knowledge of the world when she became the Prime Minister.
In the political field, in spite the Indian National Congress split in 1969, Indira continued to govern with a slim majority. In 1971, Indira Gandhi and her congress were returned to power with a massively increased majority. As prime minister, Indira nationalised 14 banks in India. In the year 1971, she led India to victory in the Indo-Pakistan war making way for the formation of Bangladesh. In 1974, India tested its 1st nuclear weapon in the desert of Rajasthan. On 26 April 1975, Sikkim formally became India’s 22nd State.
She controlled extremism in Punjab and initiated the ‘high command’ culture in INC.
In Governance, she initiated populist policies; unleashed twenty one long months of uncertainty and fear during the National Emergency; and nationalized insurance and many private sector companies, making India officially a Socialist Republic (42nd Amendment). She introduced through five year plans social welfare schemes for poor and unemployed besides promoting self-employment; and retained proximity to Soviet Union with the Friendship Treaty of 1971, ignoring the nuclear threat from US.
In the Social field Indira couldn’t materialize her populist slogan ‘Garibi Hatao’ (Eradicate Poverty). She initiated Green Revolution in her economic policy. She gave importance to environment protection through establishment of Project Tiger (1973), Wildlife Protection Act (1972) and setting up more National Parks.
Indira Gandhi was martyred for her anti-Khalisthan actions in Operation Blue Star, a dark spot in the twentieth century history of India. Yet her work and motive to uplift the poorer sections of the country is commendable and her fierce spirit in politics against opposition has left an indelible mark.