Home राष्ट्रीय India’s Dark History: The Tragic Legacy of Forced Sterilization During the Emergency...

India’s Dark History: The Tragic Legacy of Forced Sterilization During the Emergency Period

India's Dark History: The Tragic Legacy of Forced Sterilization During the Emergency Period

India’s burgeoning population has long been a cause for concern. Since 1951, the country has been grappling with methods to curb population growth, with forced sterilization emerging as a contentious strategy. However, it was during the emergency period in the 1970s that forced sterilization became a significant political issue.

The Emergency Period and Forced Sterilization

During the emergency declared in 1975, millions of men were forcibly sterilized. It is said that Sanjay Gandhi, the son of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, aggressively pushed forward this campaign. The most vulnerable were the poor populations targeted.

It was a time when entire villages were cordoned off by the police, and men were coerced into undergoing sterilization procedures. According to reports, nearly 6.2 million people were sterilized within a year, leading to the deaths of around 2,000 innocents due to botched operations.

Understanding Sterilization

Sterilization involves permanently halting reproductive capacity, rendering individuals incapable of conceiving. For men, this entails cutting or blocking the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm from the testicles. In women, it involves cutting or blocking the fallopian tubes, which transport eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. Importantly, female sterilization does not affect menstruation or hormone levels.

Rationale Behind the Campaign

In 1951, India’s population stood at approximately 361 million. The decade between 1941 and 1951 saw an annual population growth rate of 1.26%. Based on these figures, renowned demographer A.R. Gopalan predicted that India’s population would increase by 5 million every year.

Accepting Gopalan’s report, the Indian government initiated the National Family Planning Program, making India the first country globally to do so. The campaign aimed to raise awareness about family planning, incentivizing families to have no more than two children with a minimum two-year gap between them. However, the government’s efforts fell short.

Sterilization as a Solution

Gopalan’s report also suggested widespread sterilization as a solution to population control. Unlike other methods, sterilization required minimal medical intervention, dispelling fears associated with surgery. Nevertheless, garnering support for sterilization proved challenging due to prevalent misconceptions. Many believed that male sterilization could lead to death or reduced virility, while female sterilization could negatively impact menstruation or hormone levels.

Political and Financial Backing

During 1972-1980, the World Bank extended a loan of $6.6 billion to the Indian government for sterilization efforts. Pressure from Western nations mounted on Indira Gandhi to accelerate sterilization efforts to control India’s population.

Despite the financial and political support, the coercive nature of the sterilization drives during the emergency era tarnished its reputation. The tragic consequences, coupled with ethical concerns, led to a reevaluation of population control strategies in India.

Impact of Forced Sterilization on Indians

In 1975, India was grappling with several economic challenges. Rainfall was below average, food production had declined, imported oil prices had risen, revenue from exports had decreased, and inflation was at its peak. Meanwhile, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was facing political turmoil, with court decisions going against her, ultimately leading to the declaration of a state of emergency on June 25, 1975.

During this period, Indira Gandhi’s younger son, Sanjay Gandhi, became active in politics. He spearheaded a large-scale sterilization campaign across the country. Although he held no official position in the government or party, his sole qualification was being the Prime Minister’s son.

At that time, only state governments had the authority to implement family planning policies. However, at Sanjay Gandhi’s behest, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi amended the constitution. The 1976 amendment granted the central government the power to implement family planning programs. Soon after, the central government prepared state leaders for this task and took significant steps, such as organizing sterilization camps and setting targets.

Sanjay Gandhi believed that overpopulation was a significant obstacle to the country’s progress and that controlling population growth was essential for India’s economic development. He provided state chief ministers with targets for sterilization that they had to fulfill by any means necessary. Chief Ministers, eager to please Sanjay Gandhi, went all out to achieve their targets. District commissioners were awarded gold medals for their “good work.” As a result, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar witnessed the highest number of sterilizations, with their commissioners winning the most medals.

New Approaches to Sterilization

Sterilization wasn’t just enforced through coercion but also through subtle means. Government orders stated that employees who didn’t undergo sterilization wouldn’t receive promotions or salary increases. In some cases, employees were even denied salaries for refusing sterilization. Moreover, obtaining a driving license, rickshaw license, taxi license, etc., required presenting a sterilization certificate. Students whose parents hadn’t undergone sterilization were barred from attending school or college. Free treatment at hospitals was discontinued for those without sterilization certificates.

The most vulnerable victims of this oppression were the poor. Police would pick up people from railway stations or bus stops, regardless of age or marital status. The poor, illiterate, prisoners, pavement dwellers, unmarried youths, newlyweds, and hospital patients all became victims of forced sterilization.

Sanjay Gandhi even imposed a condition for joining the Youth Congress, demanding sterilization from individuals under 37 years old. According to a report from March 29, 1976, at a Youth Congress rally in Lucknow, Sanjay Gandhi stated that Congress doors were open for the youth, but there was one condition—they had to ensure at least two people underwent sterilization every month.

Finally, when the state of emergency ended after 21 months in 1977, the sterilization campaign slowed down. However, both government decisions faced severe criticism. The Congress party had to pay a heavy price in the next general elections. After ruling the country’s politics for 26 years, the Congress party lost the election for the first time, and the Janata Party formed the government. Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister. In 1980, Sanjay Gandhi died in an airplane accident.

Continued Campaigns

Even after the emergency, the sterilization campaign didn’t stop. While during the emergency, over 60 million people were sterilized across the country within a year, during 2013-14, around 4 million sterilizations were reported in India. However, the figure for males was less than 1 million.

During the sterilization period, more than 700 deaths occurred due to botched operations between 2009 and 2012. There were 356 cases of deteriorating health post-operation. According to the United Nations, 37% of the world’s female sterilizations in 2011 were carried out in India.

Text Example

Disclaimer : इस न्यूज़ पोर्टल को बेहतर बनाने में सहायता करें और किसी खबर या अंश मे कोई गलती हो या सूचना / तथ्य में कोई कमी हो अथवा कोई कॉपीराइट आपत्ति हो तो वह [email protected] पर सूचित करें। साथ ही साथ पूरी जानकारी तथ्य के साथ दें। जिससे आलेख को सही किया जा सके या हटाया जा सके ।