Indira Gandhi – Woman of the Millennium

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Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was born on November, 1917, in Allahabad. She was the only child of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamala Nehru. She was the first women and the third Prime Minister of India. She was the central figure of the congress party. She served from 1966 to 1977 and then again in 1980. She was assassinated on 1984, regarding the Operation Blue Star. She was known for her political ruthlessness and did thing which was never done before. She went to war against the Pakistanis in support of the Independence movement in East Pakistan, which had India on the Winning side and lead to the creation of Bangladesh. In 2001, a poll organized by India Times stated that Gandhi was the most successful and greatest Prime Minister. She was also the Woman of Millennium in a poll organized by BBC.

Indira Gandhi grew up with her mother in Anand Bhavan, a family estate in Allahabad. She had an unhappy childhood. Her father was often away, taking care of the political issues, while her mother was bedridden due to certain illness. Her mother later died of Tuberculosis. She was taught by tutors at home. She went to Viswa Bharati University, but however she had to discontinue from the university to see her mother in Europe. She continued her further education in the University of Oxford, after her mom died she enrolled in Somerville College to study History. She studied well in the Oxford University, but did not perform well in Latin, which was the compulsory subject. She was not able to complete her studies due to ill health and certain reasons, and then returned back to India.



During her stay in England, she frequently met Feroze Gandhi, her furthur husband and their marriage took place in Allahabad. She had two sons, the elder was Rajiv Gandhi and the younger one was Sanjay. Sanjay died in a flying accident in the year 1980. She chose Rajiv Gandhi to take up Politics and asked him to quit his job. Rajiv joined the party in the year 1981. After a decade, Rajiv was also assassinated.


Indira Gandhi served her father unofficially and later when Nehru died, she was appointed as a member of Rajya Sabha and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s cabinet as MIB. When Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister, the congress was split into two, the socialist and the conversations. Indira Gandhi was into many Policies including the foreign and the domestic policies.

The Foreign Policies that Indira Gandhi was involved was,

In the South Asia, Indira Gandhi intervened in the Pakistani Civil War in the year 1971, supporting East Pakistan, and India was victorious. India signed a treaty with Soviet Union for mutual assistance in case of war, while Pakistan was helped by USA. India’s relation with the Soviet Union grew very much but the latter was moving away from India. During her reign, she made Sikkim, Himalayan States under her belt. While Nepal and Bhutan remained aligned to India. Indira Gandhi had helped former East Pakistan, the now Bangladesh so much that in 2011, the government of Bangladesh recognized her support and gave its highest state award posthumously to Indira Gandhi. She helped out the Sri Lankans also. She rejected to invade Sri Lanka in the aftermath regarding Black July in the year 1983, an anti Tamil program to take away Tamil from the country. Indira also told that further injustice cannot be barred by India.

In the Middle East, Gandhi remained a strong supporter of Palestine and helped them in the Arab-Israel conflict. India’s pro Arab policy had a mixed result. The establishment of the ties with Baathist regimes neutralized Pakistan to certain extent. However the Indo-Pakistan war put the Arab and the other muslin countries in dilemma as both the countries were friendly to the Arab. The Muslim countries went on to support Pakistan. Iran had earlier supported India but later because of the 1971, Indo-Pakistani war made them move away. Indira Gandhi was unhappy about the way Iran supported them during the war in 1971, but Iran had other ideas and they wanted to spread Islam with the help of Pakistan.

In the Asia-Pacific, the major development in Southeast Asia during the time of Indira Gandhi was the formation of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nation) in the year 1967. The relation was growing well with ASEAN. India’s entry into the nuclear weapons club in the year 1974 made the Southeast Asia in distress. Later the relation with ASEAN was slowly degrading because of India’s relation with Vietnam and her ideas to recognize the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in 1980.

In Africa, Indian disapproval of military struggle Algeria and Kenya was in sharp contrast with China who had supported them to attain Independence. Only four nations such as Libya, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia supported India during the Sino-Indian war in the year 1962. Indira Gandhi planned to send Indian People to Africa to recover its declining geo-strategic influence, and she declared them as the Ambassador of India. But the Indians did not want to go and live in an unsecure country. The Foreign and the domestic policies enabled Indira Gandhi to build a good image of India in Africa. Indira Gandhi firmly confirmed the Indian anti-imperialist interests in Africa to those of Soviet Union. She supported the liberation struggles in Africa. By this time the Chinese influence was declining in Africa.

Indira Gandhi implemented many economic policies. They are

  1. Green Revolution and the Fourth Five Year Plan.

The Fiscal Problems associated with the war lead to the fall of Indian economy. The government tried to liberalize the economy. The economy grew up in the year 1966 by 4.1%. At that time India did not get support from the USA because Gandhi was criticizing the American bombing in Vietnam. The Currency Devaluation and grain diplomacy become a national pride in India. Indira Gandhi did not have the right for food Aid because of the bitter experience with Johnson, but when the situation grew worse India had to buy wheat from USA rather than Food Aid.

  1. State of Emergency and the Fifth Five Year Plan

The Fifth year plan came into action from 1972 to 1979 and was enacted due to the backdrop of emergency and the Twenty Point Program in the year 1975. The Government planned a 4.4% increase over the period. But the growth was about 5.0 to 5.2% over the period. The Growth was up to 9% in the year 1975 to 1976 alone.

  1. Operation Forward and the Sixth Five Year Plan

Indira Gandhi inherited a poor economy, but became the Prime Minister again in the year 1980. The Janata Party had made worse to the economy and so came the emergence of the Sixth Five Year Plan which employed from 1980 to 1985. There was a growth of 5.2% over this period.

  1. Inflation and unemployment

During the year 1965, the average inflation was about 7.7%, compared to the Gandhi era, which was 5.2%. The inflation was below in the year 1950-1960.  Indira Gandhi devised a anti-inflation program and the government was successful in bringing it down to -1.1% in the year 1975-1976.

The unemployment remained constant at 9% over the period of 9 years, before it was declined to 8.3% in the year 1983.

The Domestic policies implemented by Indira Gandhi was

  1. Nationalization
  2. Social Reform
  3. Language policy
  4. National Security
  5. Nuclear Program of India

She implemented a lot of operations and scheme, they are

  1. 1971 election victory and Second Term
  2. Verdict on electoral malpractice
  3. State of emergency from the year 1975 to 1977
  4. Rule by decree
  5. Changes in election
  6. Operation Blue Star

Indira Gandhi was awarded the highest civilian award in the year 1971, The Bharat Ratna, when she was serving as the Prime Minister of India. The Indira Awaas Yojana was named after her, which is a low-cost housing for the poor. There is an international Airport in her name, The Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. The Indira Gandhi National Open University was also named after her. The place where she was assassinated is marked with glass opening in the crystal Pathway. She was buried in Shakti Sthala in New Delhi.


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