Monday, April 6, 2009

Too embarassed to talk about it

It is difficult precisely to date Sanjay Gandhi's own interest in family planning. His Surge interview in August 1975 does not mention the subject at all. Yet a year later, the Illustrated Weekly of India was speaking of how 'Sanjay has given a big impetus to the Family Planning Programme throughout the country'. [..] He epxressed himself in favor of compulsory sterilization, for which facilities should be provided 'right down to the village level'.


In his tours around India, Sanjay Gandhi catalysed a competitive process between the states of the Union. Sanjay would tell one chief minister of what another had claimed to have done - '60 000 operations in two weeks' - and encouraged him to exceed it. These targets were passed down to district officials, who were rewarded if they met or exceeded them and transferred otherwise. The process led to widespread coercion. Lower government officials had to submit to the surgeon's knife before arrears of pay were cleared. Truck drivers would not have their licences renewed if they could not produce a sterilization certificate. Slum dwellers would not be allotted a plot for resettlement unless they did likewise.


Local officials prepared lists of 'eligible men', that is, of those who already had three or more children. Police vans would come and take them off to the nearest health centre. Some men fled into the hills to escape the marauders. Those who had undergone a vasectomy were too embarassed to talk about it.
- Ramachandra Guha, India After Gandhi



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