It is nice to write about nice things and events that happened in your past. But it is not so when you write about unpleasant events. Also one has to be dispassionate which is difficult if have witnessed them and also suffered the consequences of such events. Most of the years between 1966 and 85 have been years of suffering for us Indians. When I say Indians I mean law abiding, taxpaying ones. The one person who is most responsible for this suffering was Indira Gandhi.
I have vivid memories of many of her misdeeds. The outstanding one was not her declaration of emergency but of my old mother standing in the long queue for daily necessities such as soap and tooth paste in front of the so called fair price shops. She coined many catch words which she used liberally to hood wink all of us. One of her favourite one was called garibi hatao. Garibi hatao is a Hindi sentence for removing poverty. Who wants to be poor? So when she said that all the poor persons, and their numbers were much more than it is now, felt here comes a savior who is going to get them out of their misery. They even went to the extent of calling her Indira Amma [mother]. But what this amma succeeded in doing was to spread the poverty and not remove it.
She considered that ends are important and not the means. This led to wide spread corruption and probably she was responsible for institutionalizing corruption and what we see today as the greatest danger to our lives began during her regime. Another scene that haunts me is the hordes of slogan shouting hired persons [hooligans] ferried to where ever she was speaking. The going price then was ten to fifteen rupees. Now I believe it is two hundred! This paid crowd gave an impression of her immense popularity. Our entrepreneurs, businessmen soon realized that only way to survive and prosper is to tow the line which strengthened the license and permit raj and a pliant corrupt beurocracy helped her do what she wanted in the name of socialistic progress. A fledging business house which knew the ropes managed to import an entire factory as scrap metal and get away with it. Many who had no scruples prospered at the cost of those who could not or would not do this. Many of the big names in Indian business today owe to the policies of the then Government of Madame Gandhi for their success. The beurocrat and the politician ruled the roost at the cost of common man. Poverty was visible everywhere. It was common to see nearly naked people going about [less common now].Nutrition status was worse than it is now [even now it far from satisfactory]
Was there no one who protested? There were and the frustration of the people took the shape of Sarvodaya movement under an old Gandhian and erstwhile friend of her father called Jayaprakash Narayan, It succeeded in ending her rule but her rule had so emaciated the opposition that no sooner they came to power they forgot their objective of good governance and began fighting with each other. Can one imagine, the JP experiment lasted two years and the people chose Indira Gandhi once again to head the nation? We were back in square one.
Indians have been good sycophants. This was so under the Hindu Rajas, Turkish Sultans, Mogul Nawabs, and the British. It is easy for us to say yes than no. When we say yes it may mean no as later events prove. We also are very prone to bribery both in giving and taking. This has deep roots in Indian Psyche. It was common in the past to go with a gift when you went to see a dignitary. The raja then reciprocated with some reward. It may a gold coin, a necklace, a bangle or a piece of land. This gift giving and taking has continued over centuries and got institutionalized even when the gift taker is being paid handsomely by the government. It reached its zenith under Indira Gandhi [some who are keen observers of present day politics may say it is worse now]
The name congress I is not to be confused with Indian national congress. It actually stands for congress Indira! The old Indian national congress was killed by madam and her supporters in a very undemocratic coup and the present generation of congressmen are not bothered about history and behave as though they are the inheritors of Indian national congress.
Was there nothing right with Indira Gandhi? Of course there was some. Like her father she was non communal and very brave. She also took some historic decisions with far reaching consequences. One such was sending troops to liberate East Pakistan [now Bangladesh].This she did despite the threat from the US not to do so. The other was nationalization of Banks. Today if you see banks at every nook and corner of the country, the credit should go to her. That certain degree of inefficiency too came in with nationalization is another matter.
The most unethical of all actions was probably was abolishing the privileges [privy purses] of the erstwhile princes. A solemn promise made by the constituent assembly was undone by an act of a puppet parliament. That they any way were an anachronism in a modern society and would have vanished in the course of time is a different matter. But the act was unethical to say the least. To her what mattered was the end and means really did not matter.
What we are witnessing today in the political scenario where the powers are afraid of enacting a law to get hoarded money back to the country is the direct result of those policies of license Raj. The beneficiaries who have stashed away their ill gotten wealth have direct links with this generation of businessmen, beurocrats and politicians and therefore the reluctance.