21.3.77

Winds Batter Indira Gandhi

Times , Monday, Mar. 21, 1977

None of Mrs. Gandhi's measures has caused more resentment than the government's campaign to encourage sterilization in order to curb India's disastrous population explosion. According to one official count, this ambitious birth-control program resulted in more than 7 million vasectomies throughout India last year. In the town of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, where Mrs. Gandhi's son Sanjay is running for a parliamentary seat, villagers told Malkin that they had taken to sleeping in the fields to avoid being picked up and sterilized, which many of them seemed to equate with castration. The town market of Gauriganj was closed for a time because no one would come to it for fear of being nabbed by sterilization teams. In the village of Pipli, early-morning gunfire broke out last December when villagers resisted a sudden dragnet conducted by police squads seeking candidates for sterilization; later an official claimed that the village would be bombed if any outsiders learned of the incident.
Little Help. Aware of the bitterness, Mrs. Gandhi now acknowledges in campaign speeches that "certain injustices" have taken place in the sterilization program, and promises that compulsion will cease. After one such speech, about a dozen people standing in a crowd were asked if they believed her. No, they said. A party official confided later, "She will help us very little."