When we talk about India’s only female Prime Minister till date, what comes to our mind? Emergency, ‘Garibi Hatao Andolan‘, 1971 Bangladesh War, Operation Bluestar etc. But it is surprising to note that Indira Gandhi was also a lover of nature. She was a lover of mountains, of tranquil seas and of beautiful birds that roamed India in all their grace & magnanimity. Indian National Congress (INC) member Jairam Ramesh in his book ‘Indira Gandhi: A life in Nature’ portrayed the former Prime Minister, as a person who was deeply infatuated with nature. Some of her noteworthy achievements are as follows;
1. Being a close friend of celebrated Indian ornithologist Prof. Salim Ali, Indira Gandhi believed in conservation of birds. She was one of the founders of the Delhi Bird Watching Society as well as a dedicated patron of the Bombay Natural History Society. Her efforts to secure the future of the Siberian Crane and Great Indian Bustard are well-known
2. Many pivotal acts such as the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Forest Conservation Act, 1980, Water Act (Prevention and Pollution Control), 1974 and Air Act (Prevention and Pollution Control) 1981 were enacted in her tenure. ‘Project Tiger’ came into force during her time in 1973. She also took a stand against erstwhile princely families for engaging in ‘Shikaars’.
3. Indira Gandhi was also a key speaker in the 1972 Stockholm Convention that was one of the worlds’s first dedicated platforms that sought to address the interactions between humans and environment. She also took a stand against hydel power corporations who wished to build a plant in the Silent Valley forests in Kerala.
Nevertheless, Indira Gandhi was also criticized for not taking a stand against major eco-blunders;
1. Despite significant pollution that would emanate from the proposed Mathura refinery that could threaten the Taj Mahal and the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Gandhi gave the plant a green signal. The yellowish tinge that adorns this ‘Wonder on Earth’ is due to this move.
2.Though the ‘Green Revolution’ made India self-sufficient to a lot of extent, its heavy insistence on pesticides and fertilizers have made it a slow ticking ecological-time bomb. This innovation received Indira Gandhi’s approval. Nevertheless, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, knows as the ‘Father of Indian Green Revolution’ is actively appealing for ‘Green Revolution 2.0.’
Despite these, Indira Gandhi’s efforts to conserve nature are praise worthy and deserve respect. If one were to point out one of India’s most eco-friendly PM’s till date, that honor would certainly go to Mrs. Gandhi.