After one month of emergency rule, Indian stands poised on the edge of a massive political and social reorganisation.
After one month of emergency rule, Indian stands poised on the edge of a massive political and social reorganisation. The stage was set on 26 June when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency and launched a widespread campaign of arresting political opponents and suppressing criticism through strict press censorship.
Nearly one month later, on 24 July, the Indian Parliament gave overwhelming approval for her measures. This allows her to extend the emergency powers for up to one year at a time for a maximum of three years. Opposition party members boycotted the parliamentary session.
During the three-day debate that led to the approval, Mrs Gandhi made it clear to both houses of Parliament that there could be no return to "the licence and political permissiveness of the pre-emergency period." In declaring the state of emergency in June, she said she wanted to put Indian back on the track to socialism from which it had been deflected by obstructionism. She said there was a deep-seated conspiracy against her and alleged that there was even a plot to assassinate her.
Almost immediately after the emergency was declared, the Government launched a package of economic reform measures aimed at reducing the burden of poverty on the urban and, in particular, the rural poor.
Measures were swiftly put into effect against smugglers, black marketeers, hoarders and tax evaders. The Government also announced plans to distribute surplus land among landless peasants and improve rural housing. Credit schemes to aid agricultural workers were also announced and more recently there were sharp reductions in the price of fertilizer.
For urban workers, tax cuts were announced and retail controls put into effect to reduce the traditional bargaining process and to require that essential items be clearly price-tagged.
The Government claims there has been a 2 to 18 per cent reduction in prices in essential items since these steps were taken. A 20 per cent fall in the price of sugar has been reported.
The Government has also moved to increase its own efficiency. It has stepped up its battle against absenteeism and lateness among government workers.
The new sense of discipline has even reached the street corners where police are now enforcing orderly bus queues and fining people on the spot for pushing in front of others who were there first.
Meantime, Reuters News Agency reports that political arrests are continuing and now number thousands. Last week (25 June) a prominent Indian journalist and author Kublip Mayar was taken into custody with no reason given.