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    India's Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, opened the country's first major nation-wide youth conference on?

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    India's Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi, opened the country's first major nation-wide youth conference on Monday (9 August) -- in the midst of controversy over birth-control. Much of the controversy is about the minimum marriage age which has been raised from 15 to 18 for women, and from 18 to 21 for men.

    SYNOPSIS: The two day conference of 9,000 delegates from all over India opened in New Delhi on Monday in grand style with elephants and a motorcycle escort for the President of the Indian Youth Congress, Mrs. Ambika Soni. The day was also the anniversary of the launching of the 'Quit India' campaign against British rule in 1942.

    Among the principal figures was Sanjay Gandhi, the 30-year-old younger son of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who has emerged as an important figure in Indian politics since last year's declaration of a state of emergency. He's a leader of the Youth Wing of India's ruling Congress party, and has recently been outspoken in the birth control controversy. Two days earlier he said he was against compulsory sterilisation.

    But Sanjay Gandhi has denied allegations by Mrs. Gandhi's opponents that force is being used in the government's ambitious family planning programme. His mother avoided direct reference to the controversy in her inaugural address to the students, but Mrs. Gandhi did express the hope that 'every young man present would do his best to remove the difficulties of his sisters throughout the country'. She also said that 'if there was a new awakening among the masses, the picture would certainly change.' India has a population of 600 million, growing at the rate of 13 million a year. A severe cut in the birth rate has been one of the prime objectives of Mrs. Gandhi's government -- causing massive problems as it cuts right across traditional, social, cultural, ethnic and religious beliefs and practices.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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