Indira Gandhi, the First Prime Minister of Nature

Former Environment Minister Shri Jairam Rames talks about the iron lady’s commitment & zeal towards nature

Guwahati: Former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi has been viewed as an iron lady with a dynamic political legacy. While much has been written about, acknowledged, and applauded about on her political conquests, there is a lesser known fact about her passion and love for nature.

Former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, a prolific writer and author of the book “Indira Gandhi: Life in Nature” has unveiled one of the nation's greatest leader's journey as an environmentalist and a conservationist. The book, which is a treasure trove, a compilation of her personal letters, speeches, articles, forewords she provided to others' books and even her observations on files put up to her, is an unconventional autobiography reflective of the real Indira Gandhi, her kinship with nature and commitment to environmental causes.

In a book discussion event on August 28th at Vivanta by Taj, hosted by Balipara Foundation, an NGO in Assam leading community conservation through the concept of Naturenomics™ and pioneers of the Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum, Jairam Ramesh engages in a conversation with Arupjyoti Saikia, a renowned professor & environmental historian.

He reveals details, chapters and insights from the book through the eyes of Indira Gandhi and says that the leader saw herself as "a child of nature, who grew up in nature, who lived with nature and became a Prime Minister of nature". He calls her compelling, charismatic and controversial but an environmentalist at heart, who found her inner peace in the company of birds, plants and stones, staring at the universe of constellations, living in the hills and protecting the forests and wildlife of India.

Talking about the book's relevance today, Jairam says "The book forays into a chronological narration of events in the political history of the foundation of our green legacy through the lens of Indira Gandhi, which gives us an insight on today's environmental structure, the laws and the institutions". Many breakthrough ecological reforms and environmental laws shaped up during her regime as the first and only woman prime minister of India. A "wildlife savior", she is the reason India's wild Tigers and forests have a lease of life. The Forest Conservation Act, 1980, Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Water Pollution Control Act, 1974 Air Pollution Control Act, 1981, and the Ministry of Environment were all instituted and enforced by her.

He further goes on to point out that the book is different. Unlike other books written on the woman of steel that focus on her image as Durga and her role during emergency, the book explores her perception of herself and her personal tryst with wildlife and the environment. In Jairam's words, "She saw herself as a reluctant politician, and despite grappling with national upheaval and a very tumultuous personal life, she managed to create a niche for nature and found time to pursue her inner calling as a green ambassador".

Citing examples of her commitment towards nature, even as she was busy with the Seventh Non-Aligned Summit in Delhi, she took time out to write to the Governments of Pakistan & Afghanistan on protecting the Siberian Cranes.  She declared a ban on the felling of green trees in the Himalayas and encouraged introduction of environmental education and awareness. Conscious about poverty in the country and need for economic and social development, she frequently insisted on ecological balance and greater sensitivity towards the environment in planning for economic development.

With the presentation of interesting anecdotes from her letters to her colleagues in the Ministry, questioning planning decisions and driving the agenda of harmony between sustainability and urbanization; we see her as a visionary, who often persuaded, cajoled and educated on the subject of climate change, deforestation and wildlife extinction in an era when the threats were not as profound. She was nationally and internationally an ecological pioneer, who was the only head of government to attend the historic UN held the first global conference on the human environment (UNCHE) Stockholm Conference in 1972 speaking about Man and Environment.

The author summarizes the discussion with parting thoughts that while the book weaves personal, political and environmental history, it is an off-beat biography and documentary evidence of Indira Gandhi’s private passions, which comes in the centenary year of her birth, an occasion for the nation to look back and reflect on her role as a green warrior and her contribution to our green legacy.

The book discussion was also graced by former CM of Assam, Tarun Gogoi who remembers Indira Gandhi as the most democratic and fearless leader. Speaking about the leader's environmental inclination, he mentioned that we need to continue work on the seeds of efforts planted by the great leaders of our nation towards socially uplifting rural communities and ensuring ecological balance.

The evening concluded with a vote of thanks from Karishma Ahmed, Events lead, Balipara Foundation, who mentioned that the Foundation has been hosting similar events to provide a platform for inspiring conversations and actions on community and environment conservation, to trace the environmental history of our country and to focus on building rural economies in the Eastern Himalayas through Naturenomics™. She announced that the Foundation’s large scale multidisciplinary event, the Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum will be held on November 2nd & 3rd in Assam this year.

Book discussion of Indira Gandhi - A life in Nature
Book discussion of Indira Gandhi - A life in Nature

Prof. Arupjyoti Saikia, Historian & Scholar at IIT, Guwahati, being honored & welcomed
Prof. Arupjyoti Saikia, Historian & Scholar at IIT, Guwahati, being honored & welcomed

Prof. Arupjyoti Saikia introduces Former Environment Minister Sri Jairam Ramesh & the book
Prof. Arupjyoti Saikia introduces Former Environment Minister Sri Jairam Ramesh & the book

The audiences listen intently to the discussion
The audiences listen intently to the discussion

Former CM Shri Tarun Gogoi remembers Set Indira Gandhi as the most Democratic & Fearless Leader
Former CM Shri Tarun Gogoi remembers Set Indira Gandhi as the most Democratic & Fearless Leader

Vote of thanks from Events Lead, Balipara Foundation, Karishma Ahmed
Vote of thanks from Events lead, Balipara Foundation, Karishma Ahmed

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