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  • In the late sixties, it was increasingly being realised that the economic policies and power structures had only brought about limited growth. But there had hardly been equitable distribution of its benefit.
  • Indira was aware of these ground realities and was by no means separated from the broader leftist ideological paradigm vis-a-vis development. As the Prime Minister, she was concerned about the steep prices affecting the economy and was also aware that the poor were the worst hit by the situation. The radical Naxalite movement was gaining ground in different parts of the country. She was aware of the implications of the massive land grab movements inspired by leftist ideology.
  • When the Congress split in 1969, Indira became the leader of one faction of the party and she proved that she was no less radical than the leftists in waging struggle against poverty. In the preparations of the Fourth Five Year Plan, she constantly expressed her special concerns for the weaker sections of the population. She told her supporters that with their support, she was determined to fight against poverty effectively. She pursued the Nehruvian model of development with a greater degree of zeal and enterprise.
  • Indira’s political opponents campaigned on the slogan “Indira Hatao,“ (Remove Indira), Indira retooled it to “Garibi Hatao,“ (Remove Poverty). This slogan had a considerable impact; Indira was now looked upon by many as India’s saviour. Her election campaign was more energetic than it had ever been before.
  • This was the backdrop of the Garibi Hatao desh bachavo (meaning ’Abolish Poverty rescue the country’) slogan of Indira Gandhi’s 1971 election bid and later also used by her son Rajiv Gandhi.
  • The slogan and the proposed anti-poverty programmes that came with it were designed to reach out directly to the poor and marginalised, by-passing the dominant rural castes. For their part, the previously voiceless poor would at last gain both political worth and political weight.
  • In the 1971 elections, she popularised the slogan of Garibi Hatao and made it a point to reach out to the various sections of the unprivileged groups of the rural India. Babu Jagjivan Ram, who was made the president of the party, functioned as a spokesman of the depressed groups. He observed, “The Hindu society is a confederation of different caste ... and the dominant castes which so far been enjoying the fruits of all government measures even today has to expropriate to themselves the advantage provided by the government. We have the challenge from the dominant castes in certain areas and from what is known as left adversaries. We have to meet all these challenges. The congress is pledged to promote with special care, the educational, employment and economic interest of the weaker sections of the people particularly the S C’s, S T’s and the O B C’s.“
  • The early seventies carried the expectations of real social democratic possibilities in India. However these experiments did not often yield the expected results because Indira often faced a great deal of resistance from the dominant class interests. In this regard, she stated that “One can bully state leaders so much and no more…“
  • Indira often stood in an open car for hours addressing the crowds invoking radical rhetoric to arouse the masses, but at the same time, reassured the higher classes that she would be mindful of their interests as well. As a result, Indira and her supporters triumphed in the parliamentary elections.
  • In her speech delivered at the Red Fort on 15th August, 1975, Indira warned, “Please do not expect magic remedies and dramatic results, there is only one magic which can remove poverty, and that is hard work, sustained by clear vision, iron will and the strictest discipline“

Twenty Point Programme

The Twenty Point Programme was launched by Indira Gandhi in 1975 and was subsequently restructured in 1982 and again in 1986.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in a radio broadcast, announced measures to revive the economy and reinforce her image as a leader with socialist leanings. Among the announcements were: raising the income tax exemption limit from Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 8,000, confiscation of properties owned by smugglers, ceilings on ownership and possession of vacant land, and acquisition of excess land. Land ceiling laws would be strictly implemented and surplus land distributed among the rural poor. The Twenty Point Programme included steps to bring down prices of essential commodities, promote austerity in government spending, crackdown on bonded labour, liquidate rural indebtedness and make laws for a moratorium on recovery of debt from landless labourers, small farmers and artisans.

The twenty points of the Programme were carefully designed and selected to achieve the above objectives.

The Twenty Point Programme consisted of the following:

1. Attack on rural poverty
2. Strategy for rained agriculture
3. Better use of irrigation water
4. Bigger harvest
5. Enforcement of land reforms
6. Special programmes for rural labour
7. Clean drinking water
8. Health for all
10. Two child norm
11. Justice for SC/ST
12. Equality for women
13. New opportunities for women
14. Housing for the people
15. Improvement for slums
16. New strategy for forestry
17. Protection of environment
18. Concern for the consumer
19. Energy for the villages
20. A responsive administration