What steps did the Congress Government take after the imposition of Emergency by Indira Gandhi in 1975?
At 6 a.m. on 26th June 1975, members of the Union Cabinet were faced with the fact that an emergency had been declared.
The first step the Congress Government took was to jail leaders and legislators of opposition ‘ parties, student activists, trade unionists or anyone with the slightest connection to the Jana Sangh, The Congress or, The Socialists or other groups opposed to the Congress including Jayprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai and the Rajmatas of Gwalior and Jaipur.
Thousands were arrested under MISA- Maintenance of Internal Security Act. The Prime Minister said that there was a need for a ‘New Spirit of Discipline and Morale’. Government copywriters began to churn out slogans such as ‘Discipline Makes the Nation Great’. ‘Talk Less, Work More’, ‘Be Indian, Buy Indian’, “Efficiency is our Watchword”. The New Economic Programme was put through. The slogan was “Garibi Hatao”. The Prime Minister offered the ‘20 Point Programme for Economic Progress’ which promised a reduction in prices of essential commodities, speedy implementation of land reforms, the abolition of indebtedness and of bonded labor, higher wages for workers and lower income taxes for the middle class.
A series of Constitutional Amendments were passed. The 38th Amendment passed on 22nd July 1975 barred Judicial Review of the Emergency. The 39th Amendment stated that the election of the Prime Minister could not be challenged by the Supreme Court, but only by a body constituted by Parliament. The Supreme Court, too, supported the Government by ruling that detentions without trial were legal under the new dispensation. The 42nd Amendment gave unprecedented powers to the Parliament. It could now extend its own term. Laws passed by the Parliament were immune from judicial scrutiny and strengthened the powers of the Center over the State.
In January 1976, when the term of the DMK Government ended in Tamil Nadu, the Center ordered President’s Rule. The same was applied to Gujarat. This is how Congress made itself supreme all over India.
Most importantly, freedom of the Press was curbed. A system of pre-censorship was put in place whereby editors had to submit for scrutiny and approval of any article that criticized the Government. There were guidelines as to what constituted and what did not constitute as news. Even jokes and cartoons tinged with satire were forbidden.
The Congress Government supported the program of Sanjay Gandhi who formulated a 5-Point Programme to compliment his mother’s 20-Point Programme. These dealt with family planning, afforestation, the abolition of dowry, removal of illiteracy and slums. It was his forced sterilization program and indiscriminate bulldozing of slums that finally led to the downfall of Indira Gandhi and the Congress Government.