Indira Gandhi: A Life in Na­ture

Sustainabilitynext - - Bookshelf - By Jairam Ramesh, June 2017, Si­mon & Schus­ter In­dia

Indira Gandhi, prime min­is­ter of In­dia for six­teen years, was as charis­matic as she was con­tro­ver­sial–at once ad­mired and crit­i­cized for her po­lit­i­cal judg­ments and ac­tions. Yet be­yond such de­bate, what has not been fully un­der­stood is her life­long com­mu­nion with na­ture and how that de­fined her very be­ing. Weav­ing per­sonal, po­lit­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal history, politi­cian-scholar Jairam Ramesh nar­rates the com­pelling story of Indira Gandhi, the nat­u­ral­ist.

He tells us why and how she came to make a pri­vate pas­sion a public call­ing; how her views on the en­vi­ron­ment re­mained stead­fast even as her po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic stances changed; how her friend­ships with con­ser­va­tion­ists led to far-reach­ing de­ci­sions to pre­serve In­dia’s bio­di­ver­sity; how she urged, ca­joled and per­suaded her col­leagues as she took sig­nif­i­cant de­ci­sions par­tic­u­larly re­gard­ing forests and wildlife; and how her own finely-de­vel­oped in­stincts and be­liefs re­sulted in land­mark poli­cies, pro­grams, ini­tia­tives, laws and in­sti­tu­tions, that have en­dured.

Draw­ing ex­ten­sively from un­pub­lished letters, notes, mes­sages and memos, the book of­fers a lively, con­ver­sa­tional nar­ra­tive of a rel­a­tively lit­tle known but fas­ci­nat­ing as­pect of Indira Gandhi’s tu­mul­tuous life. Equally, the book acts as a com­pass to In­dia at a time when the coun­try faces the for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge of en­sur­ing eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity and sus­tain­abil­ity in its pur­suit of high eco­nomic growth.

Jairam Ramesh is a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment. He has held key min­is­te­rial port­fo­lios be­tween 2006 and 2014—ru­ral de­vel­op­ment, drink­ing water and san­i­ta­tion, en­vi­ron­ment and forests, power and com­merce. He has au­thored a num­ber of best-sell­ing books in­clud­ing Old History, New Ge­og­ra­phy: Bi­fur­cat­ing Andhra Pradesh (2016), To the Brink and Back: In­dia’s 1991 Story (2015), Leg­is­lat­ing for Jus­tice: The 2013 Land Ac­qui­si­tion Law (2015), Green Sig­nals: Ecol­ogy, Growth and Democ­racy in In­dia (2015), Mak­ing Sense of Chin­dia: Reflections on China and In­dia (2005) and Kau­tilya To­day: Jairam Ramesh on a Glob­al­iz­ing In­dia (2002).

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