Template:Infobox Indian politician

Maneka Gandhi (née Anand; born 26 August 1956, Delhi, India) is an Indian politician, animal rights activist, environmentalist, former model and widow of the Indian politician, Sanjay Gandhi. She has been a minister in four governments, and has authored a number of books in the areas of etymology, law and animal welfare. Maneka Gandhi is member of the Nehru-Gandhi Political Clan.

Early lifeEdit

Maneka Gandhi was born in a Sikh family to Lt. Col. Tarlochan Singh Anand and Amardeep Kaur Anand. She was born in Delhi and educated at the Lawrence School, Sanawar[1] and later at Lady Shri Ram College for Women in New Delhi where she earned an ISC. She did modeling for Bombay Dyeing and that was where she was spotted by Sanjay Gandhi. She met him when she was 17 and studying German at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. They got married within a year.[2]

Sanjay and Maneka lived with Indira Gandhi and Sanjay grew increasingly involved in Indian politics as part of the Youth Congress. Maneka often accompanied him on his travels. She was also the Founder Editor of Surya, a political news monthly. When the Congress party was defeated in 1977, Maneka turned the magazine into a platform to promote and defend the Congress party, her husband and mother-in-law. Surya magazine carried regular interviews with Indira Gandhi, and was instrumental in refurbishing her image. Maneka accompanied Indira Gandhi to Chikmagalur from where Indira was re-elected. Dom Moraes who covered that visit remarked on the junior Mrs Gandhi’s lively intelligence and charisma. Khushwant Singh once likened Maneka to ‘Durga’.

During the period between 1977–1980, Sanjay was ruthlessly hounded and often jailed by the new Government. It even sought to impound Maneka’s passport against which she went to court and won a landmark decision on personal liberty. In the case of Maneka Gandhi v Union of India,[3] of 1979, the court found that "Democracy is based essentially on free debate and open discussion, for that is the only corrective of government action in a democratic setup."

With Maneka by his side, Sanjay led the Congress party back to power within just three years. A son was born to the couple that same year, 1980. Sanjay named the child Feroze after his own father . Indira added the name Varun. Maneka was just 23 years and her son, just 100 days old, when Sanjay died in an air crash.

In March 1983, Maneka founded her own political party, the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch which focused on youth empowerment and employment. The Manch won 4 out of the first 5 seats it contested—in the state elections of Andhra Pradesh.

Maneka filed her own nomination from her husband’s seat, Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, and the election campaign of 1984 was in full swing when her mother in law, Indira was assassinated by her own bodyguards. Maneka condemned the assassination as a "frightening act of violence".[31] She called for an independent commission to probe the assassination composed of "eminent persons with a reputation for honesty and fearlessness who have no political connection".

Riding the massive sympathy wave in the ensuing elections, Rajiv Gandhi defeated Maneka in Amethi and became Prime Minister.

In 1988, Maneka merged the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch with the main opposition party, the Janata Dal and became its General Secretary. The party won the general elections and at 33, Maneka Gandhi became India’s youngest Minister. As Minister of Environment & Forests in two successive governments, Maneka introduced a number of historic legislations including the Coastal Zone Regulation Act and The Public Liability Act for Hazardous Chemicals. She also created the National Zoo Authority to regulate zoos, set up Environmental Tribunals, notified protection for old monuments as Heritage sites, introduced testing and controls for vehicular pollution, devised the comparative testing scheme Eco-Mark for environmentally friendly products, formed the Vivisection Regulatory Committee to eliminate duplicative animal research, and set up the Animal Welfare Board of India. She negotiated the Montreal Protocol on behalf of the Government of India and introduced the ‘polluter pays’ concept.Template:Citation needed

Contesting as an Independent candidate from Pilibhit, Maneka was re-elected in 1996 and again in 1998 with among the highest margins of victory in the country.

In 1999, Maneka lent support to the BJP India’s leading opposition party led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The party was elected to power and Maneka became Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment. Here she played a historic role in the Indian pension reforms effort, through the early phase of Project OASIS. OASIS is an acronym for Old Age Social and Income Security. Maneka Gandhi played a key role in the initiation and early thinking on this scheme, going up to the point where it was transferred to the Ministry of Finance for implementation. This went on to become the celebrated New Pension System (NPS) which was implemented for new recruits into the central government from 2004 onwards. She also restructured the Rehabilitation Council of India, simplified the adoption laws, initiated a helpline for street children, funded the first disability hospitals in the country, initiated a national network of outlets for tribal products, funded training facilities for retired armed forces personnel and put together an $11 million rehabilitation programme for the disabled.

She was instrumental in creating India’s Animal Welfare Ministry—a first in the world, and serving as its first Minister. As Minister for Animal Welfare, she banned the use of bears, primates and big cats in public performances, designed an Animal Welfare Institute to impart training in the field, and made it mandatory for food and cosmetics to be labeled veg and non veg (green and brown dots) depending on their ingredients.

Maneka Gandhi was subsequently Minister for Culture and Minister for Programme Implementation.

In 2004, Maneka joined the BJP and again contested and won from Pilibhit. She has won 5 out of the 6 times she has contested from Pilibhit. This is a measure of her enormous personal popularity in the region attributed to her assiduously nurturing the constituency.

In 2009, Maneka fought and won from neighbouring Aonla while her son, Varun Gandhi fought and won from Pilibhit.

As a six term Member of Parliament, Maneka Gandhi is among the most senior legislators of India. She is currently Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Govt. Assurances.

Environmental activismEdit

Maneka Gandhi is a self-described environmentalist and animal rights leader in India.[3] She was appointed chairwoman of the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) in 1995. Under her direction, CPCSEA members carried unannounced inspections of laboratories where animals are used for scientific research were conducted.

She started the organisation People for Animals[4] in 1992 and it is the largest organisation for animal rights/welfare in India. Maneka Gandhi is also a patron of International Animal Rescue. She is a vegan[5] and has advocated this lifestyle on ethical and health grounds. She also anchored a weekly Television program named "Heads and Tails" highlighting sufferings meted out to animals due to their commercial exploitation. She has also authored a book under the same title. Her other books were about Indian people names. She is a cast member for the documentary A Delicate Balance.[6]

Career in journalismEdit

As a journalist, Maneka Gandhi made headlines for her shocking publication in Surya Magazine of photos showing sexual intercourse between Suresh Ram (son of the then Defence Minister Babu Jagjivan Ram) and Sushma Chaudhury, a University of Delhi student.[7] Her daring publication of the photos ran the risk of violation of obscenity laws. The revealing pictures[8] were published apparently to discredit Jagjivan Ram, who defected from the Indira Gandhi government and helped bring Janata Party to power in 1977. He was one of the contenders for the post of Prime Minister of India.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

Maneka married Sanjay Gandhi, the son of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 23 September 1974 at a simple but elegant civil ceremony. She wore a sari gifted by her mother in law, Indira made of Khadi spun by Jawaharlal Nehru when he was in jail.

Maneka and Sanjay had a son in 1980 who was named after Sanjay’s father Feroze. Indira added a second name, Varun. Months later, Sanjay was killed in a plane crash.[10]

An editor and activist, Gandhi’s entry into politics was more by accident than design. And though she has been extremely successful, winning parliamentary elections six times and serving as Minister in four governments, her heart has always remained in environmental and animal protection. Here she has earned international awards and acclaim. She has filed Public Interest Litigations that have achieved the replacement of the municipal killing of homeless dogs with a sterilization programme, the unregulated sale of airguns and a ban on mobile or traveling zoos. She currently chairs the Jury of International Energy Globe Foundation which meets annually in Austria to award the best environmental innovations of the year. She is a member of the Eurosolar Board and the Wuppertal Institute, Germany.

She is Chairperson of Rugmark which works to rehabilitate children in the carpet trade. Rugmark has won awards for rescuing the maximum number of bonded child labour.

Positions heldEdit

  • 1989-91 - Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Environment and Forests
  • Jan.-April 1990 - Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Programme Implementation
  • 1996-97 - Member, Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests
  • 1 September 2001- 18 November 2001 - Union Minister of State, Culture with additional charge of Animal Care (Independent Charge) Programme Implementation and Statistics with additional charge of Animal Care (Independent Charge)
  • 18 Nov.2001- 30 June 2002 - Union Minister of State, Programme Implementation and Statistics with additional charge of Animal Care (Independent Charge)
  • 2002-2004 - Member, Committee on External Affairs
  • 5 August 2007 - onwards Member, Committee on Health & Family Welfare
  • 31 Aug. 2009 - Became Member of Committee on Railways
  • 23 Sep. 2009- Chairperson, Committee on Government Assurances
  • 19 Oct. 2009- Member, General Purposes Committee


  • Shining World Compassion Award along with a cheque for 20,000 dollars from Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association.[11]
  • Lord Erskine Award from the RSPCA, 1992
  • Environmentalist and Vegetarian of the year 1994
  • Prani Mitra Award, 1996
  • Maharana Mewar Foundation Award, 1996 for Environmental work
  • Marchig Animal Welfare Trust Prize, Switzerland, 1997
  • Venu Menon Animal Allies Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999
  • Bhagwan Mahaveer Foundation Award for Excellence in the sphere of Truth, Non-violence and Vegetarianism, 1999
  • Dewaliben Charitable Trust Award, 1999
  • International Women's Association Woman of the Year Award, Chennai, 2001
  • Dinanath Mangeshkar Aadishakti Puraskar in the field of Environment and animal welfare, 2001 *Rukmini Devi Arundale Animal Welfare Award [12]
  • A.S.G. Jayakar award, 2008 [13]

See alsoEdit


  1. Om Gupta, Encyclopaedia of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Gyan Publishing, 2006), p. 1470
  2. Template:Cite news
  3. See, e.g., Gandhi's MP "Biographical Sketch" in which her profession is described as "Writer, Animal Activist and Environmentalist". See also, "Indian Scion Speaks Out, and Uproar Follows Him" (NYT, 2 April 2009) which states: "Maneka Gandhi has cultivated a reputation as an animal rights champion."
  4. People For Animals - India's largest Animal welfare organization by Maneka Gandhi
  5. Will we have a night safari? Interview
  6. A Delicate Balance Cast
  7. Maneka centrespreads sex romp
  8. Sexually explicit photos showing Suresh Ram and Sushma Chaudhary in compromising positions.
  9. A tale of sex and politics!
  10. Template:Cite news
  11. Template:Cite news
  12. MYLAPORE TIMES » Animal welfare award for Maneka Gandhi
  13. India News - News from India, Latest India News, Online India News Headlines

External linksEdit

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