The US embassy in New Delhi used to send regular details on sterilisations being carried out in India to the department of state, USA, as per the Henry Kissinger-era cables, recently made public by Wikileaks. Kissinger was the secretary of state in the administrations of US presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in the 1970s.
In a cable dated April 15, 1976, the US administration was informed that the then health minister Karan Singh gave national award to Haryana for best performance (states’ category) in family planning in financial year 1974-75, with 8.2 sterilisations per one thousand population. Gujarat was awarded second prize, followed by Tamil Nadu. Bansi Lal was the chief minister of Haryana during the period for which award was given.
The best performance among the union territories was recorded by Chandigarh with 9.9 sterilisations per one thousand population.
The 1975-76 had seen “an outstanding achievement of 26 lakh sterilisations, almost double than the previous year”. The same cable stated that Assam, Maharashtra, Haryana, Kerala, Meghalaya, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, West Bengal, Delhi and Pondicherry had surpassed their targets.
In another cable dated April 30, 1976, it was informed that Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra had proposed legislation for compulsory sterilisation after two (as opposed to three) children. Uttar Pradesh had proposed compulsory sterilisation after three children. “During a debate on the Lok Sabha on April 28, all speakers opposed compulsory sterilisation, while supporting a national population policy,” the cable stated.
In a cable dated September 21, 1976, it was informed that a total of over 20 lakh sterilisations had been performed in the country during the first five months (from April till August) of the then government in the fiscal year 1976-77, as compared to over 4 lakh sterilisations during the corresponding period the previous year. “20 lakh sterilisations accounted for 47% of the target of 4.3 million sterilisations set for 1976-77,” the cable stated.
The results in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh were particularly notable as the states had exceeded their targets for the entire year within five months, the cable said.
In a September 28, 1976, cable, the US administration was informed about violence in a Haryana village adjoining Delhi-Faridabad industrial area, where three policemen and a local had been killed in violence over “coercive sterilisation” by authorities. The violence had taken place on the evening of September 27. “Five more police are reportedly in hospital as result of beatings and stonings by mob of 1500-2000 residents of the village. Incident was reportedly caused by movement of squad of 30-40 police into the village late in the evening to collect candidates for sterilisation (sic).” A similar incident had also taken place in a nearby village on Setpember 25. “Virtually all male villagers, mostly squatters from eastern UP and Bihar (mostly low caste Hindus) who do unskilled labour in Faridabad, have fled leaving families behind,” the cable said.
The embassy found out that due to Dusshera festivities, the number of candidates for sterilisation fell down sharply so motivators, who get Rs. 100 for each candidate, used police force to recruit new candidates. The local residents “bitterly complained that people were being taken for sterilisation regardless of their age, number of children, or even marital status”. The embassy informed that this incident was verified from eyewitnesses and such incidents “occur considerably more frequently than we are actually able to verify”.