Photographer's Note

My time machine has dropped me off in the centre of Bombay (Mumbai) in April 1973. A worker is taking down a banner advertising a campaign promoting vasectomy, male sterilization. "Lucky prizes" had been offered to those who voluntarily underwent vasectomy to restrict their families to the ideal size: mum, dad and two children.

This was in 1973. A few years later vasectomy fell into disrepute when the Indian authorities, protected by a national state of emergency, sterilized millions of men by force. One of the leaders of the mass campaign was said to be Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's youngest son Sanjay.

The state of emergency 1975–1977 was the darkest period of independent India. It was ordered by Indira Gandhi because of "internal disturbances", which allowed her to rule by decree. Civil liberties were curbed, most of Gandhi's political opponents were imprisoned and the media were censored. When the emergency was lifted in 1977 and delayed general elections were held, the governing Congress Party was voted out of power for the first time since independence in 1947. It was said that Gandhi had been so isolated from reality that she actually believed she was more popular than ever and would win easily, because that's what her advisors and the government controlled media had said.

Sterilization is still being undertaken in large numbers even today in India, but nowadays mainly of women, even though it is well known that this surgery is much more easily and safely done on men. The campaigns, more peacefully done these days, have been said to focus on women because they are less likely to resist pressures from the health authorities.

This photo was taken just by the railway tracks for commuter trains in central Bombay. You can see the electricity wires and pylons. The map coordinates 18.93983 72.82689 will give you a very rough idea where I was standing. It can't have been far from where I took this photo. Maybe it was taken the same day.

I have scanned this from a Kodachrome slide. Here is a larger version.

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Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 9631 W: 511 N: 18701] (82824)
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