Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (née Anand; born 26 August 1956, Delhi, India) is the Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development in the Government of PM Narendra Modi. She is also an animal rights activist, environmentalist, 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 a member of the Nehru-Gandhi Family.
Maneka was born in Delhi into a Sikh family. Her father was Indian Army officer Lt. Col. Tarlochan Singh Anand and her mother was Amteshwar Anand. She went to Lawrence School and later Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She subsequently studied German at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Maneka first met Sanjay Gandhi at a cocktail party thrown by Maneka's uncle Major-General Kapur to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of his son Veenu Kapur in 1973. Maneka eventually married Sanjay, the son of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi one year later on 23 September 1974.
The Emergency saw the rise of Sanjay into politics and Maneka was seen with him almost every time on his tours as she helped him in campaigns. It is often said that during the Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi had total control over his mother and that the government was run by the PMH (Prime Minister House) rather than the PMO (Prime Minister Office).
Maneka Gandhi founded the news magazine Surya which later played a key role in promotion of the Congress party after its defeat in the 1977 election following the Emergency.
She went to court to fight an attempt by the government in power at the time to confiscate her passport and won a landmark decision on personal liberty. In the case of Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, 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."
She gave birth to a son in 1980 named Feroze after his paternal grandfather. Her mother-in-law added the name Varun. Maneka was just twenty-three years old and her son just 100 days old, when her husband, Sanjay, died in an air crash.
Early life and career
Maneka's relationship with Indira Gandhi gradually disintegrated after Sanjay's death and they would continually argue with one another. She was eventually forced out of 1,Safdarjung Road, the prime minister's residence after a fallout with Indira. She founded the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch along with Akbar Ahmed Dumpy. The party primarily focused on youth empowerment and employment. It won four out of five seats in the Elections in Andhra Pradesh.
Maneka contested the Amethi constituency from Uttar Pradesh for the 1984 general election for the Loksabha but lost to Rajiv Gandhi. In 1988, she joined V.P. Singh's Janata Dal and became the General Secretary. In November 1989 Maneka won her first election to Parliament and became a Minister of State as the Minister for Environment.
Maneka Gandhi is a self-described environmentalist and animal rights leader in India. She has earned international awards and acclaim. 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 has filed Public Interest Litigations that have achieved the replacement of the municipal killing of homeless dogs with a sterilisation programme, the unregulated sale of airguns and a ban on mobile or travelling 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 started the organisation People for Animals 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 and has advocated this lifestyle on ethical and health grounds. She also anchored the weekly television program Heads and Tails, highlighting the suffering 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.
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.
- 1989-91 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Janata Dal party ticket
- 1996-98 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Janata Dal party ticket
- 1998–99 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected as an Independent Candidate
- 1999–2004 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected as an Independent Candidate
- 2004-09 - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket
- 2009-14 - Member of Lok Sabha from Aonla (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket
- 2014–present - Member of Lok Sabha from Pilibhit (Lok Sabha constituency), elected on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket
- 1988–89 – General-Secretary, Janata Dal (J.D.)
- 1989–91 – Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Environment and Forests
- January–April 1990 – Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Programme Implementation
- 1996–97 – Member, Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests
- 1998–99 – Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Social Justice and Empowerment.
- 13 October 1999 – 1 September 2001– Union Minister of State, Social Justice and Empowerment (Independent Charge)
- 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 November 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
- 2004 – Member, Committee on Health & Family Welfare, Member, Consultative Committee, Ministry of Environment and Forests
- 5 August 2007 – onwards Member, Committee on Health & Family Welfare
- 31 August 2009 – Became Member of Committee on Railways
- 23 September 2009 – Chairperson, Committee on Government Assurances
- 19 October 2009 – Member, General Purposes Committee
- 26 May 2014 – Union Minister of Women & Child Development
- Shining World Compassion Award along with a cheque for 20,000 dollars from Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association.
- 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 and selling 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
- A.S.G. Jayakar award, 2008
- Human Achiever Award in field of Women Empowerment and Children Welfare by Mrs Caroline W/O Ambassador Of Namibia and Ms Sanorita Issac, founder & Chairperson, Human Achiever Foundation, India.