Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (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 then 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.
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.
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