The World: The Issue that Inflamed India

One issue, above everything else, cost Indira Gandhi the election: her mass sterilization campaign. No one questions that India needs effective family planning; after all, the country's population has almost doubled in 30 years (to 620 million) and may reach one billion by the year 2000. But the government's program to vasectomize millions of Indian males who had fathered two or more children—ruthlessly and often illegally applied—came to symbolize the dangers of authoritarian rule. TIME New Delhi Bureau Chief Lawrence Malkin reports:

To millions of ordinary people, sterilization was the cutting edge of...