For today’s article, let’s go back to the year 1971. India had just defeated Pakistan and Mrs Gandhi was re-elected as the Prime Minister of India for her agenda of Gareebi Hatao which soon changed to Gareebo ko Hatao! The poor became poorer and the rich, richer! Gujarat specifically bore the brunt of Mrs Gandhi’s disastrous policies. Coupled with that was the 1972 famine, one of the worst famines that Gujarat ever faced followed by a horrible Kharif crop. This abnormally increased the price of even basic needs like wheat, jawar, and bajra. People had to stand in endless queues for their necessities! And the government couldn’t care less about the miseries of its people!

However, all it took was a bunch of youngsters from LD Engineering College, Ahmedabad to topple the Gujarat government, the first of its kind in the country!  They protested over the rising food prices, which had increased their mess charges. This movement was supported by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, who then together formed the Nav Nirman Samiti to spearhead the movement. It was also supported by the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) and the Congress (O). This movement gained momentum, people across the state started joining. This increased the demand for resignation of the government.

The then chief minister of Gujarat, Chimanbhai Patel had many allegations against him, one of which was the groundnut oil scam where he let the groundnut oil prices increase in exchange for money. Groundnut oil is the primary cooking oil of Gujarat. As the protest continued, the government resigned and the President's rule was imposed on February 9, 1974. Jayaprakash Narayan then visited Ahmedabad. He praised the role of students in these protests but, he told them to not stop their protests till all their demands are fulfilled. Moreover, to support the students, Morarji Desai went on a hunger strike demanding the dissolution of the Assembly on March 11, 1974.

This fast gave the fuel the students required to resume the movement with full fervour. The government got scared of this rising momentum coupled with Morarji’s fast and they dissolved the Assembly on the March 15. Morarji then ended his fast and the Nav Nirman movement became a huge success with people congratulating the efforts of the students from all around the country. The Nav Nirman movement became a model that inspired similar movements later in the country.

One such movement which started with a similar premise was in Bihar where students were dissatisfied with the rising prices and inadequate supply of food grains to their messes and the rising unemployment. They came together to protest over these and presented their demands to the government. The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which played a crucial role in the Nav Nirman movement, again helped the students organise this in Bihar. Together with ABVP,  the Samajwadi Yuva Jan Sabha (SYJS) and the Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti (CSS) together formed the Bihar Rajya Sangharsh Samiti for spearheading this agitation.

Another huge contribution of the Nav Nirman Andolan was that they had demanded fresh elections in Gujarat. Finally, Mrs Gandhi had to cave in, and elections were held on June 10 and the results were declared on June 12, 1975. It was the same day when Mrs Gandhi’s election malpractices came to the fore and the infamous Emergency was imposed. The results of the Gujarat Assembly though were one that was expected. Congress lost miserably by winning only 75 seats. Babubhai J Patel became the chief minister after the coalition of Congress (O), Jan Sangh, PSP and Lok Dal known as Janata Morcha won 88 seats. The Nav Nirman Andolan showed the dissatisfaction of the students and the middle-class against a highly corrupt and insensitive government. This movement showed the real power of the students' movement, which can change the government for a just cause.


About Abhinav Khare

Abhinav Khare is the CEO of Asianet News Network and also the host of a daily show named Deep Dive with AK. He has a lifetime collection of books and gadgets and has already pinged more than hundred cities around the globe. 

He is a tech entrepreneur, who is passionate about policy, technology, economy and philosophy from ancient India. He earned an MS Engineering from the ETH Zurich and an MBA Finance from the London Business School.