This article examines family planning during the Emergency in India, drawing upon the archive of the Shah Commission of Inquiry. It aims, primarily, to understand why family planning became such an important point of state intervention during the Emergency, when millions were sterilized. I argue that family planning was intended as a technocratic fix for the problem of poverty and that, although the family planning program existed before the Emergency, it received a fillip through Indira Gandhi's Emergency-era push for poverty eradication thanks to the established position of population control as a prerequisite for economic development. Secondly, it aims to understand how the Emergency and sterilization have become conflated in popular memory, such that the driving forces of poverty eradication and economic development have dropped out of the story altogether. The link between poverty eradication and population control has been forgotten, and a narrative of arbitrary family planning “excess” endured.

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