Monday, October 2, 2017

Modi Sarkar – 40 Months of Governance – A Quick Survey Rings a Warning Bell

In May 2014, Narendra Modi swept the polls on the campaign of “Achche Din Aa Raha Hai” (Good Time is Arriving)’, and became the Prime Minister of India. In August 2017, his Government completed 40 months (two-third of his term) in power.  With just one-third of the term remaining before the Lok Sabha Poll in 2019, PreSense conducted a quick online survey in the middle of September to gain feedback from readers.  We received 758 responses from across the nation from different age groups.  After removing biased and skewed views, we analysed the remaining 703 qualitatively good responses. Nearly 90 people like industrialists, traders, advocates, chartered accountants, academicians, economists, social workers, and homemakers were also personally contacted, to validate the responses.  

Although the sample size is small and the respondents were mainly the internet savvy ‘middle class’ society, the results reveal the general trend and mood of the lower middle class and middle-class people (the aam aadmi).  The ruling party and the present government could obtain a more balanced feedback, if they conduct a similar survey on a large scale across the country, covering a larger spectrum of respondents.  
Outstanding Achievement

The respondents were asked to indicate one outstanding achievement of the Modi Sarkar.  Corruption-free governance, national security, international relations and the concept of demonetisation and GST (Goods and Services Tax) were the top runners.

Failure of Modi Sarkar

The respondents were asked to indicate one big failure of the Modi Sarkar.  Lack of job creation, poor economic growth, price rise, petrol price hike, and execution of demonetisation and implementation of GST were the grave negative points.

Interestingly, while the respondents appreciated the concept of demonetisation and GST, they indicated that their implementation caused great inconvenience, both to the common man and to the business community, especially of the Small and Medium Scale segment.

Rating of Current Performance, and in 2019 General Elections

The respondents were asked to rate the Modi governance on a scale of 0 to 10.  The rating as given by different age groups is shown in the graphics.  

The average rating by all the respondents is 6.5, and in the ‘less than 30’ age group, it is 5.2.

The respondents were asked to indicate the number of seats BJP might bag in the 2019 general elections.  The average number by all the respondents is 247. The younger age group indicated 222.  We find that the average for all the age groups is below the magic number of 272.  That means the respondents do not expect BJP to obtain an absolute majority in 2019.  The same opinion was expressed by almost all the other respondents whom we contacted over the telephone for validation and expert views.  

Views of the Supporters of Modi

Out of 703 respondents, 622 respondents voted for BJP Government in 2014.  Of these, only 73% have now indicated that they would vote in favour of BJP again in 2019.  The remaining 27% would either not support, or has not decided yet.  This is a warning signal for the ruling party.

Our Observations and Conclusions

Although there is no anti-incumbency mood against Modi Sarkar, the opinions expressed by the respondents indicate some ‘disappointment’.  This is explicit in the younger age group.

With this indication, we personally contacted 90 persons from different professional segments across India. Their general view was that demonetisation and GST were very good initiatives, but they felt that their implementation was poorly done, causing disruption and inconvenience to the country’s economic system, and affecting the daily lives of the common people.

Demonetisation:  A sizeable number of respondents rated this initiative both positively and negatively.  That means that while the concept and its objective was appreciated by the people, its implementation caused acute inconvenience to the people.  They observed that the Government has not given any official statement about the outcome (success or failure) of the demonetisation move.  This initiative was taken to arrest terrorism funding and black money. The average middle-class citizens question the extent to which these objectives were achieved. The silence of the Government and their ‘no comments’ attitude has added scepticism about its effectiveness, among the people.

GST:  The respondents have generally acknowledged and accepted the importance of GST.  However, the confusion over the rates applicable, and the software issues have left the people, especially of the business segment, inconvenienced and disgruntled.  Citing the impact of GST, even road-side vendors have now increased the prices, causing discontent among the common people.  Hotels charge 18% GST on their food items.  Increase in prices of even essential commodities, without corresponding increase in income, has adversely affected the average middle-class family.  There is apparently no proper monitoring system at the Government level.

“In an urgency to accomplish many things, the Modi Government implemented Demonetisation, and the Bankruptcy Law, revised NPA Rules, arresting black money and GST within a short time and without proper planning, leading to chaos and confusion”, said Prof. K. Prabhakar, Social Economist. 

GDP Growth and Employment Generation

There is a steady decline in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) right from the first quarter of the Financial Year (FY) 2016-17.  Out of the present GDP growth of 5.7, the service sector grew at 8.7%, the manufacturing sector at 1.2% and the farming sector at 2.3%. 

The farming and manufacturing sectors together contribute nearly 80% of the employment generation. During the previous NDA regime (Vajpayee’s), although the overall GDP growth was lower, the small and medium industries generated large employment opportunities.  

Dr Subramanian Swamy, well-known economist and Member of Parliament representing BJP, warned in August 2015 itself that the economy was in a ‘tailspin’, threatening an economic crisis.  He suggested the formation of a crisis management group consisting of experts, to correct the situation. Unfortunately, his warning was ignored. The economic slowdown, which started in Jan 2016, continues till date.  The Government took the risk of implementing demonetisation and GST in this economic situation, adding more stress to the system.     

The UK-based daily, The Financial Times wrote, “Modi is, by his own admission, an economic novice. But he has disbanded his Economic Advisory Council and launched demonetisation on his own whimsical initiative. His predecessor, Manmohan Singh, was an economist and yet relied on the group for advice. There is a lesson there for Mr Modi”.

Now, after realising the ground reality, the Government has revived the Economic Advisory Council.   During the course of our personal talk, many BJP and RSS leaders have expressed their concern, in anonymity.  The party leaders feel that they have been distanced from the Prime Minister and the Party President.  They perceive that the Government is run more by bureaucrats than by the ministers. 

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

P K Khurana, Consultant from Chandigarh, said that nearly 40% of the SMEs are suffering due to demonetisation followed by GST. Prasanna Venkatesan, a leading chartered accountant criticises the Government for introducing GST without any preparation, leading to chaos.  “Under the new system, exporters have to pay the ‘drawback’ in advance, and claim separately.  This has affected exports badly”, he added.

Noted economist and Modi supporter, S Gurumurthy observed, “Withdrawal of cash crippled the informal sector, which generates 90% of jobs, and satisfies 95% of its capital requirements from outside the banking system. Aggregate consumption and generation of jobs have stagnated. The informal sector now borrows at 360-480% interest. It is already dealing a big blow to our growth and will continue to do so.”

Slogan Driven Government

There is a general perception among many respondents and experts with whom we spoke that this Government overloads the public with periodic slogans as Achhe Din, Skill India, Make in India, Start Up India, Stand Up India, Swachh Bharat and the like.  Unless these slogans are translated into performance, they tend to disillusion. People have not felt their impact in their respective fields. One is not informed of the present status of all these projects.  

For example, banks have not taken the Mudra Loans and Stand Up India loans announced by the Prime Minister seriously, to generate entrepreneurs.  The Vidyalakshmi Portal launched by the Finance Minister with a big bang in August 2015, to provide education loans to students, is still a non-starter.  The schemes to develop agriculture are yet to be implemented effectively.  

At the time of demonetisation, the Government had promised that the banks would use the funds to facilitate more entrepreneurs.  It has not happened yet.

Conclusion and Suggestions

Although our quick survey was confined to online questionnaires targeting the middle-class society, it has definitely indicated the mood of a critical segment of the society, projecting the perception of the respondents.  Modi rode to power based on his promises, and especially due to an anti-incumbency verdict against the scam-tainted Congress-led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) Government.  Most of the people still perceive the Modi Sarkar as a ‘clean’ government without any major scams. However, they feel the implementation process is very weak and ineffective.

People do feel annoyed when the government leaders focus only on slogans and chest-thumping even at the time of a crisis.  It is acknowledged that some of the government ministries like highways and electricity are doing good work.  Unfortunately, these are not projected to the people because of poor media management by the Government, Thanks to the sensationally upbeat news and social media, the negative aspects of the government’s performance are broadcasted.  

We observe that a large gap exists between the leadership and the cadre.  Even the recent cabinet reshuffle has caused some dissatisfaction among the cadre.  There is a perception that more importance is given to bureaucrats and the Rajya Sabha Members, who do not have direct connectivity with people. For example, Arun Jaitley has been entrusted with four major Ministries in spite of his health issues, that could affect his competence. The Finance Ministry itself, which is with Jaitley, needs a full-time Cabinet Minister.  The Government appointed full-time Governors for several major states like Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and some of the North-Eastern states, just recently, after many months. The people are getting concerned about the state of affairs in the country under the Modi Sarkar.
There is no anti-incumbency against the Modi Sarkar.  However, if corrective steps are not taken on time, the disappointment could slip into an ‘anti-incumbency’ mood.  This survey is to be taken only as a ‘warning bell’.  The Modi Sarkar should not ignore this warning, in spite of a divided leaderless opposition.  
“The economy in the world over, is in stress.  Fortunately, India and China are showing positive growth.  What we face is only ‘deceleration’ and not ‘de-growth’.  The Government should understand the ground reality and step up corrective measures immediately, to avoid further deceleration.  The Government should also focus on perception management.  The economy alone will decide the politics”, said K T Jagannathan, Associate Editor of The Hindu and senior economic journalist.  

By K. Srinivasan, Editor-in-Chief, pREsENSE
Source: Sep 2017 issue of ezine PreSense

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dr B R Ambedkar's last speech in the Constituent Assembly on adoption of the constitution (25th Novembr 1949(

(NOVEMBER 25, 1949)

Dr B R Ambedkar’s speech in the Constituent Assembly on 25th November 1949, presenting the Indian Draft Constitution for approval.  The Draft was approved by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949.  The Constitution came into force with effect from 26th January 1950.


The Honourable Dr. B.R. Ambedkar : Sir, looking back on the work of the Constituent Assembly it will now be two years, eleven months and seventeen days since it first met on the 9th of December 1946. During this period the Constituent Assembly has altogether held eleven sessions. Out of these eleven sessions the first six were spent in passing the Objectives Resolution and the consideration of the Reports of Committees on Fundamental Rights, on Union Constitution, on Union Powers, on Provincial Constitution, on Minorities and on the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes. The seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and the eleventh sessions were devoted to the consideration of the Draft Constitution. These eleven sessions of the Constituent Assembly have consumed 165 days. Out of these, the Assembly spent 114 days for the consideration of the Draft Constitution.

    Coming to the Drafting Committee, it was elected by the Constituent Assembly on 29th August 1947. It held its first meeting on 30thAugust. Since August 30th it sat for 141 days during which it was engaged in the preparation of the Draft Constitution. The Draft Constitution as prepared by the Constitutional Adviser as a text for the Draft Committee to work upon, consisted of 243 articles and 13 Schedules. The first Draft Constitution as presented by the Drafting Committee to the Constituent Assembly contained 315 articles and 8 Schedules. At the end of the consideration stage, the number of articles in the Draft Constitution increased to 386. In its final form, the Draft Constitution contains 395 articles and 8 Schedules. The total number of amendments to the Draft Constitution tabled was approximately 7,635. Of them, the total number of amendments actually moved in the House were 2,473.

    I mention these facts because at one stage it was being said that the Assembly had taken too long a time to finish its work, that it was going on leisurely and wasting public money. It was said to be a case of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Is there any justification for this complaint? Let us note the time consumed by Constituent Assemblies in other countries appointed for framing their Constitutions. To take a few illustrations, the American Convention met on May 25th, 1787 and completed its work on September 17, 1787 i.e., within four months. The Constitutional Convention of Canada met on the 10th October 1864 and the Constitution was passed into law in March 1867 involving a period of two years and five months. The Australian Constitutional Convention assembled in March 1891 and the Constitution became law on the 9th July 1900, consuming a period of nine years. The South African Convention met in October, 1908 and the Constitution became law on the 20th September 1909 involving one year's labour. It is true that we have taken more time than what the American or South African Conventions did. But we have not taken more time than the Canadian Convention and much less than the Australian Convention. In making comparisons on the basis of time consumed, two things must be remembered. One is that the Constitutions of America, Canada, South Africa and Australia are much smaller than ours. Our Constitution as I said contains 395 articles while the American has just seven articles, the first four of which are divided into sections which total up to 21, the Canadian has 147, Australian 128 and South African 153 sections. The second thing to be remembered is that the makers of the Constitutions of America, Canada, Australia and South Africa did not have to face the problem of amendments. They were passed as moved. On the other hand, this Constituent Assembly had to deal with as many as 2,473 amendments. Having regard to these facts the charge of dilatoriness seems to me quite unfounded and this Assembly may well congratulate itself for having accomplished so formidable a task in so short a time.

    Turning to the quality of the work done by the Drafting Committee, Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed felt it his duty to condemn it outright. In his opinion, the work done by the Drafting Committee is not only not worthy of commendation, but is positively below par. Everybody has a right to have his opinion about the work done by the Drafting Committee and Mr. Naziruddin is welcome to have his own. Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed thinks he is a man of greater talents than any member of the Drafting Committee. The Drafting Committee would have welcomed him in their midst if the Assembly had thought him worthy of being appointed to it. If he had no place in the making of the Constitution it is certainly not the fault of the Drafting Committee.

    Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed has coined a new name for the Drafting Committee evidently to show his contempt for it. He calls it a Drafting committee. Mr. Naziruddin must no doubt be pleased with his hit. But he evidently does not know that there is a difference between drift without mastery and drift with mastery. If the Drafting Committee was drifting, it was never without mastery over the situation. It was not merely angling with the off chance of catching a fish. It was searching in known waters to find the fish it was after. To be in search of something better is not the same as drifting. Although Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed did not mean it as a compliment to the Drafting committee. I take it as a compliment to the Drafting Committee. The Drafting Committee would have been guilty of gross dereliction of duty and of a false sense of dignity if it had not shown the honesty and the courage to withdraw the amendments which it thought faulty and substitute what it thought was better. If it is a mistake, I am glad the Drafting Committee did not fight shy of admitting such mistakes and coming forward to correct them.

    I am glad to find that with the exception of a solitary member, there is a general consensus of appreciation from the members of the Constituent Assembly of the work done by the Drafting Committee. I am sure the Drafting Committee feels happy to find this spontaneous recognition of its labours expressed in such generous terms. As to the compliments that have been showered upon me both by the members of the Assembly as well as by my colleagues of the Drafting Committee I feel so overwhelmed that I cannot find adequate words to express fully my gratitude to them. I came into the Constituent Assembly with no greater aspiration than to safeguard the interests of he Scheduled Castes. I had not the remotest idea that I would be called upon to undertake more responsible functions. I was therefore greatly surprised when the Assembly elected me to the Drafting Committee. I was more than surprised when the Drafting Committee elected me to be its Chairman. There were in the Drafting Committee men bigger, better and more competent than myself such as my friend Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar. I am grateful to the Constituent Assembly and the Drafting Committee for reposing in me so much trust and confidence and to have chosen me as their instrument and given me this opportunity of serving the country. (Cheers)

    The credit that is given to me does not really belong to me. It belongs partly to Sir B.N. Rau, the Constitutional Adviser to the Constituent Assembly who prepared a rough draft of the Constitution for the consideration of the Drafting Committee. A part of the credit must go to the members of the Drafting Committee who, as I have said, have sat for 141 days and without whose ingenuity of devise new formulae and capacity to tolerate and to accommodate different points of view, the task of framing the Constitution could not have come to so successful a conclusion. Much greater, share of the credit must go to Mr. S.N. Mukherjee, the Chief Draftsman of the Constitution. His ability to put the most intricate proposals in the simplest and clearest legal form can rarely be equalled, nor his capacity for hard work. He has been as acquisition tot he Assembly. Without his help, this Assembly would have taken many more years to finalise the Constitution. I must not omit to mention the members of the staff working under Mr. Mukherjee. For, I know how hard they have worked and how long they have toiled sometimes even beyond midnight. I want to thank them all for their effort and their co-operation.(Cheers)

    The task of the Drafting Committee would have been a very difficult one if this Constituent Assembly has been merely a motley crowd, a tasseleted pavement without cement, a black stone here and a white stone there is which each member or each group was a law unto itself. There would have been nothing but chaos. This possibility of chaos was reduced to nil by the existence of the Congress Party inside the Assembly which brought into its proceedings a sense of order and discipline. It is because of the discipline of the Congress Party that the Drafting Committee was able to pilot the Constitution in the Assembly with the sure knowledge as to the fate of each article and each amendment. The Congress Party is, therefore, entitled to all the credit for the smooth sailing of the Draft Constitution in the Assembly.

    The proceedings of this Constituent Assembly would have been very dull if all members had yielded to the rule of party discipline. Party discipline, in all its rigidity, would have converted this Assembly into a gathering of yes' men. Fortunately, there were rebels. They were Mr. Kamath, Dr. P.S. Deshmukh, Mr. Sidhva, Prof. K.T. Shah and Pandit Hirday Nath Kunzru. The points they raised were mostly ideological. That I was not prepared to accept their suggestions, does not diminish the value of their suggestions nor lessen the service they have rendered to the Assembly in enlivening its proceedings. I am grateful to them. But for them, I would not have had the opportunity which I got for expounding the principles underlying the Constitution which was more important than the mere mechanical work of passing the Constitution.

    Finally, I must thank you Mr. President for the way in which you have conducted the proceedings of this Assembly. The courtesy and the consideration which you have shown to the Members of the Assembly can never be forgotten by those who have taken part in the proceedings of this Assembly. There were occasions when the amendments of the Drafting Committee were sought to be barred on grounds purely technical in their nature. Those were very anxious moments for me. I am, therefore, specially grateful to you for not permitting legalism to defeat the work of Constitution-making.

    As much defence as could be offered to the constitution has been offered by my friends Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and Mr.. T.T. Krishnamachari. I shall not therefore enter into the merits of the Constitution. Because I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However had a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. Who can say how the people of India and their purposes or will they prefer revolutionary methods of achieving them? If they adopt the revolutionary methods, however good the Constitution may be, it requires no prophet to say that it will fail. It is, therefore, futile to pass any judgement upon the Constitution without reference to the part which the people and their parties are likely to play.

    The condemnation of the Constitution largely comes from two quarters, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. Why do they condemn the Constitution? Is it because it is really a bad Constitution? I venture to say no'. The Communist Party want a Constitution based upon the principle of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. They condemn the Constitution because it is based upon parliamentary democracy. The Socialists want two things. The first thing they want is that if they come in power, the Constitution must give them the freedom to nationalize or socialize all private property without payment of compensation. The second thing that the Socialists want is that the Fundamental Rights mentioned in the Constitution must be absolute and without any limitations so that if their Party fails to come into power, they would have the unfettered freedom not merely to criticize, but also to overthrow the State.

    These are the main grounds on which the Constitution is being condemned. I do not say that the principle of parliamentary democracy is the only ideal form of political democracy. I do not say that the principle of no acquisition of private property without compensation is so sacrosanct that there can be no departure from it. I do not say that Fundamental Rights can never be absolute and the limitations set upon them can never be lifted. What I do say is that the principles embodied in the Constitution are the views of the present generation or if you think this to be an over-statement, I say they are the views of the members of the Constituent Assembly. Why blame the Drafting Committee for embodying them in the Constitution? I say why blame even the Members of the Constituent Assembly? Jefferson, the great American statesman who played so great a part in the making of the American constitution, has expressed some very weighty views which makers of Constitution, can never afford to ignore. In one place he has said:- 

    "We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of the majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country."

    In another place, he has said :
    "The idea that institutions established for the use of the national cannot be touched or modified, even to make them answer their end, because of rights gratuitously supposed in those employed to manage them in the trust for the public, may perhaps be a salutary provision against the abuses of a monarch, but is most absurd against the nation itself. Yet our lawyers and priests generally inculcate this doctrine, and suppose that preceding generations held the earth more freely than we do; had a right to impose laws on us, unalterable by ourselves, and that we, in the like manner, can make laws and impose burdens on future generations, which they will have no right to alter; in fine, that the earth belongs to the dead and not the living;"
    I admit that what Jefferson has said is not merely true, but is absolutely true. There can be no question about it. Had the Constituent Assembly departed from this principle laid down by Jefferson it would certainly be liable to blame, even to condemnation. But I ask, has it? Quite the contrary. One has only to examine the provision relating to the amendment of the Constitution. The Assembly has not only refrained from putting a seal of finality and infallibility upon this Constitution as in Canada or by making the amendment of the Constitution subject tot he fulfilment of extraordinary terms and conditions as in America or Australia, but has provided a most facile procedure for amending the Constitution. I challenge any of the critics of the Constitution to prove that any Constituent Assembly anywhere in the world has, in the circumstances in which this country finds itself, provided such a facile procedure for the amendment of the Constitution. If those who are dissatisfied with the Constitution have only to obtain a 2/3 majority and if they cannot obtain even a two-thirds majority in the parliament elected on adult franchise in their favour, their dissatisfaction with the Constitution cannot be deemed to be shared by the general public.

    There is only one point of constitutional import to which I propose to make a reference. A serious complaint is made on the ground that there is too much of centralization and that the States have been reduced to Municipalities. It is clear that this view is not only an exaggeration, but is also founded on a misunderstanding of what exactly the Constitution contrives to do. As to the relation between the Centre and the States, it is necessary to bear in mind the fundamental principle on which it rests. The basic principle of Federalism is that the Legislative and Executive authority is partitioned between the Centre and the States not by any law to be made by the Centre but by the Constitution itself. This is what Constitution does. The States under our Constitution are in no way dependent upon the Centre for their legislative or executive authority. The Centre and the States are co-equal in this matter. It is difficult to see how such a Constitution can be called centralism. It may be that the Constitution assigns to the Centre too large a field for the operation of its legislative and executive authority than is to be found in any other federal Constitution. It may be that the residuary powers are given to the Centre and not to the States. But these features do not form the essence of federalism. The chief mark of federalism as I said lies in the partition of the legislative and executive authority between the Centre and the Units by the Constitution. This is the principle embodied in our constitution. There can be no mistake about it. It is, therefore, wrong to say that the States have been placed under the Centre. Centre cannot by its own will alter the boundary of that partition. Nor can the Judiciary. For as has been well said:

    "Courts may modify, they cannot replace. They can revise earlier interpretations as new arguments, new points of view are presented, they can shift the dividing line in marginal cases, but there are barriers they cannot pass, definite assignments of power they cannot reallocate. They can give a broadening construction of existing powers, but they cannot assign to one authority powers explicitly granted to another."
The first charge of centralization defeating federalism must therefore fall.
    The second charge is that the Centre has been given the power to override the States. This charge must be admitted. But before condemning the Constitution for containing such overriding powers, certain considerations must be borne in mind. The first is that these overriding powers do not form the normal feature of the constitution. Their use and operation are expressly confined to emergencies only. The second consideration is : Could we avoid giving overriding powers to the Centre when an emergency has arisen? Those who do not admit the justification for such overriding powers to the Centre even in an emergency, do not seem to have a clear idea of the problem which lies at the root of the matter. The problem is so clearly set out by a writer in that well-known magazine "The Round Table" in its issue of December 1935 that I offer no apology for quoting the following extract from it. Says the writer :

    "Political systems are a complex of rights and duties resting ultimately on the question, to whom, or to what authority, does the citizen owe allegiance. In normal affairs the question is not present, for the law works smoothly, and a man, goes about his business obeying one authority in this set of matters and another authority in that. But in a moment of crisis, a conflict of claims may arise, and it is then apparent that ultimate allegiance cannot be divided. The issue of allegiance cannot be determined in the last resort by a juristic interpretation of statutes. The law must conform to the facts or so much the worse for the law. When all formalism is stripped away, the bare question is, what authority commands the residual loyalty of the citizen. Is it the Centre or the Constituent State ?"
    The solution of this problem depends upon one's answer to this question which is the crux of the problem. There can be no doubt that in the opinion of the vast majority of the people, the residual loyalty of the citizen in an emergency must be to the Centre and not to the Constituent States. For it is only the Centre which can work for a common end and for the general interests of the country as a whole. Herein lies the justification for giving to all Centre certain overriding powers to be used in an emergency. And after all what is the obligation imposed upon the Constituent States by these emergency powers? No more than this – that in an emergency, they should take into consideration alongside their own local interests, the opinions and interests of the nation as a whole. Only those who have not understood the problem, can complain against it.

    Here I could have ended. But my mind is so full of the future of our country that I feel I ought to take this occasion to give expression to some of my reflections thereon. On 26th January 1950, India will be an independent country (Cheers). What would happen to her independence? Will she maintain her independence or will she lose it again? This is the first thought that comes to my mind. It is not that India was never an independent country. The point is that she once lost the independence she had. Will she lost it a second time? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the future. What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people. In the invasion of Sind by Mahommed-Bin-Kasim, the military commanders of King Dahar accepted bribes from the agents of Mahommed-Bin-Kasim and refused to fight on the side of their King. It was Jaichand who invited Mahommed Gohri to invade India and fight against Prithvi Raj and promised him the help of himself and the Solanki Kings. When Shivaji was fighting for the liberation of Hindus, the other Maratha noblemen and the Rajput Kings were fighting the battle on the side of Moghul Emperors. When the British were trying to destroy the Sikh Rulers, Gulab Singh, their principal commander sat silent and did not help to save the Sikh Kingdom. In 1857, when a large part of India had declared a war of independence against the British, the Sikhs stood and watched the event as silent spectators.

    Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indian place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost for ever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.(Cheers)
    On the 26th of January 1950, India would be a democratic country in the sense that India from that day would have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The same thought comes to my mind. What would happen to her democratic Constitution? Will she be able to maintain it or will she lost it again. This is the second thought that comes to my mind and makes me as anxious as the first.

    It is not that India did not know what is Democracy. There was a time when India was studded with republics, and even where there were monarchies, they were either elected or limited. They were never absolute. It is not that India did not know Parliaments or Parliamentary Procedure. A study of the Buddhist Bhikshu Sanghas discloses that not only there were Parliaments-for the Sanghas were nothing but Parliaments – but the Sanghas knew and observed all the rules of Parliamentary Procedure known to modern times. They had rules regarding seating arrangements, rules regarding Motions, Resolutions, Quorum, Whip, Counting of Votes, Voting by Ballot, Censure Motion, Regularization, Res Judicata, etc. Although these rules of Parliamentary Procedure were applied by the Buddha to the meetings of the Sanghas, he must have borrowed them from the rules of the Political Assemblies functioning in the country in his time.
    This democratic system India lost. Will she lost it a second time? I do not know. But it is quite possible in a country like India – where democracy from its long disuse must be regarded as something quite new – there is danger of democracy giving place to dictatorship. It is quite possible for this new born democracy to retain its form but give place to dictatorship in fact. If there is a landslide, the danger of the second possibility becoming actuality is much greater.

    If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.

    The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not "to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with power which enable him to subvert their institutions". There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O'Connel, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.

    The third thing we must do is not to be content with mere political democracy. We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well. Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life. These principles of liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life. These principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality, equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things. It would require a constable to enforce them. We must begin by acknowledging the fact that there is complete absence of two things in Indian Society. One of these is equality. On the social plane, we have in India a society based on the principle of graded inequality which we have a society in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty. On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which is Assembly has to laboriously built up.

    The second thing we are wanting in is recognition of the principle of fraternity. what does fraternity mean? Fraternity means a sense of common brotherhood of all Indians-if Indians being one people. It is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life. It is a difficult thing to achieve. How difficult it is, can be realized from the story related by James Bryce in his volume on American Commonwealth about the United States of America.

    The story is- I propose to recount it in the words of Bryce himself- that-
    "Some years ago the American Protestant Episcopal Church was occupied at its triennial Convention in revising its liturgy. It was thought desirable to introduce among the short sentence prayers a prayer for the whole people, and an eminent  New England divine proposed the words `O Lord, bless our nation'. Accepted one afternoon, on the spur of the moment, the sentence was brought up next day for reconsideration, when so many objections were raised by the laity to the word nation' as importing too definite a recognition of national unity, that it was dropped, and instead there were adopted the words `O Lord, bless these United States."

    There was so little solidarity in the U.S.A. at the time when this incident occurred that the people of America did not think that they were a nation. If the people of the United States could not feel that they were a nation, how difficult it is for Indians to think that they are a nation. I remember the days when politically-minded Indians, resented the expression "the people of India". They preferred the expression "the Indian nation." I am of opinion that in believing that we are a nation, we are cherishing a great delusion. How can people divided into several thousands of castes be a nation? The sooner we realize that we are not as yet a nation in the social and psychological sense of the world, the better for us. For then only we shall realize the necessity of becoming a nation and seriously think of ways and means of realizing the goal. The realization of this goal is going to be very difficult – far more difficult than it has been in the United States. The United States has no caste problem. In India there are castes. The castes are anti-national. In the first place because they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste. But we must overcome all these difficulties if we wish to become a nation in reality. For fraternity can be a fact only when there is a nation. Without fraternity equality and liberty will be no deeper than coats of paint.

    These are my reflections about the tasks that lie ahead of us. They may not be very pleasant to some. But there can be no gainsaying that political power in this country has too long been the monopoly of a few and the many are only beasts of burden, but also beasts of prey. This monopoly has not merely deprived them of their chance of betterment, it has sapped them of what may be called the significance of life. These down-trodden classes are tired of being governed. They are impatient to govern themselves. This urge for self-realization in the down-trodden classes must no be allowed to devolve into a class struggle or class war. It would lead to a division of the House. That would indeed be a day of disaster. For, as has been well said by Abraham Lincoln, a House divided against itself cannot stand very long. Therefore the sooner room is made for the realization of their aspiration, the better for the few, the better for the country, the better for the maintenance for its independence and the better for the continuance of its democratic structure. This can only be done by the establishment of equality and fraternity in all spheres of life. That is why I have laid so much stresses on them.

    I do not wish to weary the House any further. Independence is no doubt a matter of joy. But let us not forget that this independence has thrown on us great responsibilities. By independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame except ourselves. There is great danger of things going wrong. Times are fast changing. People including our own are being moved by new ideologies. They are getting tired of Government by the people. They are prepared to have Governments for the people and are indifferent whether it is Government of the people and by the people. If we wish to preserve the Constitution in which we have sought to enshrine the principle of Government of the people, for the people and by the people, let us resolve not to be tardy in the recognition of the evils that lie across our path and which induce people to prefer Government for the people to Government by the people, nor to be weak in our initiative to remove them. That is the only way to serve the country. I know of no better.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Babasaheb Dr B R Ambedkar - Another Forgotten Legend in Indian History

(Reproduced verbatim from the Cover Story of ezine PreSense April 2015 edition)

With the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956) happening this year, we remember him as yet another legend forgotten in the annals of Indian history. He was the architect of the Indian Constitution, which has stood the test of time, braving various challenges of Indian politics and governance. He was a great philosopher, economist, lawyer, political activist and social reformer.

His Early Days - No Peon, No Water

Bhimrao Ramji Sakpal Ambavadekar (later Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar) was born to a Maratha family, as the 14th child to his parents.  His community was considered ‘untouchable’ in the society.  As a school student, he underwent much humiliation due to this social practice of caste discrimination.  It is distressing to read about his personal experience because of ‘untouchability’ prevailing then.

While in the school, I knew that children of the touchable classes, when they felt thirsty, could go out to the water tap, open it, and quench their thirst. All that was necessary was the permission of the teacher. But my position was separate. I could not touch the tap; and unless it was opened for it by a touchable person, it was not possible for me to quench my thirst. In my case the permission of the teacher was not enough. The presence of the school peon was necessary, for he was the only person whom the class teacher could use for such a purpose. If the peon was not available, I had to go without water. The situation can be summed up in the statement—no peon, no water.

Mahadev Ambedkar, his Brahmin teacher was sympathetic towards him and supported him. He changed his original name in the school records from ‘Bhimrao Ramji Sakpal Ambavadekar’ to ‘Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar’, adding his own surname of Ambedkar.

With his father’s encouragement, Dr Ambedkar completed his graduation in Bombay. Although he was opposed to ‘Manu Smriti’, his writings reveal his deep knowledge of the ancient scriptures, Vedas and the Upanishads.  Even in the Constituent Assembly, he favoured Sanskrit as the national language, although it was not accepted by the majority.

Support from the Baroda Ruler

Sayajirao Gaekwad III
Sayajirao Gaekwad III
Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the ruler of Baroda was a social reformer who supported poor students from the ‘depressed class’ (untouchables).  When he met Bhimrao Ambedkar, he recognised his potential and offered him a scholarship to study abroad. Ambedkar completed his studies, including a doctorate at the Columbia University (USA), and at the London School of Economics (UK).  In spite of the caste discriminations and untouchability practices, some good-hearted people like Mahadev Ambedkar and Sayaji Rao III recognised Ambedkar’s potential and helped him to move to the higher levels in academics. Ambedkar proved to be an outstanding student wherever he studied.

On his return to India, he served the Baroda ruler for some time.  In 1918, he became the Professor of Political Economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Bombay. Even though he was popular with the students, the professors objected to his reformist activities such as sharing the same drinking-water jug that they all used.

Round Table Conference

Dr Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi in the Round Table Conference
Dr Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi in the Round Table Conference

The British Government invited leaders from different political parties to the Round Table Conferences held in 1930-32, to draft a new Constitution leading to the self-rule by Indians. Dr Ambedkar attended all the three Round Table Conferences.  Mahatma Gandhi did not attend the first Conference due to a difference in opinion with Dr Ambedkar.  During the First Round Table Conference held in November 1930, Dr Ambedkar proposed the concept of a ‘Separate Electorate’ for the ‘Depressed Class’ (Untouchables). He argued that the problems faced by the untouchables were not social problems but political problems.  More than 20% of India’s population were from the untouchables category. Dr Ambedkar pleaded that the problems of such a sizeable portion of the population could not be ignored.  He wanted a proportionate political power to resolve the issue.  He suggested a ‘Separate Electorate’ for the Depressed Class, meaning thereby that their representatives could be elected only by the untouchables and not by all the others. He even quoted from the Mahabharata that the kings and the ministers therein were from all communities, (including Sudras, which is equivalent to the socially deprived class).  

Since Mahatma Gandhi held a different view, he did not agree with the suggestion.  He opposed it in the Second Round Table Conference.   He feared that allowing a ‘Separate Electorate’ might divide the Hindu community further. He believed in a change in the social mindset of the people to eradicate untouchability.

Poona Pact

British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald made an Award in 1932 known as the ‘Communal Award’, providing ‘Separate Electorate for Muslims, Christians, Upper Caste Hindus, Lower Caste Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Depressed Class’.  The Depressed Class (Untouchables) could then elect their own representatives to the various provinces under the British rule. This was opposed by Mahatma Gandhi on the ground that it would disintegrate the Hindus. Gandhi was then in Pune Yerwada prison.  He went on an indefinite fast from 20th Sep 1932 against the ‘Separate Electorate’ for Depressed Class.  After some lengthy negotiations, Ambedkar and Gandhi reached an agreement on 24th September, 1932 to have a single Hindu electorate, with Untouchables having seats reserved within it. This is called the ‘Poona Pact’. The text uses the term "Depressed Classes" to denote Untouchables. It was later called the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under the India Act 1935, and then the Indian Constitution of 1950.

Reserve Bank Conceptualised

The Reserve Bank of India was founded on 1st April 1935 to address the economic troubles of the nation after the First World War. RBI was conceptualised as per the guidelines, working style and outlook presented by Dr Ambedkar as written in his book, “The Problem of the Rupee – Its origin and its solution.”

Forming Political Party

In 1936, Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party, which contested in the 1937 Bombay elections to the Central Legislative Assembly for the 13 reserved and 4 general seats and securing 11 and 3 seats respectively.  Right from 1916, Dr Ambedkar began uniting all the untouchables in India. In July 1942, he organised a national conference at Nagpur under the banner of Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF). More than 75,000 scheduled caste people, including 25,000 women participated.  In his historic speech, he demanded self respect and freedom. Later, SCF transformed itself into the Republican Party of India (RPI).

Joining the Government

In 1942, he was invited to join Viceroy’s Executive Council as Labour Member with three additional portfolios. As Labour Member, he influenced the British to concede 13% representation to Scheduled Caste (SC).  The British gave just 8.33%.  (Later, while writing the Constitution, he made a provision of 15% for SCs.)  He continued in this position till 1946. He was responsible for reducing the working hours of labourers from 12 hours to 8. He also introduced the concept of Provident Fund and Dearness Allowance. He created the employment exchanges.  He introduced maternity leave for women.  As a believer of free market, he introduced the Gold Standard.  He was the brain behind the Hirakud Dam and the Damodar Valley Project.  He was also the brain behind the India’s Water Policy and the Electric Power Planning.

Constituent Assembly

Dr Ambedkar with Members of Drafting Committee
Dr Ambedkar with Members of Drafting Committee

Under the Cabinet Mission Plan 1946 of the British Government, a Constituent Assembly was set up in 1946 in the then undivided India to frame the Constitution for India. The members were elected from different provinces.  Since Dr Ambedkar could not be elected from Mumbai, he was elected from East Bengal with the help of the Muslim League. These districts were later identified for inclusion in Pakistan.  To prevent Dr Ambedkar from leaving the Constituent Assembly, Dr Rajendra Prasad (President of the Constituent Assembly) wrote a letter on 30th June 1947 to the then Prime Minister of Maharashtra (as he was called then)  to get him elected from Maharashtra Province. Thus, he got elected to the Constituent Assembly again.

He was made the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee on 29th August 1947. Although there were 7 members in the Committee, he was practically the only one shouldering the entire responsibility and burden of drafting.

The Draft Constitution was presented by Dr Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly and was discussed and adopted by the Members.  The Constitution was adopted in its complete form on 26th November 1949 and came into force on 26th January 1950, which is celebrated as the Republic Day of India.  While adopting the Constitution, all the members praised the extraordinary work done by Dr Ambedkar in drafting the Constitution.

Dr Ambedkar served as India’s first Law Minister from 15th August 1947 in the Nehru Cabinet.  Due to his differences of opinion on the Hindu Code Bill, which deprived equal rights to women,  he resigned from the cabinet in September 1951.

Defeated in the Elections

During the first General Elections in 1951 to Lok Sabha, he contested from Bombay North, but lost to a little known Congress candidate, Narayan Kajrolkar, who was once his assistant.

He became a Member of Rajya Sabha as a nominated member in 1952 and continued as a member till his death.

In 1954, he contested again in a by-election held in Bombay Bandra.  Here too, he was placed third and lost to a Congress candidate.

Sadly, Dr Ambedkar could not sit in the First Lok Sabha, the Constitution for which was created by him.  The Second General Election was held in 1957 after his death in 1956. He could therefore not enter the Lok Sabha at all.

Conversion to Buddhism

Dr Ambedkar and his wife during ‘Dhamma Diksha’ at Nagpur
Dr Ambedkar and his wife during ‘Dhamma Diksha’ at Nagpur

He declared his intention to convert to another religion, public as a large section of the society was treated as untouchable by the Hindu section. Although Christians and Muslims approached him convert to their religion, he preferred Buddhism.  On 14th October 1956, Ambedkar, along with his wife, converted to Buddhism in the presence of a monk.  Thereafter, he persuaded thousands of people of the Scheduled Caste to convert to Buddhism.  He passed away on 6th Dec 1956 in his sleep.

His Bold Views

He was a great scholar and philosopher. He was bold in expressing his views. He preferred Sanskrit as the National Official Language.  However, it was not approved in the Constituent Assembly.

When Prime Minister Nehru wanted him to draft Article 370, he refused as he felt that it would be against the interest of the nation.

While all the modern historians argued in favour of the Aryan theory, he wrote that there was no race by that name. He also said that the theory that Aryans invaded India through Khyber Pass was false.

He openly criticised Mahatma Gandhi on various issues and even wrote a book titled ‘What Congress and Gandhi have done to the untouchables’. In response to this book, Rajaji and K Santhanam wrote a book ‘Ambedkar refuted’, defending Mahatma Gandhi.

Media Report – Dr Ambedkar for Sanskrit as Official Language of India
Media Report – Dr Ambedkar for Sanskrit as Official Language of India
 Forgotten Legend 

There could be several people who had differences of opinion with Dr Ambedkar.  But no one can deny the fact that Dr Ambedkar formed his views, based on his own experiences and despite the harassment he faced in the society.  But for this legendary personality, India would not have got the time-tested and the much-acclaimed Constitution.  Due to various reasons, he was not fairly recognised in the past by the Government and by the society.  In 1990, he was conferred the Bharat Ratna Award posthumously, under pressure from political parties.

In response to an RTI activist, Rusen Kumar (Raipur), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting disclosed recently that a documentary film on Dr Ambedkar made by the Government of India and Government of Maharashtra 14 years ago, is yet to be telecast through Doordarshan for public viewing.

The Indian society little supported the architect of Modern India when he was alive.  It is time to stand up and salute him for his exemplary contribution to Modern India because although Dr Ambedkar was an ‘exclusive member’, belonging to the ‘Depressed Class’, his lifelong work, activities and contribution were inclusive and to the benefit of the nation as a whole.

By K. Srinivasan, Editor in Chief

(With input from Periyasamy, Nandanar Trust)
Published in the April 2015 issue of ezine PreSense 

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