LIFE AND THOUGHT OF B.R AMBEDKAR
Author: Vrinda Chawla, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from UILS, Panjab University
INITIAL PHASES OF LIFE
“Be educated, be organized and be agitated.”
As put in this quote by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, he himself was someone who educated himself, and organized himself. Coming from Dalit class in 1890’s, it was quiet a tough journey for him to fight with the stigma prevalent in society regarding lower classes. He was born in “Mahar” community and faced discrimination since an early age. His father was an officer in army despite being from lower caste and insisted on the education of Ambedkar too. He was the first one in his community to pass high school and later study BA in Economics and Politics at Bombay University. Later, due to his hard work and efforts, Ambedkar got the opportunity to study at Columbia University in New York where he completed his Masters. Later, he went to London School of Economics to pursue his PhD.
During his time of study, he wrote a large number of papers specially focusing on ‘History of caste in India’ and ‘Female Education’. When the time came to give the country it’s constitution, Ambedkar became the chairman of drafting committee of the constitution, and in the after-independenceera, served as the first law minister to the nation despite of the differences with Nehru and Gandhi ji. He later resigned from the same post in 1956 as he felt that even though he was a part of that system, he was failing to make an actual difference for the betterment of lives of Dalits and lower caste people who had huge hopes from him. He converted from Hinduism to embrace Buddhism after he found several doctrines of it as flawed, including the caste differentiation. He passionately believed in individual freedom. He gave the term “Scheduled caste” which is most widely used in India to this date.
His contribution to the making of Indian Constitution had a great impact on the development of Indian polity which is continuing till today.
THOUGHTS ON ECONOMICS
Ambedkar studied economics as his core subject in masters, as well as PhD, and has written a large number of papers on the same. His views on economics, especially Indian economy were of great importance for the development of the same. On one hand, he was not a Marxist, but at the same time he was greatly concerned about economic inequalities prevailing in India. In one of his speeches in constituent assembly, he warned - “Without Economic and Social equality, Political equality is bound to be jeopardized. Political democracy needs to be a social democracy as well.”
Ambedkar also talked about the major issueswith Indian agriculture system, in his papers, which led to poverty. First of these was ‘Smaller sized land holdings and their fragmentation.’ He argued that land was the most important factor for crop production, and due to the fragmentation, efficiency of the resources and instruments used on that land gets reduced due to division. After considering the proposals of farm consolidation and enlargement of holdings, Ambedkar concluded that such proposals were fundamentally flawed and could not be implemented. He argued that such laws would impact real change only when accompanied by more capital input and modern equipment, whereas according to the latest surveys of that time, the amount of capital resources and significant implements actually declined.
According to the calculations of Dr. Ambedkar, in order to increase the output of agriculture and increase its contribution to the economy, capital assets of people needed to be increased,i.e masses had to be provided with other sources of income rather that full dependence on agriculture. Therefore, he strongly suggested and favored Industrialisation and Modernisationas the solutions to the same. He believed it to be the most feasible solution to economic problems as it would lessen the burden on agricultural resources, and at the same time, increase the amount of capital with people.
Ambedkar was not best of the friends with Nehru, but their views on economic planning went hand in hand. Both of them were the advocates of state ownership of heavy industries without entirely restricting private industries. He was in support of greater influence of state in economic sphere especially in the early years, as industry was still at an infancy stage. He talked about evil exploitation by the society of poor. After studying buddha, he concluded that private property is the root cause of sorrow and suffering in the world.
Ambedkar proposed that equating to the doctrine of “One man, One vote”, the country should operate on the economic basis of “One man, One value”. He wanted the economy to be governed by constitution itself, and the installation of economic rules in the basic structure just like democracy and secularism. This proposal was however, rejected by the constituent assembly, being too radical. But they did find a place in directive principals of the state policy.
On the taxation policy, Ambedkar’s philosophy was equality oriented. He believed that the tax should not be uniform as it would be harmful for the development of weaker section of the society. The revenue, especially the land revenue should not be based on income of the payer but rather his paying capacity. Tax policy should be flexible and exemptions should be allowed to a certain limit so that tax does not become a burden on the payer and his basic livelihood and income remains constant, he is able to make savings that help him improve his economic position.
Although, Ambedkar’s economic philosophy could not make it to the policies, but it still had a significant contribution in the development of Indian economy. It has given a huge contribution in the development of directive principals as they were agreed upon by Nehru and his cabinet.
Political Ideology of B.R Ambedkar
Dr.Ambedkar was a legal expert on constitutional studies. He studied and evaluated constitutions of almost all countries of the world. This was the reason that he could become the “Architect” of Indian constitution. He was the chairman of drafting committee. His political thoughts shaped the future of Indian polity to a large extent. He was also called the “Messiah of Dalits”. He, after suffering himself as a Dalit to the greatest extent, made it the very purpose of his life, the upliftment of lower classes in India, to get them an equal status and even larger opportunities to grow. His efforts led to the signing of Poona pact in 1932 that reserved seats in electoral assembly for the depressed castes, for their adequate representation. This pact made the entire country morally and socially responsible for the upliftment and development of lower caste people.
Ambedkar’s political philosophy was hugely ethical and religious. He kept social morals and values at a greater footing than everything else. He neither supported extreme liberalism, nor violent communism. He wanted a balance of both the systems for India with the seed of equality, liberty and fraternity at it’s heart so that India does not face the same problems as the west, or even the east. The deep intricacy of these value is clearly visible in the papers he wrote about polity.
Ambedkar believed that rights are protected by the social and moral values, more than they are protected by the law. Working of the law and democratic system in a society is determined by the social relationships. He argued that in a society where inequality and discrimination lie in the hearts of people, no law has the capacity to bring equality and liberty there. Therefore, he wanted social reform but before the implementation of any laws, society at the core, needed to accept the same values, because social issues prevail over political issues. The real foundation of a democracy is determined by the social freedom and security people have there.
While drafting the constitution, Ambedkar wanted the fundamental rights and protection of the minorities to have the greatest importance, and worked to get important provisions involved in the constitution. He was in strong favor of judicial independence, and the power rested in highest court of the country by article 32 of the constitution. He called this article “Heart and soul of the constitution.” For the protection of minorities and democracy, courts needed larger powers so that liberty of the people can be protected from the wrecking rule where all powers are vested in majority.
Indian constitution is often criticized on the grounds that it is too detailed and lengthy, secondly, that it is a bag of borrowings. Ambedkar argued in defense that if the details are not included, future leaders can easily mold the provisions of this holy book according to their needs and that would eventually lead to fall of democracy. That is why constitution was made rigid, but flexible at the same time, so that future generations can accommodate their needs, but at the same time, do not destroy the very foundation of the same. Talking about the borrowings constituent assembly made, it was said almost every country in those times had a failed constitution and the entire process was repeated to correct the mistakes done first time. Therefore, India took a lesson from all of them, and instead of experimenting, we made a constitution which included tried, tested and successful provisions.
It is found by political scientists that even though Ambedkar’s thoughts were of great importance, they were extremely complex in nature and difficult to implement. Even though he had a great contribution to Indian politics, he is not regarded as a political scholar to much limits. He was marginalized as a social scientistby most of the scholars.
AMEBADKAR’S CONTRIBUTION TO FREEDOM STRUGGLE
Freedom struggle in India started as early as 1920s with the commencement of civil disobedience movement. Ambedkar was one of the first persons to declare the struggle as “Struggle for complete freedom, for every Indian”as done in 1936 at Nashik conference in Maharashtra. It is an accepted fact that it was Ambedkar who saved India from permanently falling into the dark phase of oppression of Dalits and initiated social and scientific progress.
Ambedkar wanted freedom from British rule, and social freedom and security for every person living in India irrespective of his caste and color. He was someone who wanted the country to be free from all dictators and rulers, foreign and domestic, from those who ruled India for 2 centuries, and from those who were ruling India since the time when Hinduism began. It was Ambedkar’s success in securing human rights for every person that led to the eventual development of depressed classes which is a pending task to this date. Even today, depressed classes are living below life conditions in certain areas of India, without being aware about their rights. Therefore, the efforts of Ambedkar need implementation to the greatest extent today, so that no one is left outside the stream reaching to the developed nation, and that too without any justifiable reason.
Ambedkar believed that India would gain true independence on 26th January, instead of 15th august, as the former would be the day when people of India would give to themselves a rule by the holy book of constitution, which is unbiased, progressive and carries each and every citizen in it’s arms. Because that would be the day when India would actually become a sovereign nation, ruled and governed by it’s own people and their will.
Dr Ambedkar gave a very significant contribution to the freedom struggle and development of the nation. It is no exaggeration to say that without him, the country would never have been the same, without him, people would still be suffering and no growth would’ve taken place.
Thus, it is now well stated that Dr.Ambedkar was a self-made man. He made his own way out of the most burdensome circumstances, and did not stop there, rather decided to take everyone who was suffering from the same conditions with him. He wanted the country to work on rational grounds, and not just some customs that were prevailing since years. He wanted every individual to have a life where he has dignity, a life where he has every opportunity to grow. He wanted every person to be treated equally, and he gave real efforts to this cause. The society in which we are living today, where there is an equality of opportunity, where people have moved above the notion of untouchability, is his giving in many ways. This is his fight which we need to carry on, until the dawn actually breaks and sun shines on every person, equally.
“Cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of human existence.”
- B.R AMBEDKAR