DR. BR AMBEDKAR –ECONOMIC PROGRAM-VISION- CENTRAL MISSION
Dr Ambedkar descended the Indian skies like a meteor , lighting up the freedom movement with a viable economic vision and road map, charted a constitutional democracy which , as he often said, could take us to the revolutionary goal of equality , liberty and fraternity. This assessment is accepted by a large number of people . However, his economic ideology and mission have been buried in the sands of globalisation , privatization and ‘reforms’ by the ruling elite and even his self-proclaimed followers , who have joined hands in erecting stone and granite statues of the ‘Revolutionary’ whose thoughts not only sprang from the soil of the country but also its political ,economic and social realities ( It was buried even earlier by those who presented a confused and diffused ideology from various political platforms, and who buried his rational and scientific thinking ) .
If we really, deeply study his core ideas , ideology if you like , his central mission is spelt out in his drafts to the Constitution Drafting Committee of which he was the Chairman ,1947-49 . Dr Ambedkar finally emerged as the main ‘Architect’ of this most vital document that lays down the framework of the Republic and its social , political and economic objectives , which is a manifesto of those who struggled for India’s freedom against foreign capital , foreign rule and local dominant , economic and caste interests . The Constitution is above the Supreme Court , the Lok Sabha , the Prime Minister and the Executive and was intended to be its guiding star , its Dhruva tara. How much we have deviated from the Constitution’s Directive , its soul the Directive Principles which are mandatory for any Government in office is an issue which is for all of us to assess. . If this is tested by the ground reality of the condition of the exploited classes , the denial of equality of opportunity , of education, of the very right to life , to work, and economic policies which have made the preamble of the Constitution a paper promise in the hands of the exploiting class who have arrogated to themselves a near total monopoly of resources , unprecedented and growing concentration of wealth that make a mockery of the direction ‘for the common good’.
First of all let us try to forge a common understanding of how ‘Ambedkar thought’ evolved ? Is it possible to flag mark Dr Ambedkar’s tortuous yet blazing journey . Dr Ambedkar chose his own methodology to educate and inform himself . It is true that cataclysmic events took place in the journey of his life…the 1917 October Proletarian Revolution in Russia, which to begin with placed power in the hands of the workers and peasants , the toiling and hitherto exploited class . In my understanding , though he may not have explicitly stated so in his revolutionary call in Manmad in 1938 , that was the central idea of his declaration of the three principles at the workers conference to which we will come as we discuss further . Then came the ‘Great Economic Depression’ of 1929 , with its devastation , hunger and unemployment , which not only burnt and singed the people in the United States but also in Europe . The Capitalist classes across the industrialized countries speedily funded Fascist groups , to further disposses and divert the working class . This was spread through fear and propaganda , promising them the mirage of nationalism , discipline, conquests and full employment , at the same time breaking their organizations , enslaving them in factories , mines and plants jointly owned by global ‘finance capital’ , including by American corporations and British capitalists , through the 1930s , as now brought to light , through the period of the Second World War ,via a commonly owned and set up Banking system, while the soldiers were killed and maimed as cannon fodder on military fronts all over the world in Europe , the Soviet Union , North Africa and Asia . Dr Ambedkar by now a champion of Dalit rights also clearly saw that Dalit emancipation could only be achieved through a broad united front of all the exploited classes . Dr Ambedkar had already defined a Dalit as ‘one who struggles’ ( for democratic rights ). His definition was, therefore, categorically inclusive of all individuals and groups who were naturally bonded , engaged in the common struggle, of the exploited classes.
Dr Ambedkar had through his definitive works , beginning in 1917 with his outstanding doctoral dissertation at the Colombia University, the “National Dividend of India” , essentially on the transfer of wealth and surpluses from India to Imperial Britain , laid bare the huge colonial (looting ) enterprise on which Britain’s industrialization was founded . There is another work , that of RC Dutt , covering this path breaking subject ; which dared to expose to bare bones , through facts , figures , official documents how Britain , later called ‘Great Britain’, established and executed the great parasitical enterprise , called British India . Dadabhai Naoroji whom Dr Ambedkar greatly respected also spoke and wrote on the rapacious transfer of surpluses from India to England .This thought process , bold and courageous in the extreme, shook those little social clubs who were petitioning the Sarkar for some concessions in entrance to the British Indian Army through the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and the ICS quota for Indians . Historically , it was quite a coincidence that Gandhi’s own experiences in South Africa of racial discrimination and apartheid , brought him to India and start transforming the Congress into a mass organization of peasants , workers and all the toiling masses within the limitations of the social setup in the country. Not content with his monumental work Dr Ambedkar finished writing his “Small Holdings in India and their Remedies in 1917.” We cannot but infer that Mahatma Jyotiba Phule’s “Kisan Che Kode” inspired him and stoked his passion to try and expose, and later struggle , by throwing in his lot with those classes subjected to extreme social , political and economic exploitation .
We have seen how the Sanghis , who are essentially adherents of the Manu Smriti order, infiltrated and subverted the Congress Party , pre and post Independence , camouflage the core issue of economic justice while rationalizing ‘social justice’ to fool the people, assassinated Gandhi for opposing the domination of British finance capital in India which devastated the Indian economy . This class opposed the mild dose of reform for the Hindu society , the Hindu Code Bill and engineering riots and pogroms and spreading division and violence through their well-oiled Goebellsian propaganda machinery , all funded by the corporate class . What of ourselves why is it that we too have deviated from the central thread that runs through the mission of Dr Ambedkar’s life ?
As we have seen Dr Ambedkar through his logic , reasoning and scientific rationale , backed by a deep and real understanding of theoretical and applied economics, charted a path for all Indians, for the Dalits who he defined as ALL those engaged in the ‘Struggle’ for emancipation from the bondage of the exploitative order , through centuries of feudal and capitalist domination .
Manmad 1938, the GIP Railway Dalit Mazdoor Conference, ( caste discrimination was practiced in the railways and the textile mills , with the lower and lesser paid jobs going to the Dalits ; while clean and weaving jobs went to the ‘other’ workers ) , was a defining moment in Dalit struggle , an inflexion point, a turning point, that focuses both on the contemporary reality and a guiding star for the times ahead. Dr Ambedkar places before all, this foundation of his beliefs , convictions and the path that leads to the future , that the Dalits in a common united front to be forged with all the exploited classes , to achieve the goal of social and economic justice in an egalitarian society and real democracy thus :
The economic emancipation of the Dalits is as vital as the struggle for social justice ( To make the Dalits aware of the definition of the Subjugated class’; so that Dalit awareness is raised to a level whereby we join hands and march shoulder to shoulder with all other subjugated classes , to wage the struggle against the Ruling Class ).
The spread of poisonous and vicious religious hatred in a casteist order in Indian society has resulted in workers and employees sometimes turning against each other , as opponents and enemies.
The Dalit wokers and labourers movement is not against the common workers movement . It also does not support the Capitalists . Their only request is that their independent identity be protected.
The Dalit class conflict in the interest of the Dalits must conjoin with the mainstream Mazdoor Andolan.
Dalit Mazdoor Sanghatan is in full co-operation and support of the All India Mazdoor Andolan; and it sees ‘resevation’ as complimenting and supplementing the Andolan.
The rights of workers and the toilers can be defended , ( and will be secured ) only when the reins of ‘Political power’ will be in their own hands.
If the 1920s were the decade of learning and education in Dr Ambedkar’s life , the 1930s were a period of struggle ,agitation , deep sensitivity and commitment to the cause of the oppressed and the exploited of all classes and communities ; the decade of the 1940s demonstrated his ability for creativity and innovation of national level institutions and experimentation . Few equal his contribution in this decade which preceeds and transgresses India’s Independence / partition ,the founding of the Republic and great hopes and aspirations to real democracy, however troubled they were in the predominant class structure in 1947.
It was evident that the not so young Dr Ambedkar was burning the candle at both ends , unmindful of his health , all fired up with hopes and dreams.
As Labour Member of the Viceroy’s Council , 1942-45, he initiated programs to help increase the productivity of workers, by providing them education and skills , health care and maternity leave provisions for women workers, for example . Dr Ambedkar set up the Tripartite Labour Council in 1942, to safeguard social security measures to the workers , giving equal opportunity to the workers and employers to participate in formulating labour policy and strengthening the labour movement by introducing compulsory recognition of trade unions and worker organizations. Labour was placed in the Concurrent List. Chief and Labour Commisioners were appointed , so was a Labour Investigation Committee. Minimum Wages Act was his contribution. So were Employment Exchanges and importantly worker’s ‘Right to Strike’. Productivity and job security went together , unlike the Reformers and Globalists of today, bent on contract labour and its informalisation thru ‘hire and fire’ or ‘Exit Policy’.
Dr Ambedkar’s vision and economic philosophy is best illustrated by his thrust to improve human capital and human resources. He established the Central Water Commision , the Central Electricity Authority , the Central Irrigation & Waterways Commision in 1944 which became the Central Waterways, Irrigation , Navigation Commision on the approval of Babasaheb in 1945 , and the Central Water , Power , Irrigation and Navigation Commission, the latter’s integration to concurrently enhance employment opportunities , in 1948. The Central Water & Power Commission later bifurcated into the Central Electricity Authority and the Central Water Commission. Environment was a central concern. Downstream it gave birth to State Electricity Boards ( now sought to be unbundled and privatized ), the Regional and National Grids ( and Corporations ), the National Thermal Power Corporation a giant in the Power sector today , the Damodar Valley Corporation , work on both initiated in 1943-44. His initiative and contribution on the Multi-purpose Plan for Development of Orissa’s rivers is noteworthy . Such was the energy and vision of a great ‘Dalit’ son of the soil.
We now come to perhaps his greatest contribution to the Nation State, to the Republic and to his much dreamed concept of democracy . Appointed Chairman of the Drafting committee of a Constitution for India , Dr Ambedkar found himself the only active member of the seven originally nominated . Extraordinary though , he was still subject to being over-ruled , specially in the interest of the dominant class as regards production and property relations .
To recapitulate , Dr Ambedkar’s radical proposals for inclusion in the Constitution were :-
Consolidation of land holdings and tenancy legislation are worse than useless, as they cannot help the 60 million untouchables , who are just landless labourers ….only collective farms set out on the lines in the proposal can help them.
State Socialism is vital for the rapid industrialization of India. Private enterprise cannot do it and if it did it would produce those inequalities of wealth which private capitalism has produced in Europe.
Nationalisation of Insurance serves a double objective. Apart from greater security to people ,it also gives the State resources for financing its economic planning in the absence of which it would have to resort to borrowing from the money market at a high rate of interest .
This plan , elaborated in clause 4, Artcle II of his Memorandum to the Constituent Assembly included recommendations that :-
All this was without closing every avenue for private enterprise .
Dr Ambedkr’s ardent desire was that the plan of State Socialism must become a part of the Constitution . He further cautioned that this essential condition for the success of a planned economy should not be liable to suspension , abrogation or abandonment by the Parliament or the Government ( and how prophetic he has turned out to be today ). Political democracy , he said rests on the principle that the State shall not delegate powers to private persons ( entities ) to govern others .
Dr Ambedkar went on to write “ Anyone who studies the working of the system of social economy based on private enterprise and pursuit of personal gain will realize how it undermines , if it does not actually violate , the last two premises on which democracy rests . How many have to relinquish their constitutional rights in order to gain their living ? How many have to subject themselves to be governed by private employers ?
Ask those who are unemployed whether what are called Fundamental Rights are of any value to them . If a person who is unemployed is offered a choice between a job of some sort , with some sort of wages , with no fixed hours of labour and with an indirect restriction on joining a union and the exercise of his right to freedom of speech , association , religion etc can there be any doubt as to what his choice will be ? How can it be otherwise ? The fear of starvation , the fear of being compelled to take children away from school, the fear of having to bear the burden of public cost are factors too strong to permit a man to stand out for his fundamental rights . The unemployed are thus compelled to relinquish their fundamental rights for the sake of securing the privelege to work and to subsist….
What about those who are employed ? Constitutional lawyers assume that the enactment of Fundamental Rights is enough to safeguard their liberty , and that nothing more is called for . They argue that where the state refrains from intervention in private affairs , economic and social , the residue is liberty. What is necessary is to make the residue as large as possible and state intervention as small as possible . It is true that that where the state refrains from intervention what remains is liberty . But this does not dispose of the matter ; one more question remains to be answered. To whom and for whom is this liberty ? Obviously, this liberty is liberty to the landlords to increase rents , to the capitalists to increase the hours of work and reduce the rate of wages . This must be so . It cannot be otherwise , for in an economic system employing armies of workers , producing goods in mass at regular intervals , someone must make rules, so that the workers will work and the wheels of industry run on . Liberty from the control of the state is another name for the dictatorship of the private employer.” The Advisory Committee did not accept his proposals . Dr Ambedkar pressed repeatedly with the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly to incorporate his proposals in the Chapter on Fundamental Rights of the Constitution and not disallow them on ‘technical grounds’. He argued that it was a matter in which the labouring classes in general and the scheduled castes in particular , are vitally concerned . That is the precise reason why it was not permitted in the justiciable part of the Constitution ..but relegated to the Directive Principles , now more honored in the breach than practise ( that is why the PS Appu Committee observed in its report on Land Reforms in 1972, that the hiatus between precept and practice, between policy pronouncements and actual execution has been the greatest in the domain of land reforms . )
The Constitution remains our compass ; Dr Ambedkar’s economic ideology the guidance document . The application , in steps and phases can only be implemented when the mazdoors in both the formal and the informal sector, kisans , landless workers , rural and urban men and women without livelihoods and entitlements, adivasis, artisans , bundkars, students , teachers , educated unemployed , technicians and engineers ,employed or unemployed , subscribe and dedicate themselves to a better future for all . Quite obviously the Dalits as a caste group are not sufficient in numbers to change the system, its core policies , priorities and its structure without joining with the other oppressed groups, communities and demonstrating an overwhelming democratic majority. Dr Ambedkar had emphasisied this again and again in all his writings and speeches. For this a United Front of all sections and elements who constitute the exploited majority must be forged as a federation with decentralization as its watchword . Then and only then will the Dalits advance forward to their goal of social and economic justice . Otherwise they must remain as they are confined to receiving a few crumbs from the top table, always at the mercy of the Capitalist class and their ideology of Brahmanvad as defined by Dr Ambedkar.
The program , policies and objectives will need the agreement of all. However there will be sufficient flexibility for local initiatives depending on the material and human resources , and the stage of development which have been reached in different locales , in the uneven matrix of social and economic indicators that we are confronted with , as long as they conform to the direction and goals of the movement .
Dr Ambedkar is honored as the Principal Architect of the Indian Constitution . The Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy are his special contribution . If the chapter on Fundamental Rights , particularly its cardinal articles on Equality before the Law , Equality of Opportunity and the Right to Life ( and Livelihood ) as interpreted by the Apex Court are indeed held sacred , then read with Articles 37, 38 and 39
of the Directive Principles they are the guiding spirit of the Constitution and immutable. Unfortunately those who take their oath of office by swearing to uphold the Constitution are the very same who are swimming with the tidal wave of Globalisation and ‘Reforms’ which violate in substance and spirit , the Constitution of India andx that threaten the very existence people’s livelihood and their peaceful existence in a democratic , equal order , with dignity and self-respect . The Directive Principles of State Policy, were held to be legally unenforceable at the time the Constitution was adopted in the name of “ We the People..’’ . However Directive Principles of State Policy have a mandatory character, as the injunction to the State and , therefore, to the Judiciary , Legislative and the Executive is always “ SHALL” and not a ‘May’. The Founding Fathers and Dr Ambedkar can be presumed to know the difference in jurisprudence !!! What the Government , the Legislatures and the Judiciary in times today are doing are not only violating the “ soul “ of the Constitution , as many former Justices of the Apex Court have publicly expressed , but in fact may be effectively participating in a ‘foreclosure’ of the democratic process and the path to Democracy that Dr Ambedkar sincerely paved . The Western Capitalist system and the ‘Reforms’ “ dictated by the Structural Adjustment Loan / Programs”, which amount to a Recolonisation of India, are neither conducive to a democratic order nor compatible with a democracy for 1100 million ( growing to be 1800 million ) Indians. No foreign model , in its entirety , forced from above, or even legally upheld by the courts, can be a model to emulate.
The most worrying and distressing aspect of all this is that 50 years after the passing away of Dr Ambedkar , the torch and the baton have not been carried forward.
Debate and discussion are usually confined to issues such as Reservations and promotions in the public domain / services and now the latest ‘red-herring’ , reservations in the private sector ( including MNCs) which provide only 8.3 % jobs in the formal sector. (7000 MNCs provide only 28 million , low paid jobs in their world wide ‘looting’ operations) .
The question of asserting the SC/ST rights in admissions to educational institutions at all levels , specially higher and technical courses , which are again being effectively denied, has been brilliantly exposed in the pioneering work done by Sarvashri Pradeep Gaikwad and Prof ( Dr ) Awani Patil in respect of Maharahtra . Privatisation of education , now state sponsored and subsidized from public funds , is making higher and technical education a right and privilege only for the ‘Haves’ or the exploiting classes ‘ which is more than just a fascist characteristic and , therefore, to be fought as Dr Ambedkar would have done , for Dalit rights ; shoulder to shoulder , together with all other ‘deprived sections and classes’. The essence of Buddhism and Dhamma as Dr Ambedkar observed was socialist ( even the first communist idea ) and thus his dream of establishing an egalitarian society , with the help of Buddhism.
However, after all this agitation , if those who benefit from reservations change or ‘convert’ or transform unto another class , an upper class , and stand with the exploiting class , directly or indirectly , then what is gained for the overwhelming majority who remain where they have always been , along with the others who have been marginalized by loot , robbery and theft , phrases which a person of such refined legal education as Dr Ambedkar used in Manmad and thereafter ? Dr Ambedkar expressing concern for the downtrodden , said in one of his lectures, “…ever since I began to understand the meaning of life , I have always followed one principle in life and that is to serve my ‘untouchable’ brethern . Wherever I may be and in whatsoever position I may be , I have always been thinking and working for the betterment of my bretheren . I have never given so much attention to any other problem . I must guard the interests of the untouchables ; that has been the aim of my life in the past and will continue to be in the future too .” In the context in which his life and work and economic philosophy /ideology should be faithfully understood , that is Bhimrao Ambedkar, the revolutionary who fought for political and economic democracy for the oppressed and exploited masses of the Indian people ; we have to ask ourselves just one question : Do we stand with Dr Ambedkar and the exploited or the upper and middle classes to which we have migrated ; and therefore betray the class where 99% of our people are enslaved ?
Recently a Dalit Leader of education, learning and standing , told me that since ‘Money’ had overtaken free and fair elections the danger was not that he would be able to democratize the system but whether he would be corrupted and taken over himself.
If Babasaheb is made unto granite , stone or marble then he too is in danger of becoming an ‘idol’ to be revered and worshipped on two days in the year. On the other hand , Dr Ambedkar , can be our daily inspiration “to educate , agitate and organize” as he himself exhorted so often . On a personal note , how so ever symbolic, if every Dalit can carry a pocket size card with the main articles of the Constitution, on his person in his own mother tongue, and discuss it in his habitat or cluster of Jhopdis and Jhuggis for five minutes every day, in the neighbourhood , what Babasaheb has as his message, then there is a fair chance that they may begin to question the self appointed Netaji(s) on what is to be done. Certainly not to break the homes and hearths of those who share his misery . Every one does not need higher education , though everyone who has the merit must have those doors open to him or her. Everyone , however , needs to be able to live with self respect and in dignity , in a society where he has the right to livelihood, equal education opportunities for his children and medical care if they fall sick as they are bound to with nothing in their stomachs , and suffering chronic mal- nourishment , as the large majority of his compatriots . If we continuously lower the poverty line then the number in the BPL will of course reduce in the Government’s Annual Economic Surveys , the Central Statistical Organisation’s books; and the National Sample Survey’s figures.
The adherents of ‘hard’ Hindutva and ‘soft’ Hindutva are effectively Trojan horses of the recolonising forces . Hindutva is a mask for Brahmanvad . This Hindutva loudly propagandises ‘rashtravad’ while it goes about as a salesman and poster- boy for foreign capital and the MNCs ,banks and insurance ( brokers and commission agents of big foreign companies of the US and Europe , as Mahatma Gandhi described them ) . Hindutva has created its ‘internal enemies’ like the Nazi Party did in Germany . It assumes its sacredness by wearing the tilak on the forehead . This does not hide its destructive character and mentality , or wash its murderous, bloody hands . Like in the past Hindutva or Brahmanvad , is fronting the parasitical class. A Finance Minister had opened India to the multi-nationals on the dishonest plea ‘that the nation has been living beyond its means –nation indeed , when a good majority of our people simply have no means to live and most others none to indulge in living beyond….’ Another Finance Minister pleading with the Globalisers in London said “ You came to India and stayed for 200 years . Now come prepared to invest and stay for another 200 years and there will be huge rewards .” How do the parties representing the expropriated classes , the 80 % majority gear up to the challenge ? The parties of the Dalits have 20 splinter groups in Maharashtra alone and the parties that claim to pursue forward looking economic programs are also split into 20 and more groupings on the all India level. This is not a mere accident. This may not be engineered by the new Brahmins , but it certainly enjoys their support . Dr Ambedkar always said ‘we are Indians firstly and lastly. ’ The challenge is before us and that is why it is so incumbent on those who are Ambedkarites to carry forward the central mission where Dr Ambedkar left off.
To conclude, Dhamma or Dharma enjoins another ideal . It says unequivocally that without Justice for all , a King is no King ; and his Kingdom will perish and cease to exist. If that caution is not heeded, then someday the phoenix must rise !
To all three my grateful thanks . I accept responsibility for any errors in the paper , even though I believe that I have humbly attempted to highlight the revolutionary Ambedkar’s outstanding ideas and his central mission , his total identification with the toiling masses of our country, to free themselves from bondage and slavery , and establish economic democracy.