Image courtesy: The Statesman

Mikhail Bakunin, Russian revolutionist once stated “Political freedom without economic equality is a pretence, a fraud, a lie ;and workers want no lying “.

There are heated discussions and debates on perspectives of DR B. R Ambedkar on Indian caste system and constitutional positive discrimination to protect minorities from age old perverted societal caste practices. Perhaps, discussions on his view on economic policies to protect the interest of minorities and ensure equality are apparently rare. Ambedkar, enshrined his economic view in the memorandum, he submitted to Constituent Assembly on behalf of All India Scheduled Caste Federation.Instead of setting out his ideas in general terms, he drafted a memorandum in the form of articles of the constitution. Article ll – Section ll -clause 4 of the memorandum deals with protection against economic exploitation. The primary object behind enumerating this clause is to provide equatable distribution of wealth among the people, and establishing state socialism to protect untouchables and minorities from the exploitation of land lords and capitalists.

The Democratic Socialism

Socialism stands for an economic system under which major instruments of social production are placed under the ownership of the state in order to ensure the public welfare, and to tackle unequal distribution of wealth. Here, Ambedkar, proposes State socialism with parliamentary Democracy. State supply of capital necessary for industries and agriculture, nationalised insurance instead of private insurance to achieve greater security of people, system of collective farming under the state and abolishing tenancy and landlordism to undermine the economic inequality are the vital ideas of his socialism. He emphasised the importance of state socialism in economic life, by stating that state socialism is essential for rapid industrialisation in India, and private enterprises can not do it and if it does it would produce inequalities of wealth which private capitalism has gifted in Europe. Vehement criticism on pursuit of personal gain of private enterprises elaborates the way it penetrates, and uproot the social democracy and fundamental rights of individuals. He believed that, state socialism would shield against the economic inequality and emancipation for the working class minorities and farmers.

Economic liberalism V state socialism

In liberal view, the state is a necessary evil. Liberalism treats the State as the ‘means’ and individual as the ‘end’. It rules out control of state over the economic activities of individuals.The Explanatory notes of clause 4 of memorandum indicates his intention to establish a state socialism, by law of the constitution and thereby makes it unalterable by any act of the legislature and executive. It’s noteworthy to interpret his constructive criticism of Liberalism, that refraining of state from intervention in private socio- economic affairs doesn’t make liberty, instead it is liberty to the landlords to increase rents, for capitalists to hike the hours of work and reduce rate of wages. In short, the liberty from state control called dictatorship of the private players. At the same time he is cautious of the arbitrary control of State on individual liberty. Unlike the western countries where political rights are guaranteed and economic rights are unaddressed to flourish liberalism at the cost of inequality, Ambedkar sought to establish a Parliamentary Democracy with state socialism, where political and economic rights are guarded under fundamental Rights of the constitution.

Still a mirage

Inspite of the relentless effort by Ambedkar to vandalise the intricate caste system ruled rural economy and modern capitalism, by incorporating economic rights in fundamental rights the independent India were ill to embrace his idea then and now. Considering the essence of the memorandum, he ultimately aims to emancipate the untouchables from the social as well as economic inequality. In fact, it is a reality that economic untouchability will intensify social untouchability hence eradication of both simultaneously will only result to produce a society of equality. Ambedkar realised that, establishment of state socialism with parliamentary democracy as the only means to achieve it.

Mohamed Rashid KC , Law student at Government law college, Ernakulam


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