Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Dr. B. R. Ambhedkar as an Economist and as a Social Reformer - A Critical Analysis

- Dr. S. Vijay Kumar
              Dr. B.R. Ambhedkar popularly known as Dr. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambhedkar was a multifaceted personality, an intellectual, a philosopher, a patriot, a social reformer, a champion of dalits, a scholar, a writer, constitution maker, an economist, an eminent lawyer and a feminist. He earned unique distinction of being India's first monetary economist who prudently analyzed the problems of Indian rupee. His PhD thesis “The problem of Indian Rupee, its origin and solution” inspired to set up for the Finance Commission of India and his works helped a lot in framing guidelines for the RBI Act 1934. He was one of the founders of Employment Exchanges in our country. He was protagonist of industrial modernization and favored industrialization based on economic model along with core socialistic values of Gandhian economy. He favored skill development, land reforms and technological up gradation in agriculture. He targeted centralized nature of fiscal federalism and pursued cooperative approach. He drafted Hindu Code Bill that worked as 'magna carta' for equitable status of Hindu women in society. He did not hesitate to even resign from the cabinet for favoring this landmark legislation. His most significant contribution has undoubtedly been the chief architect of Indian constitution based on values of democracy, liberty, equality and secularism. Dr. Ambhedkar is undoubtedly a magnificent personality that has immensely contributed to bring 'independent India' onto the path of 'modernized India.' He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1990 for his contribution as the “Architect of the Modern India”. This paper attempts to study BR Ambhedkar’s role as an Economist, as a Social Reformer with a Critical Analysis.

Objectives of the Study:

1) Ambedkar as an Economist
2) Ambedkar – A Social Reformer
3) Critical Analysis on BR Ambhedkar
4) Suggestions

Methodology: This research paper is based on secondary sources that are available from the reference books given at the end of my paper.

Ambedkar as an Economist: Dr Amartya Sen Noble laureate said “Ambhedkar is my father in Economics, his contribution in the field of economics is marvelous and will be remembered forever..! (Wikipedia Dr. Ambhedkar). The PM, Narendra Modi said “Ambhedkar's economic thought, vision not fully understood,” "the more we recall Ambhedkar's thought, in the context of issues currently faced by India, the more we come to respect his vision and his approach to inclusiveness.” He wrote thesis in 1923 on The problem of Indian Rupee, its origin and solution”. His PhD thesis was inspired to set up for the Finance Commission of India and his works helped a lot in framing guidelines for the RBI Act 1934. He was one of the founders of Employment Exchanges in our country. He played a vital role in establishment of the National Power Grid System, Central Water Irrigation, Navigation Commission, Damodar valley project, Hirakud project and Sone river project. Some of his works as Economist are:
India's Currency Problems: Under the British rule when Indian Rupee was struggling with falling value, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in 1923 wrote his thesis on “The problem of Indian Rupee, its origin and solution”. In his thesis, he argued that the gold exchange standard does not have stability. The developing countries like India cannot afford gold exchange standards, and it also increases the risk of inflation. He proved with statistical data and reasons how the Indian Rupee has lost its value and hence the purchasing power of it is falling. He suggested that the government deficit should be regulated and money should have a circular flow. He also suggested more attention should be given on price stability than exchange rate stability. His book eventually lead to the establishment of Reserve Bank of India.
Taxation policy: He expressed his views on taxation in the manifesto of “Swatantra Majdur Party” in 1936. He opposed Land Revenue system which was prevailing at that time and the burden of these taxes on the poor sections of the society. He suggested that taxes should be imposed on the paying capacity of the people. That is to say, more tax on rich and less tax on the poor. Tax exemption should be given up to certain limit. Canon of equity should be taken in to account while imposing taxation. Tax should not lead to lowering the quality of life of the people. Land Revenue tax should be more flexible and should not be levied  on agricultural land. He pointed out that Indian tax system at that time was based on discrimination and inequality.
Nationalization of Industries: Dr. Ambedkar thought that rapid development of India is not possible without Industrialization. According to him,  industrialization creates large scale employment and produces essential goods for mass consumption. It reduces foreign dependence and leads to the overall economical development of the country. The private sector industries cannot establish big industries for want of large scale investments. So, government should come forward to start large scale industries .The smaller industries should be allotted to private sector. The Insurance and Transport Companies should be nationalized. Rights to strike should be given to labourers.
Agriculture and Land Reforms: Dr. Ambedkar had made in-depth analysis of Indian Agriculture System and wrote research articles, organized Seminars and Conferences in order to Solve the problems of Indian agriculture and farmers, also led farmer's movement. His thoughts on agriculture are found in his article "Small Holdings in India and their remedies"(1917) and also in "Status and minorities"(1947). He mentioned that land holdings by few people is an acute problem of Indian agriculture which has various disadvantages like difficulties in cultivation, utilization of resources, increasing cost, low productivity, inadequate income and low standard of living. According to him, productivity of agriculture is related to not only with the size of holdings of land but also with other factors such as capital, labour and other inputs. Therefore if capital, or labour etc are not available in adequate quantity and quality, then even a large size of land holding can become unproductive and uneconomic. On the other hand, small size of land holding become productive, if these resources (Capital and labour etc.) are available in plenty. With this thought, “Land Ceiling Act” was passed after Independence. He also mentioned about the slavery and exploitation of labour bounded under caste system which is extremely bad for economic development and he fought for its abolition. His other suggestions were collective farming, economic holdings  of land, equal distribution of land, large scale industrialization, provision of money, water, seeds and fertilizers by the government, cultivation of waste land by allotting it to the landless labour, minimum wages to labourers, control and regulation of private money lenders offering loans to farmers.
Strategy for economic development: He believed the strategy for India's Economic development should be based on reducing economic inequities and ending exploitation of masses. He emphasized exploitation has many dimensions in our country - social or religious. Hence, exploitation of the masses should be eliminated.
Free Enterprises Economy: Surprising, Dr. Ambhedkar had already in 1923 itself hinted for free Economy, Globalization, Liberalization and Privatization. Indian government had adopted this policy in 1990s. Thus, we can say that Dr. Ambedkar was a century ahead. He had stressed that the value of a rupee must be kept stable, if the policy of free trade is to be successful.
Population Control  and Family Planning: He opined that population control is essential for the progress of the country. Hence he favoured population control and family planning in India. Later on agreeing with his views Government had adopted family planning as a National Policy.
Economic Upliftment of Indian Women: According to him, women empowerment is essential and participation of women in the economic development is impossible without developing their social status and equality. But, due to deteriorated economic conditions of women in India, our country’s progress is hampered. So, it is important to improve the economic condition of women and give them equal status, rights and freedom of occupation.
Concept of Human Capital: Dr. Ambedkar argued that the concept of human capital in India is useless, unless the poorer and down trodden untouchable dalits are not recognized by other classes as human beings with equal social status.
Democratic State Socialism: He had presented a Democratic State Socialism to the Constitution Committee. The main objectives of it are:
1) All basic industries should be owned and run by the State.
2) Insurance and Agriculture should be nationalized and managed by the State.
3) Maintenance of productive resources by State.
4) Justification of distribution of common produce.
5) Provision for compensation of land or industry acquisition in the form of bonds.
6) The distribution of village land among the families in a village for Collective Farming.
7) No discrimination as landlords, tenants and agriculture labourers.
8) All agriculture input like capital, seeds, fertilizers etc. would be provided to Collective Farming by the State.
9) Distribution of agriculture income only after payment of land revenue tax.
10) Punishment to those people, who do not follow the rules.
Dr. Ambedkar wanted the State Socialism to be included in the Constitution so that no legislature could change or reject it. But it could not came into existence as the Constitution Committee rejected it.
Ambhedkar – as a Social Reformer: History produces a few people who leave an indelible mark on the society as their lives can be seen as a metaphor for liberty, as an icon for progress and change. One such person was a rare combination of immense knowledge, exceptional political prowess and an unwavering commitment to social change was Dr BR Ambedkar. He stressed on a much broader notion of stable reconstruction of our country with inclusive growth and cultural integration in the Nation without caste discrimination. His Hindu code bill was an idea to bring equality and justice in society through emancipation of women by extending equal property rights to women. He has popularly known as the pioneer who initiated the liberation movement of roughly 65 million untouchables in India. He believed in peaceful methods of social change. His vision of democracy and equality was closely related to good society, rationality and the scientific outlook. He held that the emancipation of Dalits in India was possible only through the three-pronged approached of education, agitation and organization. Ambedkar was criticized for focusing on social justice, especially in the elimination of caste system rather than not on national movement. Thus, he was viewed  essentially as a egalitarian and a social reformer rather than a nationalist. He wrote a book on "Annihilation of Caste", in which he strongly opposed caste system. He encouraged inter caste marriages to abolish cast system in our country. Some critics took objection to his opposition to caste system in India and they say that caste system in our country is the result of different professions performed by the respective people. Then, why Ambhedkar blame upper classes, especially Brahmins. He was converted to Buddhism with his followers to clearly express his disapproval to castism. Throughout his life he fought for social justice. According to him, caste system is not merely the division of labour but a division of labourers also. It is a major obstacle to economic development. It reduces mobility leading to inefficient production. Untouchability is worse than slavery and it is nothing but mere exploitation of fellow human beings.
Critical Analysis on BR Ambhedkar: BR Ambhedkar staunch critic of caste system, led depressed classes against social discrimination. On critical side, the policy of protective discrimination through reservations has been increasingly used to gain political mileage hurting merit system. Some critically oppose Ambhedkar on caste basis reservations, while he was quite against caste system, instead they say that he would have advocated reservations on economic criteria. Every decade reservations are extended for next decade without any sort of analysis. Thus, Ambhedkar's policy has not been applied in true spirit. No political party  in India in true sense is free from gender and caste bias. His reservation policy is not reaching the really needy. In this context Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of the Babasaheb, while talking to Manu Joseph on Outlook Magazine dated: 23/08/2004 said that Legislation doesn’t change people. That’s why B.R. Ambedkar didn’t believe that reservation of constituencies or jobs for Dalits would change the way Indian society looked at its lower castes. He reluctantly agreed to reservation in the belief that it would be discontinued 10 years after the adoption of the Constitution. But half a century later, reservation remains an issue in India”. Addressing officials and representatives of local bodies at an event on smart cities the Speaker Sumithra Mahajan said, “Ambhedkarji had said, ‘Give reservations for 10 years and after 10 years, do a rethink. Bring them to that stage’. We have done nothing. Even I am guilty of this… We have not thought about it. We do not contemplate why this (a rethink) has not happened.” why we have not achieved the society dreamt of by Dr Ambedkar. We should ponder over the reasons for that also”. Article 334 of the Constitution had originally required the reservation to cease in 1960, but this was extended up to 2020 through 95th Amendment of the Constitution. All political parties are now using Ambhedkar for vote bank and  no one truly tries to reflect his ideology through actions. Simply, monuments and  memorials do not serve the purpose. Practice of his ideology only that makes the difference.

                  He influenced more than Gandhi ji’s Harijan Movement. He even opposed to article 370. His long struggle for the betterment of dalits and untouchable will be ever remembered in the history of India. Now, people are remembering him only for his reservation policy and all political parties are not considering his views on land reforms, failure of political reservation for SCs/STs and women empowerment. All are ignoring that he considered higher education as medium for emancipation of oppressed and believing in privatization of higher education, instead of making accessible to all citizens. He came close to Marxian and Weberian (Max Weber a German Sociologist, who emphasized the importance of cultural influences embedded in religion as a means for understanding the genesis of capitalism) conceptions and differs from them. But, Buddha and Marx’s ends remain same but means differ. Ambhedkar accepted Buddhism as an alternative to Hinduism and he was converted to Buddhism and influenced masses to convert . Critics say that he was never a real Buddhist. He rejected rebirth and karma, which were part of Buddha dharma. Some people criticize him because he politically opposed Gandhi and supported the British policy of separate electorates in 1927. But, they ignored his role to save Gandhi’s life who had begun a fast unto death at the Yeravadh jail of Poona, against the communal award to depressed classes, Ambedkar and other depressed class leaders agreed to modify the award. As a result, the “Poona Pact” was signed. Under this agreement instead of separate electorates, reservation of seats was provided.
                  Arundhati Roy introduces extensively annotated edition of Annihilation of Caste in “The Doctor and the Saint,” examining the persistence of caste in modern India, and how the conflict between Ambedkar and Gandhi continues to resonate. Roy breathes new life into Ambhedkar’s anti-caste utopia, and says that without a Dalit revolution, India will continue to be hobbled by systemic inequality. She faults Ambedkar for his views on the Adivasis, claiming that he didn’t understood them. He saw them as backward, in a "savage state", and in need of civilizing. "Ambedkar speaks about Adivasis in the same patronizing way that Gandhi speaks about untouchables". His views on Hinduism were subjected to lot of criticism by many people. The irony is that a person who played a key role in drafting the constitution of Hindustan was a staunch opposer of Hinduism and tried at all his best level to destroy Hinduism (which for him was a Brahmanism oppressive religion).

                 Some people say that “If Ambedkar thought his actions will change the society, wipe out poverty, bring equality... then why so much of divide even after the decades, they argue that he did not bridge the gap, but infact he had widened it”. About his criticism on Brahmins, they say that “There is no doubt Brahmins were scholars and they are today also, they are logical, ofcourse there are exceptions in every society”. In Arun Shourie's book “Worshipping False Gods”, the Dalit apostle, B.R. Ambedkar, is portrayed as a self-centered, unpatriotic, power-hungry anti-national, a stooge of the British. The gravamen of Shourie's charge against Ambedkar is four-fold: (1) He opposed the freedom struggle; (2) He collaborated with the British for material gains; (3) He only piloted the draft constitution and that he can in no way be called the Father of the Constitution; and (4) His conversion to Buddhism was mere opportunism. On the very first page, Shourie states: "There is not one instance, in which Ambedkar participated in any activity connected with the struggle to free the country. But, the supporters of  Ambhedkar says that this is not true, during the Quit India Movement when Ambedkar was a member of the viceroy's executive council, he had the courage to shelter underground Congress leaders like Achyut Patwardhan at his residence. They further argued that  Mr. Shourie ignored  Ambhedkar's attack on the British at the Round Table Conference.
                 He opposed the caste system in our country and conveyed a good message to all Hindus that if we are divided among ourselves on caste basis and fight with each other, “we will fall prey to our enemies”. That is to say, “if we are united together we stand, if divided we will fall”. Dr. Ambhedkar believed in equality. He respected freedom and liberal democracy. Amartya Sen rightly opined that, freedom is valuable for at least two different reasons.

First, More Freedom gives us more opportunity to pursue our objectives those things that we value. Dr. Ambhedkar also respected freedom and he aimed to develop human beings through this freedom.

Second, Process of Choice itself. Dr. Ambhedkar provided such choices (Reservations) to the oppressed people through constitutional law. In the beginning Reservations were provided only to SCs and STs under the Article 15 (4) for providing admissions in the educational institutions and under the Article16 (4) for jobs. But, later on this was extended to Other Back Ward Castes (OBCs). Originally, it was stated that these reservations will continue up to 1960 that is for 10 years only and later on they will be discontinued. But, till this date they are continued to gain political advantage out of it to retain in power claiming that they are doing social justice to SCs, STs and OBCs. But, in reality this is entirely a different story. Let us forget a while, a great injustice is done to the economically weaker sections in the Forward Casts (FCs) all these years (more than 66 years) in the name of castes, which Ambhedkar was against. Now, let us suppose, a SC, ST or a BC candidate became an IAS Officer availing reservation facility. But, later on these IAS Officer’s children are also availing reservations for admissions in colleges and in jobs. Due to this system, in their communities only other people are losing chances of getting admissions in reputed institutions and good jobs of higher cadre. If we ignore EBCs in the FCs, again a “Class Struggle” may prevail which is not good for the future of our country. The present and future generations will not excuse us for this mistake. Due to reservations policy, lot of “Brain Drain” is going in our country (Lot of our intellectuals are leaving the country for their bright future). For example, highly intellectuals like Noble Prize winners – Hargobindh Kurana and Amartya Sen etc. 

1). Review of Reservation Policy of BR Ambhedkar: Now, the time has come to review the “Reservation Policy of BR Ambhedkar” after 66 years of Indian Constitution came in to existence, because at present the situation has been drastically changed. SCs, STs and OBc are now equally treated on par with all the forward castes in the society.
2). Government should enact that “creamy layer should not be allowed for further reservations”: Government should enact that “creamy layer (A generation already availed reservations) should not be allowed for further reservations”. Because, due to this system, in their communities only other people are losing chances of getting admissions in reputed institutions and good jobs of higher cadre.
3). Government Must Think of Reservations to “All Economically Back ward Classes Irrespective Castes: Instead of implementing the age old “Reservation Policy of BR Ambhedkar,” Government must think of reservations for “All the Economically Back ward Classes, irrespective Castes”. By doing so we can stop “Brain Drain” from our country.
4). Stop Frustration among the Youth: In the “Present Reservation Policy” most of the bright youth are suffering a great frustration, because most of the youth born in forward castes even after scoring more than 90% of marks in their competitive exams are not getting seats in Medicine and in other courses which has bright future for them. Even for IAS exams also reservation system is adopted, which require top most brilliant people who will decide the future of our country. SCs, STs or OBCs are selected with low marks for the courses and jobs which has bright future. Hence, “EBC Reservation System of Irrespective of Castes” is the only solution to save our country.
5). Great threat to our Social Fabric: Day by day all the castes are demanding reservations irrespective of their economical status, leading to unrest among all the castes and agitations in the country are going on there by destroying the public property like Railways, Water pipe lines causing lot of inconvenience to the common public. For example, “Jats” Community fighting for reservations in Haryana State to include them in OBC quota, Recent “Kaapus” agitation in Andhra Pradesh to include them in BCs Community list, and some time back in Rajasthan “Gujjars” lead a great agitation to include them in SCs. If Government don’t put full stop for such type of “present reservation policy” there will be no end for this and ultimately our society will be divided in to fragments and this may even lead for demanding separate regions for separate castes, thus dividing the whole nation on caste – basis, which would be a “great threat to our social fabric”.  
Conclusion: Thus, Ambedkarism is the great relevance to the Indian society to achieve social justice, removal of untouchability in establishing equality and true democracy, but with utmost care and periodical review of his various polices. Ambhedkar rose up from dust, from being treated worse than an animal to becoming the father of the Indian Constitution. Dr. Ambhedkar was truly a multi-faceted personality. A veritable emancipator of Dalits, a great national leader and a patriot, a great author, a great educationalist, a great political philosopher, a great religious guide and above all a great humanist without any parallel among his contemporary.
1). B.R. Ambedkar, What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables?

2). B. R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste, an undelivered speech written in 1936 by B. R. Ambedkar

3). Jaoul Nicolas, Learning the use of Symbolic means: Dalits, Ambedkar statues and the state in U.P., Contributions to Indian Sociology

4). S. Anand (Ed.), Annihilation of Caste: The annotated critical edition – B.R. Ambedkar – Introduced with the essay ‘The Doctor and the Saint’ by Arundhati Roy, Navayana Publishers, New Delhi, (2014)

5). Outlook Magazine 23/08/2004

6). Jadhav Narendra, Ambedkar: Awakening India’s social conscience, Konark Publishers, New Delhi (2014)

7). Badal Sarkar, Dr. B. R. Ambhedkar’s theory of State Socialism International Research Journal of Social
Sciences, 2, (2013)
8). Lokhande. G. S., B.R. Ambedkar: A study in social democracy. Constituent Assembly Debates, (25-11-1949) vol. xi

9). Arun Shourie -  “Worshipping False Gods” ASA Publications

10). Wikipedia Articles on BR Ambhedkar  life and Reservation System in India

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