The evil system won't tumble down

Monday 29 Jul 2002

author: S. Annamalai and S. Vijay Kumar


Despite police action against the practice of untouchability in tea shops of rural Tamil Nadu, several shopkeepers, under pressure from caste Hindus, continue with the discriminatory ``two-tumbler'' system.

In the caste-riven State, tea shops in several villages do not serve just hot beverages but also trade untouchability in ``two tumblers"— cheap glass ones for the Dalits and shiny stainless steel containers for the caste Hindus. And now, a ``three-tumbler'' system too is adopted in some areas— plastic cups for outsiders whose caste identity is not known.

The Tirunelveli police arrested a shopowner yesterday for offering tea in a glass tumbler to Dalits and in shiny stainless steel containers to caste Hindus.

Though the ``two and three-tumbler'' system is a brazen violation of the SC\ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, it is an accepted practice in southern Tamil Nadu. If tea shops do not discriminate against the Dalits, the caste Hindus will throw the shop owners out.

The only positive development over the years is the withdrawal of coconut shell, referred to as `sirattai', which served as the tea cup for the Dalits.

In certain Virudhunagar villages, this system has been so perfected that there is now a `three-tumbler' system. When a stranger asks for tea and the shop owner is not sure of his caste, a disposable plastic tumbler comes out.

At a `balwadi' at Poovani near Srivilliputtur, the Dalit children from Saliakudi are served meal in separate plates. Activists of Dalit organisations point out that many tea shops openly display the glass tumblers, while in some cases the second tumblers are kept inside. The practice is to keep the glass tumblers inside tea holders for Dalit use. And, the Dalits have to wash the tumblers, they use.

In Madurai district, the activists say, the practice is more visible in the Chellampatti panchayat union. The `two-tumbler' system is in vogue where people of three intermediate caste groups— Thevars, Naidus and Reddiars— are dominant.

Lingappanaickanur, Meenakshipatti, Chennampatti, Kuppalnatham, Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Salappanpatti are some of the villages, which have two tumblers in tea shops. The Virudhunagar district CPI (M) secretary, K. Balasubramanian, points out that according to a survey undertaken by the party, the system is practised in 38 villages, including Thadampatti, Nallamanaickenpatti, Ramuthevanpatti, Boovanathapuram, Karisalpatti, Maravar Perunkudi, Thoppur and Vidathakulam in the district.

In Sivaganga district, the villages known to adopt the system include Kattikulam, Sundaranadappu, Melavellur, Sangankulam Konthagai, Peramalur and some around Ilayankudi.

Though widespread, the practice has been escaping the attention of officials. The primary reason is that the Dalit victims are not willing to lodge a formal complaint for fear of further oppression by the caste Hindus. Another reason is that the villagers do not want to ignite caste flare-ups over a cup of tea.

When officials make surprise inspections, the tumblers vanish and disposable cups take their place. Whenever there is a threat of agitation from any organisation, the villagers `unite t

Maya to give UP world's tallest Buddha

New Indian Express

30th July 20002

LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh will soon have the world's tallest statue of Lord Buddha in its Kushinagar district. Chief Minister Mayawati has agreed to provide 700 acres of land free to private global organisation Maitreyi to install the 500-foot statue of the sitting Buddha, an art gallery, a museum, hospital of international standards, philosophical university, women's college and hotel. Sources say Maitreyi is prepared to spend more than Rs 2,000 crore on the project.

Meanwhile, an 180 foot statue of the standing Buddha is being installed at Piprahwa near Kapilbastu in Siddharthnagar district, on the orders of former Chief Minister Rajnath Singh at a cost of Rs 30 crore. In the run-up to the Assembly elections, an emotionally- charged Rajnath had thundered that he would install a statue taller than those destroyed in Bamian. In an attempt to woo Dalit voters, he wanted it to be installed before the elections, but that was a promise unfulfilled.

Faced with cash crunch, he too had approached Maitreyi but could not meet the organisation's demand of 700 acres of land free. The organisation then went to Jharkhand looking for land.

Now Mayawati, as soon as she took over as CM, approached Maitreyi and offered them the land. This is her second dream project, after Ambedkar Udyan in Lucknow that is being constructed at a cost of Rs 150 crore. Land for the Ambedkar Udyan has been identified and the Bridge Corporation has begun soil testing. Secretary in the Department of Culture, Shailesh Krishna, said the Law Department's approval had been sought and, most likely, an MOU would be signed with Maitreyi in October.

He said Maitreyi was registered in Bodh Gaya and he was getting it registered in Lucknow too. Krishna said that in the Budget session of the Assembly beginning on August 8, Rs 35 crore would be set apart for acquiring 700 acres of land. Farmers have agreed to sell the land, most of which is barren, he claimed.

Krishna said Chennai-based sculptor Ganapati Sthapati _ with statues like the one of Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar (133 feet) just across the Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari and a similar one in Hyderabad to his credit _ had been assigned the task and has been paid Rs 5.5 lakh to create a model.

Krishna said there were also plans to turn the existing airport in Kushinagar international.

Historical role of Muslims and Muslim intellectuals and the Dalit- Bahujan cause.

`In his article `Dalit, OBC and Muslim relations'( Posting no11950 on this forum) Mr. Kancha Ilaiah has overlooked some very important facts which have bearing on the upliftment of Shudras and Dalits during the Moghul rule. His comparison of the role of Christian missionary work vis- a- vis Muslim's contribution in the field of education is like comparing apples with oranges.

It must be mentioned at the beginning that the Muslim rule or even British rule did not directly helped the Shudras and the Dalits. The development of Shudras and Dalits during the Muslim and the British rule can be described best as `providential' in the stochastical sense.

The post Brihadrath assassination period was a long millennium of darkness for the Shudras and the Dalits of India. The counter- revolution destroyed all the creativity in the field of art and culture. It was due to the terror perhaps, artists who could not stop their creative instincts went to mountain in the deep forests and created wonders in the rocks. Only Brahmin artists were allowed to be flourished. They too did not have much creativity. They only copied and appropriated the arts developed earlier by the natives of this land. Kalidas of this era for example. It was published in The Maharashtra Times recently that all of his writing are not original but based on the previously existing work. (It was like Kavita Krishnamurty copying the folk song `Nimbuda nimbuda nimbuda' or Ela Arun copying `Dilli sheharme mharo ghagara jo ghumyo'. Both are original folk song written, sung and preserved by Shudras through generations but have remained in oblivion ).

Arrival of Sufis was concomitant with the Muslim invasion but, in no way Sufi saints were sponsored by Muslim rulers. Sufism brought great relief for Shudras and Dalits in the realm of metaphysics, which was the most important need and the only hope for the survival of common people in that era without the scientific/technological progress. Even the psychological relief in trouble or grief through prayers and visiting gods was denied for Dalits. The pirs and Owalias helped them. Most of the Hindu visitors of dargas were those who, did not have entry in the Hindu temples. It is not merely a coincidence that the tradition of great shudra saints like Ravidasji and Kabiradasji originated only after the Muslim invasion. Kabir soon had the countrywide followership which must be greatly appreciated because there were only rudimentary means of communication during that period. Such was the spell of Kabira's teaching that it even crossed the language barrier. I know about the tradition of Kabirpanthi Gurus of Maharashtra who learned and taught Hindi language to Dalits in villages through Kabira's Dohas.

`It would not be wrong to say that if there were no British rule, we would not have got Krantiba Jotirao Phule similarly, we would not have got Kabirdas and Ravidas if, there were no Moghal rule'.

Since education was prohibited for the Shudras and ati-shudras in the Brahminical system, some Shudras and Atee-shudras started acquiring reading and writing skills in Urdu from Sufi pirs and fakirs. Soon this made the Persian based Urdu the language of masses, not because of the false propaganda of its being the court language of Moguls. Today perhaps 50% words in Marathi words are of Persian origin and nobody realizes that. Jakham , bilkul, shayee(ink), dawakhana, nalayak, chor and iblis, kalij saitan, khali, safai, ekdum , bakwas, fajil, Koul ( seeking permission from God!) etc. etc. for example. So, the Sufis opened the doors of education and expression for masses after they were closed for them by Manu.

I have so far not seen a single non-academic Marathi Dalit well versed with of Marathi poetry (non-saint poetry of course!) but I have seen several Marathi Shudras who have very good knowledge of Urdu Sher-shayri. One of my elder relative has the obsession for collecting shers and gazals. Through him I was introduced to the sher–shairy.

Now let us come out of the medieval time and examine modern times. The Ist printed book which gave materialistic interpretation ( real) of Indian history is `The Discovery of India' by Jawaharlal Nehru. The entire interpretation of the history contained in this book was learned by Jawaharlal Nehru from Prof.Mohammad Habeeb. The whole Marxist school of historians owes their existence to Prof Habeeb. Implications of thematerialistic interpretation of the history are easy to understand.

The only other materialistic interpretation of the Indian history was independently given by Dr. Ambedkar in his essays on the `Revolution and counter revolution in India' which could not reach masses till they were published by the Govt of Maharashtra.

Comrade Sharad Patil has tried to fuse Marxist epistemology and Phule- Ambedkar epistemology which will form the core of the historical understanding in the years to come.

I want to end this write up by stating that I hail from Jalgaon district which was called as the east Khan Desh before 1960 . Dhulia and Jalgaon are the two districts which comprise the North-west border region of Maharashtra , the Khandesh. All the people living in this region have emotional attachment (and not an iota of hatred) towards the term Khandesh. Vijay Sonawane

Paticcasamuppada(The Law of Dependent Arising)

By Anand (S. Krishna), IRS, Additional Commissioner of Income Tax, C-22, Income Tax Colony, Pedder Road, Mumbai 400026

Paticca-samuppada was the unique discovery of the Buddha. In the whole of existence nothing happens without a cause. Every event big or small has a cause. Every cause creates an effect. This cause-effect relationship is the foundation of the Buddha’s teachings. The law applies to every entity living or dead, big or small, from micro level to macro level, from individual to communities, from societies to nations. We can see working of this law everywhere around us. If there is poverty, it means there is unemployment and people are not getting proper remuneration. Some people are enjoying the fruits of other’s labour. If there is inequality, it means some people have monopolized education, money, material, media and means of production. If there is terrorism and violence in the world, it means people are having hatred and fear in their hearts. If there is corruption in the society, it means People are greedy and not living a moral life. There can be ‘n’ number of reasons. But there is always a reason. Therefore, ‘Paticca-samuppada’ is also called the law of cause-effect relationship. Paticca means dependent upon, samuppada means arising. It is applied to the whole causal formula, which consists of twelve interdependent causes and effects. The Buddha said:” If this is, that comes to be; from the arising of this, that arises; if this is not, that doesn’t come to be; from the stopping of this, that is stopped”. Paticca-samuppada deals with the cause of rebirth and suffering with a view to helping men to get rid of the ills of life. Ignorance of the truth of suffering, its cause, its end, and the way to its end, is the chief cause that sets the wheel of life in motion. It is not knowingness of things as they truly are, or of oneself as one really is. It clouds all right understanding. When ignorance is destroyed and turned into knowingness, all causality is shattered as in the case of the Buddha and Arahants.

Observation of Sensation in body with equanimity is of central importance in practicing the teaching of the Buddha. Whenever any of six sensory organs (Eyes, Nose, Tongue, Ears, Skin & Mind) come in contact with their objects (Eyes-seeing, Nose-smelling, Tongue-tasting, Ears-hearing, skin-touching and Mind-thoughts), we “cognize” them and then our perception evaluates the object on the basis of stored information and passes a value judgment. Based on this value judgment, pleasant or unpleasant sensations arise on the body. If sensations are pleasant, we want to have more of it and generate craving for them. If sensations are unpleasant, we do not want to have them and develop aversion towards them. In this way we generate three kinds of reactions or sankharas:

First kinds of reactions or sankharas are like a line drawn in water, which is very temporary. We read newspapers or watch TV daily. When we come across any pleasant news, we feel happy. But when news is unpleasant, we feel sad. This is because we react to news as per our value system. These reactions create temporary imprints on our mind. Majority of these impressions, which are created on the mind daily, get evaporated from the mind. If somebody asks us what we read in a newspaper few months back or what we ate a few months back it will be very difficult to recollect.

Second kinds of imprints are like the lines drawn on sand at a sea beach, which have semi-permanent life. The imprints created on mind take sometime in getting evaporated. Some important events like rallies of Confederation, issue of DOPT circulars, recruitment, promotion, transfer, anniversaries, we celebrate, etc. fall in this category. These imprints can be recollected only with a little effort.

Third kind of imprints are like lines drawn on the rocks, which are long lasting. Some very important events, which have created very strong emotions and reactions in our life, like first love, death of near and dear ones, lathicharge by police during rally, attack on the office of confederation, split in the confederation etc. fall in this category. These imprints come to our mind automatically and keep on multiplying. Irrespective of the fact whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, they make us restless.

These reaction are repeated and intensified innumerable times before they impinges on the conscious mind. If we give importance only to what happens in the conscious mind, we become aware of the process only after the reaction has occurred and gathered dangerous strength, sufficient to overwhelm them. Thus, we allow the spark of sensation to ignite a raging fire before trying to extinguish it. But if we learn to observe the sensation, within the body objectively, we permit each spark to burn itself out without starting a conflagration. By giving importance to the physical aspect, we become aware of sensation as soon as it arises, and can prevent any reactions from occurring.

Sensations are particularly important because they offer vivid, tangible experience of the reality of impermanence within us. Change occurs at every moment within us, manifesting itself in the play of sensations. It is at this level that impermanence must be experienced. Observation of the constantly changing sensations permits the realization of one’s own ephemeral nature. This realization makes obvious the futility of attachment to something that is so transitory. Thus the direct experience of impermanence automatically gives rise to detachment, with which one can not only aver fresh reactions of craving or aversion, but also eliminate the very habit of reacting. In this way one gradually frees the mind of suffering. Therefore the Buddha repeatedly emphasized the importance of the experience of impermanence through physical sensations.

The cause of suffering is clinging, craving and aversion. Ordinarily it appears to us that we generate reactions of craving and aversion toward the various objects that we encounter through the physical senses and the mind. The Buddha, however, discovered that between the object and the reaction stands a missing link: sensation. We react not to the exterior reality but to the sensations within us. When we learn to observe sensation without reacting to craving and aversion, the cause of suffering does not arise and suffering ceases. Therefore, observation of sensation is essential in order to practice what the Buddha taught. With the awareness of physical sensation we can penetrate to the root of the problem and remove it. We can observe our own nature to the depths and can liberate ourselves from suffering. When we realize with our direct experience in vipassana that all sankharas (reactions) are impermanent as all of them arise only to pass away, we are able to know that there is nothing which can be called me, mine, self ego or atma. This is called as anatmavad which is a direct realization of impermanence. With this realization we are also able to realize that no entity in the universe exists independently. Everything is dependent on something else. The newspaper indicates existence of writer, publisher and paper. The paper indicates existence of soil( earth),water, sunlight and wind, The seed indicates existence of tree and tree indicates existence of seed. This is unending chain. The event is product of causes and event in turn becomes a cause of further event. In this way the cycle of birth and death continues. Some people allege that this realization may make us pessimist because if everything is impermanent, why should people work? We need to understand that impermanence is realized at subtle level and apparent reality of matter can not be ignored. The Buddha himself kept living a happy life and taught the Dhamma with infinite love and compassion for forty five years. When the teacher himself did not become pessimist, how is it possible that his followers would become pessimist?

However, it needs to be emphasized that one can’t appreciate fully the law of dependent arising by reading only. To understand it properly, one needs to actually experience it for which one needs to learn the technique of Vipassana meditation. While paticcasamuppada explains the theory, the Vipassana meditation enables practical experience of the law.

Play of Sensations And Wheel of Life

[ SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2002 11:36:35 PM ]


The doctrine of Paticca-samuppada is the cornerstone of Buddhism. It says nothing happens without a cause, and every cause has an effect. This law applies to every entity living or dead, big or small, from individual to communities, societies to nations. Paticca-samuppada is also called the law of cause and effect. Paticca means ‘dependent upon’, samuppada means ‘arising’. This doctrine is applied to the wheel of life, which consists of 12 interdependent causes and effects. The Buddha said: “If this is, that comes to be; from the arising of this, that arises; if this is not, that doesn’t come to be; from the stopping of this, that is stopped”. Paticca-samuppada deals with the cause of rebirth and suffering, with a view to ridding life of all ills.

“With the base of ignorance, reaction arises; with the base of reaction, consciousness arises; with the base of consciousness, mind and body arise; with the base of mind and body, the six senses arise; with the base of the six senses, contact arises; with the base of contact, sensation arises; with the base of sensation, craving and aversion arise; with the base of craving and aversion, attachment arises; with the base of attachment, the process of becoming arises; with the base of the process of becoming, birth arises; with the base of birth, ageing and death arise, together with sorrow, lamentation, physical and mental sufferings and tribulations. Thus arises this entire mass of suffering”.

Ignorance of the reality of suffering, its cause, its end, and the path to its end, is the chief cause that sets the wheel of life in motion. When ignorance is destroyed and turned into knowledge, all causality is shattered.

The Buddha discovered that between the object and the reaction stands a missing link: sensation. We react not to the exterior reality but to the sensations within us. Whenever any of six sensory organs comes in contact with ‘their’ objects, we “cognize” them, then our ‘perception’ evaluates the object on the basis of stored information and passes a value judgment. Based on this value judgment, pleasant or unpleasant sensations arise in the body. If the sensations are pleasant, we crave for them; if they are unpleasant, we develop an aversion to them.

So, three kinds of reactions are generated: The first is like a line drawn in water, which is temporary. We read the newspapers or watch TV daily. Good news makes us happy, bad news depresses. Our reactions create imprints on our mind. The majority of these impressions disappear soon. The second reaction is like the lines drawn on sand, which are semi-permanent. They create imprints which last longer than those created by the first type of reaction and can be recollected with a little effort. The third reaction is like the lines drawn on a rock, which are enduring. Some important events, associated with strong emotions and chan-ges in our life, like our first love or the death of a near one, fall in this category. Recollected often and automatically, they evoke strong reactions. They leave a lasting impression on the conscious mind. If we attach importance only to thoughts that occur in the conscious mind, we become aware of this process only after the reaction has occurred and has gathered strength. However, by observing our sensations objectively, we can control these reactions.

Change occurs every moment within us, manifesting itself in the play of sensations. It is at this level that impermanence must be experienced. Observation of constantly changing sensations permits the realisation of one’s own ephemeral nature. We realise the futility of attachment to something that is so transitory. Thus the direct experience of impermanence gives rise to a certain detachment. In this way one gradually frees the mind of suffering.

Maya pits Periyar against BJP's Ram

- By Amita Verma

Lucknow, July 29: Periyar E.V. Ramaswami Naickar, a dalit leader from the south who attacked Lord Ram, considered the perfect God by hundreds of millions of Indians, is the Bahujan Samaj Party's flavour of the month for Uttar Pradesh, a flavour that may not exactly be palatable to the BJP.

Naickar, considered the father of the DMK movement in Tamil Nadu, is the author of the controversial Ramayana — A True Reading.

The BSP is planning a massive buildup for its newest dalit icon and installation of Periyar's statue in the multi-crore Ambedkar Udayan in the state capital is a part of the exercise.

The BJP, whose heart beats to the chant of "Jai Shri Ram" and for whom Lord Ram was a one-way ticket to power till not so long ago, has conveniently turned a Nelson's eye to this glorification of Periyar in Uttar Pradesh.

For the BJP leaders, remaining in power in UP appears to be more important now than preventing a deliberate attempt to lower the dignity and the godly aura of "Maryada Purshottam Ram" and stopping highly objectionable propaganda regarding the Ramayana and its characters.

Chief minister Mayawati said at a recent press conference that the BJP no longer had any objections to Periyar's statue being installed in the state. It may be recalled that in 1995 and 1997, the BJP's strong objections to Periyar's glorification had made the BSP drop its plans.

While the BJP leadership has chosen to feign ignorance about Periyar and works, its cadres have begun feeling the heat. Serving as a fuel to ignite the fires is a 64-page booklet containing translated excerpts of Periyar's Ramayana—A True Reading.

The booklet, titled Sachchi Ramayana, has been "presented" by S. Murthy in Hindi and published by Cultural Publishers, Lucknow. It is being sold on pavements outside the Bahujan Samaj Party headquarters for Rs 15 and has found its way into the neighbouring BJP headquarters. It is now the subject of heated discussion among party cadres.

Periyar's views that seek to break down the mythological character of Ram and other characters in the Ramayana may seem rational in South India but in the north, where Lord Ram is a revered figure, they are simply blasphemous.

Some of the deliberately provocative excerpts from Sachchi Ramayana include:

n "Ramayana is not a sacred book. The characters of Ram and Sita deserve to be denounced whereas Ravan's character is a model character."

"Ram was an ordinary man who had plunged himself into materialism. He was cunning, deceitful and selfish. He had cut off the ears, nose and breasts of many a women and had also killed several women." (Page 21 and 42)

"Sita was older to Ram and her birth was suspicious and objectionable." (Page 24)

When Ram was worried about Sita's disappearance in the forest, Lakshman told him: "Why do you worry so much about an ordinary woman."

"Sita scolded Lakshman when he refused to leave her and go to Ram's rescue. `You want that Ram should die so that you can have sexual relations with me,' she said."

[We have not repeated some of the more provocative comments in the book.]

The booklet, copies of which have been sold out within a week, is expectedly causing considerable turbulence within the UP BJP. The leaders shy away from commenting on Periyar's views and the BSP's effort to glorify the dalit icon. "The party high command is determined to keep the alliance going. We have to suffer this and keep quiet," said a senior party functionary.

The party workers however are not willing to take things lying down. "If the BSP is not stopped in its tracks on the Periyar issue, we will print posters of the excerpts from the book and distribute them all over UP so that the true face of our leaders can be exposed.

Our leaders have become so blind in their quest for power that they are ready to allow desecration of our gods. Leaders who allow this will not be allowed to enter Ayodhya," warned agitated party workers.

State BJP president Vinay Katiyar, a staunch "Rambhakt," was unavailable for comment but party vice-president and spokesman Hriday Narain Dixit said that though the BJP did not share Periyar's views on Lord Ram, the party stand on the issue was not yet clear.

"As far as installing Periyar's statue is concerned, there is nothing objectionable because so many statues are installed everywhere and India is a land of diverse cultures and opinions," he said.

Dr. Ambedkar : Economist

In his views on crucial issues pertaining to economic development, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar comes across as a radical economist who would have staunchly opposed the neoliberal reforms being carried out in India since the 1990s.


DR. BABASAHEB AMBEDKAR was among the most outstanding intellectuals of India in the 20th century in the best sense of the word. Paul Baran, an eminent Marxist economist, had made a distinction in one of his essays between an "intellect worker" and an intellectual. The former, according to him, is one who uses his intellect for making a living whereas the latter is one who uses it for critical analysis and social transformation. Dr. Ambedkar fits Baran's definition of an intellectual very well. Dr. Ambedkar is also an outstanding example of what Antonio Gramsci called an organic intellectual, that is, one who represents and articulates the interests of an entire social class.

While Dr. Ambedkar is justly famous for being the architect of India's Constitution and for being a doughty champion of the interests of the Scheduled Castes, his views on a number of crucial issues pertaining to economic development are not so well known. Dr. Ambedkar was a strong proponent of land reforms and of a prominent role for the state in economic development. He recognised the inequities in an unfettered capitalist economy. His views on these issues are found scattered in several writings; of these the most important ones are his essay, "Small Holdings in India and Their Remedies" and an article, "States and Minorities". In these writings, Dr. Ambedkar elaborates his views on land reforms and on the kind of economic order that is best suited to the needs of the people.

Dr. Ambedkar stresses the need for thoroughgoing land reforms, noting that smallness or largeness of an agricultural holding is not determined by its physical extent alone but by the intensity of cultivation as reflected in the amounts of productive investment made on the land and the amounts of all other inputs used, including labour. He also stresses the need for industrialisation so as to move surplus labour from agriculture to other productive occupations, accompanied by large capital investments in agriculture to raise yields. He sees an extremely important role for the state in such transformation of agriculture and advocates the nationalisation of land and the leasing out of land to groups of cultivators, who are to be encouraged to form cooperatives in order to promote agriculture.

Intervening in a discussion in the Bombay Legislative Council on October 10, 1927, Dr. Ambedkar argued that the solution to the agrarian question "lies not in increasing the size of farms, but in having intensive cultivation that is employing more capital and more labour on the farms such as we have." (These and all subsequent quotations are taken from the collection of Dr. Ambedkar's writings, published by the Government of Maharashtra in 1979). Further on, he says: "The better method is to introduce cooperative agriculture and to compel owners of small strips to join in cultivation."

During the process of framing the Constitution of the Republic of India, Dr. Ambedkar proposed to include certain provisions on fundamental rights, specifically a clause to the effect that the state shall provide protection against economic exploitation. Among other things, this clause proposed that:

* Key industries shall be owned and run by the state;

* Basic but non-key industries shall be owned by the state and run by the state or by corporations established by it;

* Agriculture shall be a state industry, and be organised by the state taking over all land and letting it out for cultivation in suitable standard sizes to residents of villages; these shall be cultivated as collective farms by groups of families.

As part of his proposals, Dr. Ambedkar provided detailed explanatory notes on the measures to protect the citizen against economic exploitation. He stated: "The main purpose behind the clause is to put an obligation on the state to plan the economic life of the people on lines which would lead to highest point of productivity without closing every avenue to private enterprise, and also provide for the equitable distribution of wealth. The plan set out in the clause proposes state ownership in agriculture with a collectivised method of cultivation and a modified form of state socialism in the field of industry. It places squarely on the shoulders of the state the obligation to supply the capital necessary for agriculture as well as for industry."

Dr. Ambedkar recognises the importance of insurance in providing the state with "the resources necessary for financing its economic planning, in the absence of which it would have to resort to borrowing from the money market at high rates of interest" and proposes the nationalisation of insurance. He categorically stated: "State socialism is essential for the rapid industrialisation 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 and which should be a warning to Indians."

ANTICIPATING criticism against his proposals that they went too far, Dr.. Ambedkar argues that political democracy implied that "the individual should not be required to relinquish any of his constitutional rights as a condition precedent to the receipt of a privilege" and that "the state shall not delegate powers to private persons to govern others". He points out that "the system of social economy based on private enterprise and pursuit of personal gain violates these requirements".

Responding to the libertarian argument that where the state refrains from intervention in private affairs - economic and social - the residue is liberty, Dr. Ambedkar says: "It is true that where the state refrains from intervention what remains is liberty. To whom and for whom is this liberty? Obviously this liberty is liberty to the landlords to increase rents, for capitalists to increase hours of work and reduce rate of wages." Further, he says: "In an economic system employing armies of workers, producing goods en masse at regular intervals, someone must make rules so that workers will work and the wheels of industry run on. If the state does not do it, the private employer will. In other words, what is called liberty from the control of the state is another name for the dictatorship of the private employer."

India's experience with neoliberal reforms since 1990 shows that Dr. Ambedkar's apprehensions regarding the implications of the unfettered operation of monopoly capital, both domestic and foreign, were far from misplaced. As has been documented and written about extensively, during this period of neoliberal reforms, there has been no breakthrough in the rate of economic growth. At the same time, there has been a distinct slowing down of the rate of growth of employment and practically no decline in the proportion of people below the poverty line. Agriculture has been in a crisis for some time now and the rate of growth of industry has also been declining for several years now. At the same time, despite a slower growth of foodgrains output, the government is saddled with huge excess stocks, which it seeks to sell abroad or to domestic private trade at very low prices.

The government and its economists, instead of recognising that the crisis is the product in large part of the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, propose a set of so- called second-generation reforms. At the centre of these reforms is the complete elimination of employment security. The war cry of the liberalisers is: "Away with all controls and the state, and let the market rule."

In this context, one cannot but recall Dr. Ambedkar's words that liberty from state control is another name for the dictatorship of the private employer. Whether on labour reforms or on agrarian policy or on the question of the insurance sector or the role of the public sector in the context of development, Dr. Ambedkar's views are in direct opposition to those of neoliberal policies.

It is indeed a pity that self-styled leaders of Dalit movements, who invoke Dr. Ambedkar's name day in and day out, do not examine carefully his views on key issues of economic policy and their contemporary relevance for the struggles of the oppressed. One may not expect much from those Dalit-based political forces which think nothing of cohabiting with the Sangh Parivar, but even many sections of the Dalit movement which proclaim a radical stance on social (and sometimes economic) issues do not raise the question of land or of the role of the state in the sharp manner in which Dr. Ambedkar does.

Dr. Venkatesh Athreya is Professor and Head of the Department of Economics, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi.

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Published on: August 01, 2002
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