Soothsayers of the Indian Constitution – Part I

by admin Jan 25, 2010 Add comment

Filed under: Knowledge

Tomorrow is the Republic Day of India, the day (26th Jan, 1950) when the Constitution of India was adopted and India became a Republic. Recently, I have been going over the Constitution of India and the debates that took place in the Constituent Assembly, to learn more about our Constitution and the story behind it.

Among the many debates and speeches of the Constituent Assembly, there exists tremendous amounts of information in which lay the story behind our Constitution. But, what caught my attention, were the predictions of the future made by some of the members.

Here are a few such predictions from the speeches made by Mahavir Tyagi–an independence fighter and famous parliamentarian from Uttar Pradesh, and Frank Anthony–a prominent leader of the Anglo-Indian community in India. By 25th Nov, 1949, when these speeches were made, the draft constitution was pretty much finalized and so these speeches had no value other than for being on the record.

Nature of the Constitution:

Frank Anthony: It has been said that this Constitution has received a mixed reception. It is inevitable that its reception should have been mixed because, inevitably, it is a mixed constitution. It is composite in character.

Professional Politicians:

Mahavir Tyagi: Although I have every respect and praise for this Constitution, yet there is one thing which I am most afraid of, and it is that this Constitution is tendenalous to create a class – a class that democracy has created everywhere – of professional politicians.’ All democracies are run by professional politicians’ and I am afraid that is the main cause of their failures, because such people begin to live on democracies. It becomes with them a profession, the Statecraft’, becomes their only source of living. That is the bane of democracy and I want to make the future generations aware of this. It creates professional politicians’ – those whose earning depend on politics, with the result that they cut themselves adrift from all creative professions. If this democracy is also to be run by such persons who will have nothing else to fall back upon, and who live on Ministries or on the memberships of the Parliament, then this democracy is doomed, I am sure.

On Education Being Left to the States

Frank Anthony: My own conviction is that a few years will be sufficient to make the leaders of the country realise the great blunder that we have committed in allowing education to remain entirely in the provincial sphere. You will see balkanisation of the country will take place so quickly, because through this powerful lever which you have left in the hands of the provinces they will split this country up into linguistic enclaves, seal one from the other, so that the idea of a common nationality will recede more and more into the background. I feel very strongly about this. I do not know how the damage that is going to be done can be undone, unless some radical steps are taken in the not distant future.

Political Professionals

Mahavir Tyagi: Such is the danger. I therefore want the coming generations not to play into the hands of persons who are professional politicians’. This Constitution should rather be run by political professionals’ – persons who have their own professions to live upon, but who come here to run the State voluntarily or on small pays because along with their own personal professions they had an interest in politics and had a will to serve the country. This is how I would like this picture to work.

Police:

Frank Anthony: But, let us be honest. What kind of reputation or lack of reputation do the police administrations in many of the provinces enjoy? What does the man in the street think of the police regimes in many of the provinces? I know what he thinks you know what he thinks. The police have fallen into disrepute in many of the provinces. They are not regarded as guardians of law and order but as agencies of corruption and oppression.

On Nation Building:

Frank Anthony: While the Prime Minister keeps on asking us to let first things come first, we have fallen into the unfortunate habit of making last things come first. What should be the first priority in any administration? What are the most urgent nation-building activities on which we should concentrate? Surely, health and education. But, today, ask your average provincial Government what it is doing in these matters. It pleads poverty on the one hand in the matter of the most urgent nation-building subjects which should have received top priority, and on the other hand chases these idealistic chimeras. We are throwing away crores and crores of Rupees.

State of the Villager

Mahavir Tyagi: But the picture from the villagers’ point of view is dull and dead. I cannot give argument to convince the villager that from 26th January 1950 his lot will be better. Nor is there anything tangible through which he can better understand this Constitution; because we give the villager nothing but the vote, which we will take from him after two years. That is the only thing we give him. So, I submit that it is only when those who till the soil are enabled to run this Constitution that they would appreciate it to be their charter of rights and freedom. Otherwise the Constitution is dull.

A Leader Must Emerge

Mahavir Tyagi: There must be a leader. I hope our Indian earth is not so sterile that it will not give birth to a leader who will whisper life into this mould of the Constitution so that it could speak. It would speak if only we had the courage of our conviction, and I tell you that the chanting of a Maha Mantr is necessary, and I am sorry that there is no one in India today who can whisper that Maha Mantr which could make the whole of our Nation dance about this little book.

A Message to Future Generations

Mahavir Tyagi: And may I hint what it is? I know at this stage the House cannot accept anything, but future generations may. Only one thing will make this Constitution attractive. If the whole of this Constitution were provided with one supreme provision or safeguard, then I think the whole thing will be all right. It is this : if we could add a proviso to it as follows :

“Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, no citizen of India shall draw for his personal use either from the public exchequer or from private enterprise a pay, profit or allowance which exceeds the earnings of an average wage earner.”

If that were there the whole of India will at once come round this Constitution. So long as this is not there, India will not appreciate it because this Constitution will only safeguard the bread of those whose hands are full of bread and not of those whose hands are empty.

The complete speeches by Mahavir Tyagi & Frank Anthony can be found in the Constituent Assembly Proceedings of 25th Nov, 1949

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