On the 26th of January 1950 we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote anId one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principal of one vote one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy which this Constituent Assembly has so laboriously built up.”
These were the words of Dr Ambedkar as India adopted its Constitution. What would he have made of the state of India today?
Successive Indian governments have let down her people, both at the Centre and in the states. Poverty, ill health, lack of housing, schools, food, water and dignity remain the main reality for most Indians.
Civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations have tried their best, but a country must be run by a government, not by civil society groups. As the anniversary of the Constitution falls upon us yet again, and as we start the run up for the 2014 elections, what can we the people of India do? What must we do to save our democracy and to give people their due?
The State has become repressive. Two young girls are arrested for a Facebook remark when the subject of their remark got away with the most inflammatory speeches leading to the deaths of thousands and a divided Maharashtra.
A cartoonist, a professor and others who merely assert their rights of free speech find themselves in jail when ministers who are accused of looting thousands of crores from the people and the land find themselves with tickets for state elections. Industrialists who poison the land and our waters are given Life Time Achievement Awards by the same rogues who cheat the people. If this is not wake up time, there won’t be one. One huge step is being launched tomorrow at Jantar Mantar (where else!) by a large and varied group of organisations coming together for a people’s assembly. Many public hearings will be held over five days to inform Parliament about the pending legislations on basic issues.
“We believe Parliament must function and that there are too many important issues, including corruption that must be taken up on the floor of the house. We also want to take this opportunity to build a people’s Manifesto for the 2014 elections. We want to make it clear to parties that we will hold them accountable for not acting in this session and term of Parliament as well as ensure that people’s issues find prominent space in their manifestos for 2014” reads the invitation to the event.
The five days will concentrate on the following main topics : asserting democratic rights and building a people’s manifesto; governance issues- transparency, accountability, anti-corruption; state responsibility for social security and basic services; land, agriculture and natural resources and last but hardly the least, gender and discrimination. The attempt is to provide a framework that will allow both specific and general concerns to be tabled to build pressure to meet demands.
I am proud to be a part of this. Should you join in some way?
The writer is a noted danseuse and social activist.