Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Social Awareness Forum Phagwara

I wrote about the Social Awareness Forum in my blog: diplomatictitbits before also. It is an organization of educated, mostly dalits, experienced and well placed people in and around Phagwara, an industrial town in Punjab. The members of the Forum are retired professionals and serving officers in government and public sector undertakings. Some of them belong to business circles in the private sector also. The Social Awareness Forum is as such a well knit organization of awakened volunteers dedicated to the cause of the community and the society at large.

The Forum invited me again this year to speak at their Annual General meeting on April 26 on the theme “Life & Mission of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar”. It was a pleasure to speak at the well organized event and to the well meaning and educated audience. Taking the sense of the audience, I spoke to them not as a speaker from the podium but as one of them and interacted with them in an informal way. I think they appreciated it. I underlined the fact that Babasaheb Ambedkar is as relevant today as he was before and will remain so in the years to come. We must learn from the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar and to gear up ourselves to transform the political democracy of India into a social and economic democracy. The weaker sections of the society particularly the dalits should protect themselves from getting divided, as the vested interests wanted, and stay united. Babasaheb wished to make the dalits and weaker sections of the society to be the rulers of the country. We should ponder over this and act as to how it could be done. I benefited considerably from my interaction at the Forum.

The other highlight of the event was an excellent dinner hosted by Shri Darshan Singh Lehal, Senior Vice President of the Social Awareness Forum.  I take this opportunity to thank Shri B.S. Bagla, President and my friends Dr. Balkar Ram and Shri Jagdish Virdi and the members of the Social Awareness Forum for inviting to the meeting. I wish them further success in the years to come.

Monday, April 14, 2014


India is witnessing the dance of democracy in the run up to the parliamentary elections. It is just a co-incident that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary (April 14) falls in the months of parliamentary elections (April –May) for the last so many years. Every time one thinks or writes about the functioning of parliamentary democracy in India, it is natural to remember Dr. Ambedkar.  During the debates of the Constituent Assembly and subsequently in his wide spread interaction with the intelligensia and the public, Dr. Ambedkar spoke about the future of parliamentary democracy in India. It is gratifying to note that the views of Dr. Ambedkar on the subject are as relevant today as these were then.  If the political parties, the politicians and the common voters during the elections, the festival of democracy, take note and consider the views and advice of the father of the Indian constitution seriously, the outcome and the resultant product in the form of a good parliament and also government will of course be befitting to the needs of the country. It will be a correct and wholesome tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar.

“A democratic form of government presupposes democratic form of society”, said Dr. Ambedkar. It is a matter of regret and concern that the Indian society at large is still dogmatic and stratified on the basis of caste and religion. Criminalisation of politics in India is yet another bane of parliamentary democracy. Dr. Ambedkar’s views on the qualifications of the MPs stipulate that ‘Education can hardly be the sole qualification for membership of parliament. If I may use the words of Buddha, he said that man requires two things. One is ‘Gyan’ and the other is ‘Sheel’. Gyan without Sheel is very dangerous. It must be accompanied by Sheel by which we mean character, moral courage, ability to be independent of any kind of temptations, truthful to ones ideals. I am very keen to see that no member enters this august assembly who does not possess ‘Sheel’ in adequate degree’.  Dr. Ambedkar was against the use of money power and funds raised from unscrupulous sources. While speaking to the students of DAV College in Jalandhar on the future of parliamentary democracy in 1951, Babasaheb Ambedkar referring to the problem said,

 “I would like to refer to the Mahabharat. During the battle between the Pandvas and the Kaurvas, Bhishma and Drona were on the side of the Kaurvas. The Pandvas were in the right and the Kaurvas were in the wrong. Bhishma admitted this. When somebody asked Bhishma as to why he was supporting the Kaurvas if he found the Pandvas to be in the right. Bhishma replied in the memorable sentence. I must be loyal to the salt if I eat the food of the Kaurvas. I must take their side even if they might be in the wrong”.  

Dr. Ambedkar said a lot more on the subject. If we Indians take note of only a few of these views, things will change for the better. As a tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar on his birth anniversary, I endorse Arundhati Roy, “We need Ambedkar – now urgently”.

हज़ारों साल नर्गिस अपनी बेनूरी पे रोती है;

बड़ी मुश्किल से होता है चमन में दीदावर पैदा  !

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Bane of Indian Democracy

India is the largest democracy of the world with 814 million voters. The dance of Indian democracy in the run up to the parliamentary elections is already in progress. The results of this biggest democratic exercise will be out on May 16, 2014. The new government will come in the following weeks accordingly. On one hand it is a matter of gratification to note that the constitutional machinery in this regard is fully engaged and functional. It seems, as usual, the election process will be completed successfully. It would yet be another milestone in the constitutional and democratic journey of India. But the concerns remain which need to be addressed in the years to come, if the Indian democracy is to become dynamic and real.

There are two points, inter alia, which require attention. These are the bane of Indian democracy, prima facie. One is the lack of moral edifice in politics of the country. Our forefathers, particularly father of the Indian constitution Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, specifically underlined the importance and need of morality in politics and functioning of parliamentary democracy. Unfortunately, this important ingredient i.e. morality is increasingly disappearing from Indian politics and its practitioners. It shall be a matter of concern and worry. The lack of morality leads to corruption and corrupt thinking. It gives way to use of muscle power and money power in elections. All this undermines the usefulness and efficacy of democracy. The second point which is the bane of Indian democracy is that the political forces in the country could not be polarized on the basis of ideology and programme. The divisive elements of caste and regionalism are gaining strength. The politicians with the Congress over night shift to BJP without a second thought. They are also welcomed by BJP unconditionally. BJP stalwarts have no hesitation in joining the Congress on the pretext of personal interests. The parties like SP, BSP, JD, RJD, TMC, NCP etc. have no different agenda and programme than that of the Congress and the BJP. They function on the basis of ‘vote banks’. The regional parties like DMK, AIDMK, Akali Dal, BJD, Shiv Sena etc. have their limited agenda. Sometimes it goes with the national interests and more often not.

No doubt Indian parliamentary democracy has come a long way but it is yet to reach in spite of the fact that it is the largest human celebration of the world at large.

जरा सी नम हो तो यह मिट्टी बड़ी ज़रखेज़ है साकी !