November 30, 2015

 “Rights for citizens are only real, if they are accompanied by remedies” – Dr Ambedkar.

Constitution needs to be reviewed. Government needs to re-architected to serve people!

Thank you sir for letting me speak today to commemorate the 125th Birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar.

By naming 26th November Constitution day, the Government has rightfully put the spotlight on both the constitution of our country as well the architect of India as a nation built on a constitution of rights.

I think sir many of my colleagues with more knowledge and experience have no doubt enlightened us about constitution and history and one thing is irrefutable. Our constitution is one of the finest pieces of democratic guarantors that the world has seen and indeed unlike the US constitution, it is one where the entire debate that went into its creation is also documented. So that we not just a constitution, but also the constituent assembly debates that capture the rationale and reasoning behind every part of our constitution

So while we must be proud of our constitution and thankful to our founding fathers for it, it’s also important that we cherish its values and principles and live by it. And that we also review the impact of decades of sometimes politically motivated amendments of our constitution.

Sir, the debate on the constitution must move beyond the preamble. The constitution envisaged a nation that lived by the rule of law, justice for all, freedom of expression, equal rights and justice with no discrimination and property rights etc. But let’sfrankly admit that Governments and Parliament have let down the constitution and country repeatedly.  Take the rule of law for example – it’sinconsistently applied and seems to not apply to those who are powerful or rich or are politically connected. This repeated violation of rule of law destroys the core values of our constitutional democracy and often directly threatens the constitutional guarantee to life under article 21. Take issue of Justice - justice is often so delayed that justice is denied – threatening the whole idea of citizenship. Freedom of expression under Article 19 has been curtailed repeatedly starting from the emergency to recent UPAs IT act with its draconian sec66A which remained on the books despite widespread protests and misuse and was struck down only by the Supreme Court.Other challenges like Right to privacy as part of liberty and life Article 21 are also under challenge in the new digital age

Sir, I welcome Political parties joining in this debate even if it’s very ironical in many cases – even those Parties that have presided over the chopping and dicing of our constitutional rights through various amendments over the years. Even those politicalparties that have belatedly woken up to the mistake of ‘banning books” and deporting those with politically uncomfortable views. Parties that have abused constitutional authorities like CAG when corruption was exposed. Also those parties that have passed laws like the IT and used power of arrest to attack fundamental rights of expression and privacy.  Sir, I also welcome those Parties that have used violence repeatedly as a political tool for several decades. It’s good that all of them are today engaged in a reaffirmation of our constitutional values and indeed a debate on tolerance and equity. I welcome this sir. Even after 65 years Dr Ambedkar is uniting us around the constitution.

Sir, I welcome this debate –as an opportunity for the country to start a conversation about how our constitution and vision of founding fathers continues to be violated and vitiated in states, Institutions, and around the country. I think it’s necessary for us to do that instead of only basking in the great work done in past and selective narration of history. There is a lot that is wrong with our Institutions of Government and laws. As Dr Ambedkar himself said when asked about his statement about burning the constitution

“We built a temple for god to come in and reside and before the god could be installed, if the devil had taken possession of it, what else could we do? We didn’t intend that it should be occupied by asuras. We intended it to be occupied by Devas”

Sir, I end by saying this – the original constitution intended for citizens to have rights and follow a rule of law; and Parliament and Government to be agents for citizens. But somewhere in the last 70 years, Governments all over have become masters and citizens the slaves and rule of law ignored.

I hope that with increasing debate and scrutiny that we transform back to the original vision of Dr Ambedkar and founding fathers.As Dr Ambedkar himself said “Rights are only real if they are accompanied by remedies”. We are struggling to deal with base issues of poverty and justice even after almost 70 years of Independence. Our constitution and laws must ensure real remedies to ensure Development/Prosperity/Equity/Justice for all Indians which we should introspect if we are really doing this.Our debate must go into why it is so easy for political and Government institutions to violate the constitution and law with no consequences. That in itself is justification for us to review our constitution and introspect

I hope Parliament and people they represent can start this dialogue around this.I hope sir that we do more than make flowery speeches today and stay engaged on the need to transform our country, polity and economy into one leaves no one behind. This, Sir, is our profound responsibility.


Thank you Sir,
Jai Hind