26th January is being celebrated as Republic Day in India, since on 26th January, 1950 India was proclaimed a Republic and our Constitution was promulgated.
However, the truth is that over the last 73 years our Constitution has been torn to shreds, and exists today as a scarecrow, hollow and an empty shell. Consider the facts.
Part 3 of our Constitution guaranteed certain Fundamental Rights to the people ( on the model of the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution ) e.g. freedom of speech, personal liberty, equality, freedom of religion, etc. But what is the reality today in India ?
Article 19(1)(a) ‘guarantees’ freedom of speech, and Article 21 ”guarantees’ personal liberty. But today those who criticise the government are often jailed on charges of sedition or under the draconian preventive detention law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, e.g. Umar Khalid, Dr Khalil Khan, Safoora Zargar, the Bhima Koregaon case accused,and scores of others..
Articles 14-18 ‘guarantee’ equality. But it is reported that 7 big businessmen own as much wealth as the bottom half of our 1400 million people, who are abysmally poor, and 2 billionaires dominate our economy. So where is equality ?
Article 25 ‘guarantees’ freedom of religion. But lynching and other atrocities and discrimination against Muslims are a regular feature in India today, churches of Christians in Delhi were vandalised, and they have been persecuted in Odisha and other places. Religious polarisation of our society, ably assisted by our loyal ‘godi’ media, has reached record levels.
Part 4 of our Constitution lays down the Directive Principles of State Policy, and we may also consider them.
- Article 39(f) directs the state to ensure that children develop in a healthy manner, and Article 47 directs it to raise the level of nutrition. And yet over 75 years after Independence in 1947, 47 per cent of Indian children are malnourished. We have the distinction of having over one-third of the world’s malnourished children. In this respect, we are worse than sub-Saharan countries like Somalia. Global Hunger Index recently reported that India has slipped from position number 101 to 107 in hunger out of 121 countries surveyed, and is behind neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh
Article 39A states that the state shall ensure that the legal system promotes justice. But with over 50 million pending cases and cases often taking decades to decide ( 170,000 pending for over 30 years ) where is justice?
Article 41 states “The state shall make effective provision for securing the right to work and education, and public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age and sickness ”.
This provision is a joke, and a cruel mockery for our tens of millions of unemployed youth, old people and the sick.
We have some very good educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology, and some state of the art hospitals, but they are available only to a handful of people. No one cares for the rest.
Article 43 states that the state shall endeavour to secure a living wage to workers, industrial or agricultural. But with the massive level of unemployment in India, and the contract system largely replacing security in employment, a worker dare not ask a wage higher than whatever pittance he gets, lest he lose his job. And as for agriculture, this provision is a cruel joke on the over 300,000 farmers who committed suicide in India.
Article 48A directs the state to protect and improve the environment, but the pollution levels in most Indian cities (even the capital Delhi) have reached record heights, and our rivers are badly polluted.
So what is there to celebrate about ?