India a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic?
During our school days, all of us have learnt (or mugged up) that India is a a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic . This is what the preamble of our constitution states. If we dig deeper and analyse with facts, it becomes clear that the above statement is far from truth.
Before that, it must be mentioned that the words ‘Secular’ and ‘Socialist’ were not there in the preamble that was framed by the Constituent Assembly headed by Dr B. R. Ambedkar. These two words were added to the Constitution by the Indira Gandhi headed Congress as part of the 42nd Amendment Act during the Emergency in 1976.
After India’s independence in 1947, the Indian government under Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi oversaw land reform and nationalization of major industries and the banking sector. All these measures resulted in India growing at a snail’s pace compared to neighboring countries like Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan. License Raj was rampant. This left the general public disillusioned, especially after the global recession of the late 1970s. Although there were some reforms initiated by the Rajiv Gandhi government in reducing the license raj, it was pretty much insignificant.
The game changing reforms happened during the tenure of PV Narasimha Rao in 1991, with Dr Manmohan Singh as his Finance Minister. A Balance of payment crisis pushed the country to near bankruptcy. In return for an IMF bailout, gold was transferred to London as collateral, the rupee devalued and economic reforms were forced upon India. Controls started to be dismantled, the tariffs, duties and taxes lowered, state monopolies were broken and the economy was open to trade and investment, private sector enterprises were encouraged and globalization was slowly embraced.
The NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee continued with these reforms by privatizing under-performing government owned businesses like VSNL, Maruti Suzuki. The following UPA government initiated the introduction of 51% FDI in the retail sector, but had to withdraw due to pressure from it’s allies and the opposition. The NDA-2 government under Narendra Modi has opened up 15 sectors to FDI and also gone about with the part disinvestment of companies like SAIL and Coal India. It has also brought about reforms in the coal industry by ending the central government’s monopoly over mining of coal.
The above summary clearly suggests that India is not really a socialist country and in the last 25 years, it has leaned more towards capitalism. So we can strike out socialist from Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic.
The word ‘Secularism’ essentially means that laws in the country would be framed independent of religion or in other words, separation of religion and state. Now, is this being followed in real? Certainly not. There are numerous instances of laws being made keeping religion in mind and I have listed some of them. The existence of various Personal laws like Indian Muslim Personal law (which has elements of Sharia in it), Hindu Personal law and Christian Personal law go against the very concept of secularism.
The Shah Bano case, where Rajiv Gandhi led Congress brought out a legislation to deprive Muslim women of alimony and thereby neutralizing the Court’s verdict is a classic case of vote bank politics and this is not secularism by any stretch of imagination. There are subsidies offered to Muslims for going to Haj, but no such subsidy if a Hindu wants to go to Amarnath yatra. Hindu temples are controlled by the government, but churches and mosques do not come under the purview of the government.
All these examples clearly suggest that the political parties in India, specially the Congress, have thrown secularism to the dustbin and have adopted the concept of pseudo secularism, which in other words means minority appeasement. The current Home Minister Rajnath Singh very rightly said that secularism is the most abused words in India. So let us take out Secular from Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic.
Unless a Uniform Civil Code is brought in place and some of these discriminatory laws are done away with, India can never claim to be a secular country.
A republic is a country where the head of the state (the President in our case) is elected to a term of office and not appointed to life based on birthright. A democracy is a political system where power rests with the people. People vote for leaders, who in turn are responsible for framing of policies.
In India, we have two houses viz Lok Sabha or lower house, whose members directly get elected by the people and Rajya Sabha or upper house, whose members get elected by members of the Legislative Assembly of individual states. The institution of Rajya Sabha was created to ensure that states get enough representation and also to act as elders and make valuable suggestions to members of the Lok Sabha. In the recent years, we have witnessed many legislations getting stuck in the upper house due to petty politics. In other words, the members who are directly elected by the people are unable to pass a single bill in the parliament.
This has led to a lot of people (including me) questioning the relevance of the Rajya Sabha today. In the Lok Sabha, we have members belonging to various state specific parties like TMC, AIADMK, BJD and SP. So the states do get enough representation in the Lok Sabha. Also, the members of the Rajya Sabha certainly do not act like ‘elders’. The behavior of some of the members like rushing to the well of the house needlessly and raising slogans is absolutely disgusting, to put it mildly. A lot of the members of the upper house are the ones who fund political parties and in addition, we have people like Sachin Tendulkar and Rekha, people who have excelled in their respective fields but have not an iota of clue on important legislations like GST.
If India has to become a democracy in the real sense, the Rajya Sabha must be abolished or must be reformed to limit its powers (looking at the current state of things, this seems next to impossible).
To conclude, the Constitution of India was written sixty five years ago and a large part of it is not relevant to today’s times. The constitution requires big time reforms for India to be a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic in the real sense and not just on paper.