Samvidhaan – Episode 8/10
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Samvidhaan – Episode 8/10


Except for the empires of Ashoka and Aurangzeb, India was never as large geographically as in the British Raj. There were nearly 552 princely states allied to the British. When the time came for freedom from the British empire, many of these States wanted to remain independent while the Muslim League wanted a separate region for Muslims. If this wasn’t possible, the League demanded that India be partitioned into a Hindu-majority and two Muslim majority regions, each loosely connected to the Centre. A strange map of India was emerging. Besides these two assemblies, what about our demand for a sovereign independent Pakistan? Janab Qaid-e-Azam, if we succeed in making these two groupings we can force the hands of Hindus and the British to concede an Independent Pakistan of our conception. How is that to be done? It’s simple. We will make the constitutions of our two groups, after which we will join the Union Constituent Assembly where we can create roadblocks on every important issue. If the Hindu majority does not compromise, we will withdraw from the Assembly, and refuse to honour its decisions. Since we will be in power in our groups, we can resist the rule of an unwanted Centre. But the Congress was against partition of any kind and unhappy with the idea of a loose confederation. The rights and powers of the various provinces and princely states, were also important matters. Was a centralized scheme possible in these circumstances? That was the unsolved puzzle. Maulana Saheb, is this a joke? We must reply to Jinnah that, his reference to the two Groups for Muslim provinces, is unacceptable to us. Because the only predominantly Muslim provinces are three – the North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluchistan. Assam has a Hindu majority and in Bengal and Punjab, Muslims have a wafer-thin majority. Jawahar, all these years we have envisaged a Federal Union of Autonomous units. And now, if we do not accept these groupings, Jinnah will again insist on Partition. Any sub-federation in the name of religion within the Union will only weaken the Centre. Let’s not take any hasty decision. I will call a meeting of the Congress Working Committee to discuss and sort out everything. Many voices in the Congress Committee condemned Jinnah’s plan for a weak Centre. This is D.R. Gadgil’s resolution: The Congress must make up its mind about how far it is prepared to go to conciliate the Muslim League and to achieve a Union and what it proposes to do in the event of a continuing deadlock. Despite its demand for a strong centre the Congress has agreed to a scheme that will have the world’s weakest government at the Centre. We have never been against giving rights to the provinces. Even our resolution of 26th June talks clearly about maximum provincial autonomy. But at the same time we will not tolerate any scheme that balkanises India. We cannot wish away the Cabinet Mission proposals. So how will we divide rights between the Centre and the provinces? According to the Cabinet Mission proposal there are 3 central subjects: and the power to raise finances for these and the industries connected with them will also come under the Centre. Similarly External Affairs inevitably includes foreign trade. But what about collecting taxes, Jawahar? Will the Centre do it or will the States do it and give a share to the Centre as proposed by Mr. Jinnah? Nonsense! Will the provinces give alms to the Centre? No government can exist on charity The Centre must raise its finances by taxation. Further powers are also needed for the Centre. What if there is trouble between the provinces or an economic breakdown due to famine? In such a situation, the Centre has to obviously interfere. We have to empower the Centre no matter what. The past few years have shown that without a central authority, conditions would have been far worse. The announcement by the British Parliament in February 1947 that India was to become independent, changed the situation overnight. The creation of Pakistan also seemed a possibility Pandit Nehru immediately wrote a letter to the Assembly, to brief them about the current situation. With Partition a settled fact, it would be dangerous to have a weak Centre. Such a Centre will neither be able to ensure peace, nor take important decisions for the entire nation. Nor will it effectively represent the nation in global affairs. On the other hand, there are matters in which authority must lie solely with the Provinces. Hence such a framework for our Constitution is necessary… that is a Federation with a strong Centre. To distribute power between the Centre and the Provinces, three exhaustive lists are necessary: the Federal, the Provincial and the Concurrent… The 3 lists drawn up then were as follows: The Centre’s list included Defence, the Armed forces, Foreign Relations and Foreign Trade, Post and Telegraph, Railways, Shipping, Air Services, Banking, Insurance, Petroleum, Central Taxes, Imports etc. along with Central Libraries, Museums, Benares Hindu University and Aligarh Muslim University and similar institutions making in all 74 items. The States list included Law and Order, Police, Jails, Health, Disposal of the dead, Farming, Irrigation and Water Supply, Fisheries, Land, Forests, Agricultural Inputs, and all the taxes incurred on these, like Toll, Local Government, Education etc., in all 57 items. The concurrent list included Crime & Punishment, Electricity, Marriage, Divorce, Inheritance, Newspapers, Books, Film Distribution, Motor Vehicles, Mental Asylums, Poison and Harmful Substances, Treatment of Animals, Census etc., in all 36 items, which also included Boilers. Both Union Cabinet Members and Provincial Chief Ministers were unhappy with these lists. I’m told that you are upset by the lists of Union, State and Concurrent subjects? I can talk about my portfolio. If Health is made a State subject then, how can we ensure a uniform level of medical facilities? But the requirements of every province is different. Some have a good number of hospitals and others have none. That is why Health must be a State subject. I know the ground reality is different in every State and Province. But we want every Indian to get the same healthcare facilities. And that is why if not the Central list, Health should be brought to the Concurrent list. But then it will remain neither here nor there. If Pantji had his way, there would be no Concurrent list at all But then why not put Health in the Central list? You have already included 87 things in the Central list. Take this as well. Jawaharlalji, unless you give more responsibility to the States, how will they learn to manage? Congress had always talked of decentralisation. Now when the time has come to act, why hesitate? Anyway I believe that a large country like India cannot be run from Delhi alone. Six days after Independence on 21st August, 1947 the Constituent Assembly, distributed and passed these three lists between the States and the Centre. And till date the three lists have remained almost intact. But the exact nature of relationship between Centre and State and how powerful the Centre should be, were issues Dr Ambedkar explored at depth. But other members had their own opinions. This rainbow-hued variety of opinions was a pleasure to watch in the Assembly. This Draft Constitution, by whatever name you call it, Federal or Unitary, Parliamentary or Presidential, has become more Unitary than Federal. By Unitary I mean we have surreptitiously given more power to the Centre than to the Provinces. And it gives nothing to the Provinces. This Constitution gives people no rights nothing to the family, nothing to the villages, nothing to the districts, and nothing to the provinces. Dr Ambedkar has kept everything for the Centre. I ask why do we want a strong Centre? Strong against whom? Against Pakistan, against Russia or against the people of India? This Constitution is neither Unitary nor Federal. Having borrowed from several different constitutions of the world it is a hotchpotch mixture of which my friend has been hard put to make a consistent whole. Provinces which complain about the Centre being too strong with certain powers taken away from them, have themselves taken away the powers of the local bodies. In the name of maladministration 50% of the local bodies have been superseded by Provincial Governments. Unless the Constitution directs Provincial Governments to make local bodies relevant, this document will not be worthy of a democracy. Look at the long Union list and the Concurrent list It clearly shows things the Central Government wants to keep and thus convert this Federal system into a Unitary one. There is a danger that such a government will stop being democratic and become totalitarian. The rural members were more concerned with practical problems of farming, food and famine. If you want planned development in India to include agriculture, it is essential that agriculture – its development and planning should find a place in the Union list, not the Provincial list. We need to remember that food security is a major problem in India. Sir, I am opposed to Federalism. Provincial autonomy has always led to the vivisection of the country. Federalism will lead to the establishment of innumerable Pakistans in this sub-continent. By adopting Federalism we will play into the hands of our enemies. A divided Germany, a vivisected Korea, pre-eminently fits into the political plans of international gangsters. The division of powers into Federal, Concurrent and Provincial is suicidal. Any such division will weaken the nation on all fronts. Dr Ambedkar said that our Constitution is both Federal and Unitary: Federal during peace time and Unitary during war. The distinction between peace and war is fictitious. Because we no longer live in an age of war or peace but in an age of cold war. To offset the onslaught of foreign powers this type of democracy will only obstruct us. At the end of 1948, when Pocker Sahib of Madras again raised doubts regarding the power of the Centre, Dr. Ambedkar decided he’d had enough. And it began to look that the Centre vs. States issue might become a Hindu-Muslim clash. After this the most hotly debated issue was whether the Centre has the right to dismiss State governments, and establish Central Rule. And what provisions were necessary for such an eventuality? This issue has remained problematic even to this day. Dr. Ambedkar’s views were very clear, but socialist member H V Kamath still had to have his say. I foresee that in the future on the pretext of averting or quelling internal disturbance Union Government will destroy provincial autonomy and finish local independence. Firstly the President is empowered to act not merely if he gets a report from the Governor but also otherwise, if he feels so, take steps against State governments. What that ‘otherwise’ is, God only knows. Haven’t we already decided that the Governor shall be the nominee of the President. If that be so, cannot the President have confidence on his own nominees? If he cannot have trust and confidence in his own people let us wind up our government and go home. Let us dissolve this Assembly and leave. No. I shall not be a party to this transaction. This is a foul transaction. I shall pray to God that He may grant wisdom to this House to see the folly, the stupidity and to understand the criminal nature of this transaction. It will be a constitutional crime to empower the President to interfere in every matter. To interfere not merely on the report of the Governor but otherwise as well. ‘Otherwise’ is a mischievous word in this context. I would like a clarification on one point. If the Governor of a province is forcibly arrested, how will he report to the President? A Governor cannot be arrested. Arrested is the wrong word. If he is kidnapped, then what? How will the President get his report. If that happens, then we have Article 257, under which even without the report of the Governor, the Centre can issue a proclamation. This means that the President, without the report of the governor, can take over the reigns of the State. K Santhanam set out circumstances which could lead to President’s rule. Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed, calling the Drafting Committee, a drifting committee, questioned its work and its very existence. When on the first day the session concluded Naziruddin Saheb continued his lament well into the next day. Freedom brings various problems and difficulties which the Nation has to face. Anti-social elements are very active in Bengal today. The same thing is happening in Madras and Hyderabad. The question arises as to who is to intervene. We must trust the Authority on the spot. We have provided a Governor for each Province, who will receive a high salary and all material comforts, and a supreme status in the constitutional structure of the States. But, if in practice we make him only a nominal figurehead, and do not vest in him emergency powers, it is a complete waste. If this be so then we must change the nomenclature of this position and instead of ‘Governer’ we should call him GOBAR-NAR (a cowdung-dummy). About the relationship between Centre and State, all thoughts, worries, dangers and responsibilities had been deliberated by the Constituent Assembly. Finally all suggestion, doubts and questions were answered by Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar The Gandhians were imagining a different India and one of Mahatma Gandhi’s supporter, Shriman Narayan Agrawal in 1945 in consultation with Gandhiji himself had even prepared a Gandhian Constitution. The first thing to remember when making a constitution is: what affects everyone must be decided by all. Which way then would democracy go Bapu? There, where there is non-violence and decentralisation. My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. And that can never happen through violence. And so you believe that the future Constitution of India should be based on well-knit and well-co-ordinated village communities with their positive and direct democracy, non-violent cottage economy and human contacts. Village republics will be the basic units of Swaraj enjoying maximum social, economic and political autonomy. The villages would be properly co-ordinated to the Taluka, the District, the Province and the all-India centre through the Taluka and District Panchayats, Provincial Assemblies and Federal Parliament. The right coordination has to be created. The functions of the Parliament shall be very limited in accordance with the basic principle of maximum local and provincial autonomy. You are right, Bapu. The Centre’s functions should be Defence, Economic Development, Co-ordination, Transport, Communications, Currency, Customs, International Trade and Key Industries. Perhaps the Centre can maintain a few educational institutions of national importance, advise the provinces regarding educational standards, shaping the foreign policy. The residual powers should vest in the federating units. Remember, that State is best which governs the least. Shriman Narayan’s booklet: “A Constitution for Free India”, had a foreword by Gandhiji who said: “Although I may not agree with every single word, Principal Shriman Narayan has done what I was unable to do.” The Gandhians in the Assembly wanted to make this the basis of the Indian Constitution. We have seven lakh villages in our country. Thanks to Mahatma Gandhi, our freedom struggle reached the villages and it was due to the villages’ might that India became free. But in our Constitution is there any mention of villages? No. Nowhere. The Constitution instead of being made from inside and below, is being imposed from above and outside. The India Republic should have been a Union of a number of small Autonomous Republics, joined together to form the bigger Indian Republic. That would have negated the question of linguistic provinces, communal majorities and minorities, and of backward classes. Sethji has said this Constitution gives no voice to the villages. Mahatma Gandhi’s own Constitution was based on Village Republics or Village Panchayats whose outline was given by Shriman Narayan Agrawal and I think we shall have to discuss this carefully. But Dr Ambedkar, perhaps due to his own bitter experiences, was dismissive of both villages and village panchayats. As always Maulana Hasrat Mohani managed to bring Soviet Russia into it. If I may say so, I had approached Mahatma Gandhi and he accepted two principles of the Soviet Constitution. One was, “No work, no vote”. The second was that our basic unit must be a village Soviet. And he added that the Constitution of the Soviets was similar to the Constitution of the Congress Working Committee If we give up this idea of village panchayats and accept the village Soviet as our basic unit, all these absurdities which exist in the Constitution by way of provision for minorities, etc., will disappear. And so village councils were included in our Constitution, by Dr. Ambedkar. In truth, it was not a question of village vs. town or even between the perspectives of Ambedkar and Gandhi. The difference of opinion was of the same kind as during the review of Article 1, where there was a dispute on the name of our country where some wanted to keep it as Bharat while others as India. In the end a compromise was reached and Hindustan became “India that is Bharat”.

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