Socialism Was Never a Part of Our Original Constitution

Aug 6, 2020

Since independence, India has always been a ‘socialist’ country by heart. It may be due to the socio-economic structure of our society or our traditions and culture as such.

During the constituent assembly debates on framing the Constitution in 1946, K.T. Shah proposed an amendment seeking to declare India as a “Secular, Federal, Socialist” nation.

Shree B. R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Constitution, was opposed to declaring India’s social and economic structure in the Constitution.

In his opposition to the amendment, Ambedkar stated, “My objections, stated briefly are two:

(1)  In the first place the Constitution is merely a mechanism for the purpose of regulating the work of the various organs of the State. It is not a mechanism where by particular members or particular parties are installed in the office. What should be the policy of the State, and how the Society should be organised on its social and economic side are matters, which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself, because that is destroying democracy altogether.

If you state in the Constitution that the social organisation of the State shall take a particular form, you are, in my judgment, taking away the liberty of the people to decide what should be the social organisation in which they wish to live. It is perfectly possible today, for the majority of people to hold that the socialist organisation of society is better than the capitalist organisation of society. But it would be perfectly possible for thinking people to devise some other form of social organisation which might be better than the socialist organisation of today or of tomorrow. I do not see therefore why the Constitution should tie down the people to live in a particular form and not leave it to the people themselves to decide it for themselves. This is one reason why the amendment should be opposed.”

(2)  Ambedkar’s second objection was that the amendment was “purely superfluous” and “unnecessary”, as “socialist principles are already embodied in our Constitution” through Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy. Referring to the Directive Principles, he asked Shah, “If these directive principles to which I have drawn attention are not socialistic in their direction and in their content, I fail to understand what more socialism can be”. Shah’s amendment failed to pass, and the Preamble remained unchanged until the 42nd Amendment.

Hence, “Socialism” did not feature in the original constitution of India.

However, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first leader of independent India, was an avowed socialist. He made no secret of the fact.

In the 1950s, India followed the socialist creed and the state seized control of steel, mining, machine tools, water, telecommunications, insurance, and electrical plants, among other industries. The Indian government had seized the commanding heights of the economy.

But it did not stop there. The Banks came next. In 1950, there were 430 commercial banks in India. In 1955, the Imperial Bank in India was nationalised and renamed the State Bank of India. In 1969, all commercial banks holding over were nationalised.

However, the major blow came when “socialism” was officially incorporated into our constitution. Some may argue, that it was due to the overt influence of the USSR, our closest ally at that time, on our politics and economics.

The 42nd Amendment changed the description of India from a “sovereign democratic republic” to a “sovereign, socialist secular democratic republic”, and also changed the words “unity of the nation” to “unity and integrity of the nation”.

The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India, officially known as The Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, was enacted during the Emergency (25 June 1975 – 21 March 1977) by the Indian National Congress government headed by Indira Gandhi. The 42nd Amendment is regarded as the most controversial constitutional amendment in history.

“Socialism” is a gift of the darkest phase of the Indian democracy- “EMERGENCY”.

Is it high time we re-evaluate its place as India dreams of becoming an economic superpower of the World?

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