Socialism, secularism and the present day society
REPUBLIC DAY THOUGHTS
We are celebrating the 68th Republic Day today (Thursday). On this occasion, we need to ponder once again to what extent we have stood honest to the basic principles of Indian Constitution that are socialism and secularism. Socialism is not a western or communist concept that was borrowed from the outer world and adopted. Socialism is the concept of a welfare state or the so-called Ram Rajya which has been lauded as the standard form of governance in India for ages. It is a welfare state where every citizen has got equal rights on the resources of the country and a welfare state where it would be the responsibility of the rich to see that their riches don’t go up but trickle down to the poor masses.
But this concept of welfare state seems to be an uncherished dream in the present scenario where right from the common man to the highest administration in the country doesn’t feel the slightest shame in flaunting and wasting the resources and wealth. When Mahatma Gandhi decided to cover his body only with a loin cloth it was not because he had some political motive but because he empathized with the 70 per cent of the people in India, who had nothing but a single piece of cloth to cover themselves with. That was socialism.
When Puchalapalli Sundarayya decided not to have kids of his own and lead an austere life that was because he couldn’t see himself leading a wealthy and secured life when millions around him were reeling under poverty. That was socialism. When Lal Bahadur Shastri denied his children a vehicle to school and asked them to go by cycle that was because he wanted his children to feel one with the poor masses who couldn’t even afford two square meals a day. That was socialism.
Today, we have socialism only in our Constitution but the spirit of socialism is missing from the hearts of people as well as the governments. Despite India’s rapid economic growth and its prosperity, the country still remains home to 25 per cent of world’s hungry poor. High inflation rates and rising food prices deprive these people of two square meals a day and yet according to a government estimate, we waste 15 per cent of food grains at weddings and similar social gatherings. Twenty crore Indians go to sleep on hungry stomach everyday and a rich man doesn’t hesitate to host a dinner with 250 items, most of which are dumped into dustbin later.
The extravagant wedding of the daughter of former minister Gali Janardhan Reddy who is said to have spent Rs 500 crores or Mukesh Ambani’s Rs 4,000-crore dream home illustrate the rich-poor gap in our country. At the same time, global poverty is a symptom of global wealth. The riches of the few, no matter how hard they have worked, haven’t simply appeared from nowhere. Profits are created at the base of the global labor pyramid and the only reason such opulent life styles are available to anyone is because the majority are paid a pittance for their hard work.
Forget about the rich people, even the government which holds the responsibility to work towards a welfare state and is obligated by the Constitution to strive for a socialist society, splurges public money blindly in the name of ceremonies and advertizing. A lot of tax payer’s money is used to publicize governments’ achievements and schemes. As per the available data with the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Central government has spent more than Rs 6,000 crores on all kinds of publicity in 11 years from 2004 to 2015 and Rs 2,000 crores in the last two years alone.
For Pongal celebrations, the AP government announced Rs 1 crore for each district in the last two years. Clearly we have other priorities than celebrating Pongal. It is said that more than Rs 4000 crores were spent on a single day during the foundation stone laying ceremony of new AP capital Amaravati. The neighbouring Telangana State has declared 231 out of 443 mandals as drought hit and sought Central assistance of Rs 2,541 crores while there was no funds crunch to build a brand new office-cum-residence for Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao at a cost of Rs 36 crores. Such examples are galore.
Austerity is the word of bygone days. What kind of signals would government be sending to the poor masses by such show off and waste of public money. The Constitution of India clearly states under Directive Principles of State Policy under Article 39 that the state shall direct its policy towards securing that the citizens have the right to an adequate means of livelihood, that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to sub-serve the common good, that the operation of the economic system does not result in concentration of wealth.
But contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, in India top 10 per cent of the people own 65.9 per cent of country’s wealth and government has failed in making that wealth trickle down to the poor masses. In any community, a wide disparity in standards of living leads to discontent and poverty leads to crime. In a democratic society, the government has an obligation to tax the rich in order to keep community safe and to give everyone education and an opportunity to prosper. Every country and every society has its own priorities which vary from time to time. Clearly, the priorities of our country now are education, basic health and infrastructure.
Indian Constitution directs the government to keep religion divorced from governance. The Constitution provides equal status to all Indians while also restricting the government from giving benefits to one faith at the cost of others. On January 2, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that seeking votes in the name of religion during polls is illegal. The court observed that the essence and ethos of our constitutional system is secularism and said that the religion and politics should not be mixed. The Supreme Court also said that the relation between man and god is an individual choice and that the state should refrain from interfering from such activities.
But still we have seen that tradition and culture has compelled the state to steer from equal distance from all religions to equal respect for all religions, but still preferences are changed according to time and situations. Government financially supports, regulates and administers the Wakf Board, Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries and certain religious institutions. Even though some sections of society raise a hue and cry that Madarasas are inculcating radical Islamic feelings in youth, the government doesn’t shy away from spending billions of rupees on the maintenance of these Madarasas all over the country, all in the name of welfare and development of minorities and development of human resources. Clearly, minorities have got all kinds of reservations to enter into any secular government institutions and get free education. If the minorities prefer religious education, those expenses should be left to be taken care of by those religious institutions.
Every single pie that comes out of public exchequer should be accounted for and government should become the means of social, economical and political justice. The religion of the government should be the welfare of the masses.
(The author is Junior Lecturer in Zoology, Government Junior College, Kovvur, West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh)