Out of my mind: Secular, not socialist?

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February 22, 2015

NEW DELHI, INDIA: There was recently much fuss about an advertisement in which the Preamble of the Constitution was reproduced without the words “secular” and “socialist”. There is a febrile atmosphere in the country about secularism with some members of the Sangh Parivar misbehaving.

February 22, 2015

NEW DELHI, INDIA: There was recently much fuss about an advertisement in which the Preamble of the Constitution was reproduced without the words “secular” and “socialist”. There is a febrile atmosphere in the country about secularism with some members of the Sangh Parivar misbehaving.

No subsequent government has bothered to remove it; not even the BJP/NDA government of 1998-2004.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did well therefore, while celebrating the elevation to sainthood by the Pope of two Catholics, to reaffirm his and his government’s commitment to secularism. His eloquence was heartfelt as one could see. Of course, eternal vigilance will have to be exercised by all to guard that basic value. The Constitution affirms secularism regardless of the inclusion of that word in the Preamble.

After all, Jawaharlal Nehru never found it necessary to include it in the Preamble nor did the Constituent Assembly insist. It was during the particularly sordid episode of fascist dictatorship under Emergency that the words secular and socialist were added.

Secularism is clearly surplus to requirement but harmless whether in or out of the Preamble. But when did India officially become a socialist country ? One presumes it was during those months when the nation was not a democracy. The 42nd Amendment still remains on the books.

The Constituent Assembly discussed the issue of declaring India as a socialist country and rejected it. At the Awadi session of the Congress, the resolution adopted only spoke of a socialist pattern of society. Nehru, powerful as he was, knew that he did not have the support of his party to declare socialism as a goal. It was only after the Congress party was converted into a family firm that Indira Gandhi could impose her diktat without fear of a revolt.

How many of us are aware that the Election Commission requires every political party to affirm that it is socialist? Every political party! This is a totalitarian diktat.

Why can a party not be non-socialist? Does it not violate the fundamental right of free speech? Can one believe that there is no politically-minded group anywhere in India that has heard of the collapse of the Leninist socialist paradigm or of the horrible gulags in the USSR, labour camps in China and the genocidal policies of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, all in the name of socialism?

How well has India done by socialism? Look at Malaysia or South Korea, both poorer than India in1950 and even in 1960. They are much richer than India because they avoided socialism. Pakistan had as good a growth rate as India till 1997. India’s GDP growth rate picked up only when the Congress, under temporary non-dynastic leadership, launched market-friendly reforms. Even so, many PSUs continue to make losses. Given a monopoly status, some do make profit and are taken to be ratnas.

But no one asks whether the country could have done better by encouraging business from the very beginning rather than building up monopolies. It costs the Indian exchequer one-third of its total tax revenue to pay interest on the debt which was incurred in financing these white elephants. This means India spends 10 times as much on servicing debt as on health.

There is socialism for public sector employees, civil servants and MPs. Their health and housing and children’s education, often their travel and food, are all paid for by the taxpayer. They are the gilded 5 per cent. No wonder they love socialism. It is the rest of India which pays for this culture.

This Lutyens socialism is too deeply embedded for any government to challenge. It would require moving the national capital from Delhi and building a new capital where MPs can live in more affordable housing. That is a distant dream. The issue of the totalitarian requirement of declaring every party to be socialist is more urgent.

Even if there ever was a groundswell for socialism, there is no doubt that it has ebbed. The Congress has declined till it faces “an existential crisis”, as one of its senior members said. The Left parties are about to lose their national status. Stop the charade. Remove the socialism amendment.


Courtesy: Indian Express