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The Saffron Book

The Indian Constitution should provide for minimal government in order to suit the Indian ethos which is inspired by liberty as distinct from equality.

9. The Constitution

Dear Reddy
As you have probably heard, Calcutta was once a centre of hosiery manufacture. I knew of a successful manufacturer, Lakshmi Narain who trade all kinds of sweat absorbing underwear. He also started making socks as more and more people took to wearing full, as distinct from half, shoes in Calcutta. While dhoti was the popular apparel, shoes were worn only by the executive class. In the days of the raj, the British brought their socks from home. As trousers began to replace the dhoti, shoes came into vogue. As years went by, it was suggested to Narain that hosiery gloves will also be fashionable. As with socks, so with gloves. He made one uniform shape. Soon after the sales began, the goods started coming back. The customer complaint was that both the gloves had been woven for the right hand.

What Lakshmi Narain did to the gloves, Jawaharlal Nehru did to the Constitution. Both overlooked a similar factor, albeit with the best of intentions. No one in the Constituent Assembly pointed out the oversight just as not a single person in Narain's factory could observe the mistake. Constitution making was a western tradition and therefore the document was drafted on the implicit assumption of the Euro-American psyche. The Christian ethos has been preocuppied with equality: God made men equal but society makes them unequal.Constitution makers, therefore, tried to achieve equality. The Christian priority was carried forward by Islam until Marxism hit the climax in the appeal for equality.

On the other hand, the Indian psyche evolved on the assumption that karma is the cause and bhagya is the effect in the life of every individual. There could not be a ceiling on karma or good deeds. Inevitably, therefore, there could not be any limit to how much good destiny or good fortune an individual might enjoy. In other words, liberty to do good or bad was the mainspring. Although liberty and equality have been made to sound similar due to both being parts of the French revolutionary battlecry, they actually stand at oppositeends. If liberty is to get free play, it would be difficult to introduce equality. On the other hand, if equality is the desired direction, there has to be a curb on liberty.

In the first place therefore, the Indian Constitution is made to fit a western scheme for an eastern people. Another mistake was that its foundation or skeleton was designed for administering a colony whereas the new document was meant to galvanise a free people to develop. The Government of India Act of 1935, around which our Constitution is structured, was passed by the British parliament in order to better administer the Indian colony. At the same time, the Act offered a sop to the agitating Indian leaders that they would have some say in the governance of their country. What must be remembered is that the purpose of an imperial power is to keep peace and to cream off the economic surplus of the colony. The idea is the opposite in developing an economy.

A third drawback is that the document is more a patchwork and less of a well integrated legal document. To the Government of India Act were added ideas from Westminster. In fact, even today when we are unable to find our own parliamentary precedents, we refer to what happened in the British parliament. The Westminster model is an unwritten constitution. For instance the British parliament is a legislature from which is formed not only the executive government but also the House of Lords which is the supreme court or the Privy Council. Moreover, Britain is a unitary state and not a federation with so many state governments as in India. Why then use a unitary sample for cutting a federal coat?

The Constituent Assembly imported the model of the American senate for our upper house. On way to the distant Indian shores, the shape of the senate got distorted. Every state in the USA, regardless of its size, elects two senators and that too by universal adult franchise.

By the time the concept of US senate was adopted for the Indian Constitution the representation to the upper house was proportion are to the population. The very spirit of equality amongst the federating units, was jettisoned. Instead of public voting, the electorate of the Indian senator were the members of his own state assembly. The framers of our Constitution also borrowed from other documents like those of the Soviet Union and Switzerland. The act of blending laws, rules and regulations was such as to put a brake on progress. There was little consideration for decision making or implementation. No wonder that the governments move with such incredibly slow speed in our country.

We borrowed the idea of the Rajya Sabha from the Senate with also the intention of making the vice-president of the country the chairman of the Rajya Sabha. But the President or the Rashtrapati was a kind-of a copy of the British constitutional monarch who reigned but did not rule. The Lok Sabha is on the pattern of the British House of Commons whose members are voted as legislators or law makers. Having been elected, they also turn into the bearers of the executive. It is the majority of the legislators that elects the prime minister who then chooses his ministers or his executive from amongst the men and women elected by the people as legislators. The Indian prime minister has to be continuously vigilant in order to ensure that he does not lose the support of the majority. He therefore does not have a free hand but works only at the pleasure of this majority. No wonder that the government moves so slowly.

Do not go entirely by what I say. Four years after the Constitution was adopted, a committee was appointed in April 1954, headed by Nehru himself to study the question of changes in the constitution. By that time, the Constitution had already been amended. (The first amendment was passed in June 1951.) In May 1976, the Swaran Singh Committee was appointed to go into the question of amending the Constitution.

In fact, the Haryana, Punjab and UP assemblies went to the extent of passing a resolution asking for the reappointment of a new Constituent Assembly which would write a fresh Constitution. By now, the document has been amended 84 times! On the contrary, in the course of 225 years the US Constitution was amended only 24 times. The Japanese Constitution, adopted in 1947, has not been amended even once.

All these facts point to an admission of mistailoring at the first instance. The coat was cut without clearly studying the idiosyncrasies of the wearer, the people of India. We agree that liberty is the mainspring of the Indian ethos. Freedom extends to each individual to seek salvation through a path of his/her own choice, be it bhaktiyoga or blind devotion, be it karmayoga or the path of rightful action. Be it gnanayoga or self realisation, or be it any other path. The individuals are free to achieve mukti, moksha or the liberation of their soul from having to be reborn.

The implication of this liberty is that an Indian does not necessarily have to perform his karma within society. In contrast, a Christian or a Muslim would be judged on doomsday by God as to how well he/she did by society, whether he is fit to go to heaven or deserves to be sent to hell. There is no concept in his Judaic ethos for sanyas or samadhi. The commitment to social or civic contribution is distinctly greater. The corollary should be a sharp dividing line between public wealth and private interest. Even a dishonest person is aware that he is sinning if he were to take advantage of public wealth. Such a society could afford a government that undertakes many functions, whether welfare, charitable or otherwise. Which, in any case, might be necessary to ensure equality amongst the citizens. Remember that the Judaic complaint has been that God made men equal but society makes them unequal.

A clean public life must be an outstanding characteristic of suraaj. To ensure that, it is necessary to give up the Westminster model infavour of a structure that would suit the Indian circumstances. In order to give the people of India an opportunity to get used to the new structure, the beginning could be confined to the states. In due course thereafter the experience should be transferred to the centre. All executive powers should be given to a trinity of governors. In a universal adult franchise election, the first three candidates should become governor, vice-governor and deputy governor respectively.Within the troika, each of them should have a voting right proportionate to the votes he or she secured in the public election.

The term of office of the troika should be six years. But none of them would be eligible for reelection to any public office within the state. This provision should help to ensure that the three men or women would concentrate on good governance rather than doing favours in order to get reelected. The intention behind three governors is to avoid putting all the state's eggs in one basket. Moreover, three would be able to represent a fuller profile of the state's populace than one person. The legislators would then concentrate on making and monitoring laws. Except that a two thirds majority of the assembly passing a vote of no-confidence in any of the governors would be a serious step. Their lack of confidence should be referred to the Rajya Sabha, the majority of whose members would have the final say on the assembly's verdict.

The long and short of this argument is that the Constitution for Indiashould provide minimal, rather than comprehensive government. The less patronage the government has, the greater are the chances of a clean public life. The government should be minimal enough as to give the people plenty of freedom and opportunity. It must strictly ensure that this liberty does not allow one citizen to step on the toes of another and thus interfere with his freedom to act. In other words, liberty should not extend to licence and the government must ensure that everyone enjoys equal freedom, whether in the pursuit of his profession, or of his business, or of his worship, or any other pursuit of life.

The Saffron Book
Prafull Goradia
1. Awake and Unite!
2. Why The Saffron Book?

10. Small States
3. Vision
4. Economic Face
5. Abolish Casteism
6. Bride Burning, Divorce
7. Rape, Prostitution
8. Revolutionising Education
9. The Constitution

11. Nationalism
12. Pan-Islamism
13. Communism
14. Subnationalism
15. Casteism

16. Hindutva is Dialectical
17. Origin of Hinduism
18. Medieval Phase
19. Modern Resurgence
20. Not Fundamentalism
21. Not Fascism
22. Tolerance
23. Strengths
24. Weaknesses
25. Opportunities
26. Threats
27. Individual Brilliance

Hindu Paradoxes
42. Idolatry
43. Fatalism
44. Double Standards
45. Masochistic Fringe
46. Fifth Column
47. No Soul before Birth

48. Proselytising Unwelcome
49. Myth of Divide and Rule

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