|Dr. B.R. Ambedkar|
It is a known and well documented fact that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was a great authority on constitutional law, a staunch social reformer, an acclaimed scholar and an original thinker and writer. But is not well known that he was also an economist of high caliber, not only by intellect, but also by training. Dr. Ambedkar was, inter alia, an alumnus of the London School of Economics. In the early years of his life, before dedicating himself fully to the cause of untouchables and social reform beginning in the mid 20s, he wrote three scholarly books on economics viz.:
i) The Administration and Finance of East India Company.
ii) The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India.
iii) The Problem of the Rupee: Its origin and Solution.
That is why, a renowned historian, Ramchandra Guha has recognized Dr. Ambedkar as “as a great scholar, institution builder and economic theorist.”
Dr. Ambedkar contributed immensely to the labour welfare policy and legislation as Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council (1942-46) before independence in 1947. The prevailing socio-political scenario confined him to other important tasks and challenges namely the making of the Indian constitution and reform of the Indian society through the Hindu Code Bill etc. and as such he could not engage himself in the issues of economic development, much against his desire and plan. On Dr. Ambedkar’s suggestion, PM Jawaharlal Nehru had agreed to give him the portfolio of Economic Planning after the task of the constitution making was completed. But PM Nehru did not do so, as alleged by Dr. Ambedkar. It was one of the reasons of Dr. Ambedkar’s resignation from the Cabinet of PM Nehru in 1951.
Dr. Ambedkar stood for democratic socialism as a considered policy for India’s economic development. The basic tenants of his economic policy were – eradication of poverty, elimination of inequalities, ending of exploitation, equitable distribution of national wealth and income. He was a proponent of land reforms and also supported a prominent role of the State in economic development of the country. With a view to achieve these economic goals, he, inter alia, proposed:
I) All basic industries should be owned and run by the State.
II) Insurance and Land should be nationalized and managed by the State.
III) Introduction of collective farming.
IV) Propagation of family planning.
V) Empowerment of Women.
VI) Abolition of caste system.
A prominent economist Dr. Narender Jadhav has written in one of his essays, “Dr. Ambedkar’s attack on caste system was not merely aimed at challenging the hegemony of upper castes but had a broader connotation of economic growth and development.” Dr. Ambedkar was of the view that political democracy, as stipulated in the constitution, has no meaning if it is not converted into social and economic democracy in a reasonable span of time. He has a definite and potent economic agenda to take on but his failing health in the last days of his life and political and social engagements at hand did not permit him to do so. One may grasp this sense when Nobel Laureate and renowned economist Amartya Sen says, “Ambedkar is my father in economics. His contribution in the field of economics is marvelous and will be remembered for ever.”