Contribution of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
Let Us Know More About Bharat Ratana Baba Sahib Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

By :- Er. H. R. Phonsa

It is prudently said that some people are born great others are made great and still others become great by surmounting hurdles in their paths by themselves. Another philosopher said that some people read history, some teach history, some people make history and a few become history by themselves. As per both these statements Dr. Ambedkar fell in the last category of people who become history by overcoming all worldly barriers in his way. There was not even a singly favourable hurdle free step in his life. There was not even a single act of his life which did not warrant him to use his highest skills. He rarely earned anything through favour or courtesy of others. All throughout his life he had to row against the currents. He was born in rags and died with rupees Forty thousand debt, bore loincloth in school , sat alone on the corner of classroom floor many times in outside school veranda , remained thirsty for hours , hated as untouchable by his classmates, teachers, students, follow politicians including his office Brahmin peon. He slept on floor; lived night through on single loaf of bread but was first to reach daily the entry gate of London Museum and last to leave it. 

 He was termed as poor man’s lawyer despite his world class Law Degrees. He restored all lost hopes of Jedhe-Jawalkar and R D Karve by winning them their cases in Poona Court. This proved Dr. Ambedkar’s superiority as an imminent lawyer. He has earned the honour of being only one Asian among the 12 Gay’s personalities whose portrait are displayed in the Gay’s Inn.

He was called traitor by his opponents for his caring for those to whom even God never cared. He over worked at the cost of his health and life comforts including family life. He lost his poise and caring wife in her youth and four children (Three sons Romesh , Gangadhar, Rajratana and one daughter named Indu ) for want of medicines for their treatment. On the death of his sons soon his wife had to tear out a part of her sari to cover the dead child before giving burial. But Dr. Ambedkar never deviated from the set goal of securing honouable life conditions to his people whom he loved even dearer to his life. They too stood by his in thick and thin. He often said he was born to safe guard interests of untouchable and he was prepared to offer any sacrifice. He remained awake even during nights to see that their interests were not sabotaged. He never acted against the interests of his country. He said in clear terms in Bombay Legislative Council as its member in 1927 “Whenever there is a conflict between my personnel interests and the interests of country as a whole, I have always placed the claims of the country above my personnel claims --- when there is a conflict in interests between country and the Untouchables, the untouchable’s interests will take precedence over the interests of the country”.

In another statement he said that he was Indian in the beginning, in the middle and in the end. He said he was not like those who are the Hindu, the Muslim, the Sikh, the Christian and alike first then Indian. Against all odds he did what he thought fit for his peoples and country. He struck to his words and fulfilled promises made with his people. Dr. Ambedkar was convinced that Hindus shall never cherish getting the human rights to Depressed classes people. Show of love of Hindus for the Dalits was to use them for their numbers and for their unpaid services. Mahatama Gandhi a Snatani Hindu to core has acknowledged that Dr. Ambedkar was the greatest Challenge to Hinduism. Dr. Ambedkar declared in 1935 that he shall not die as a Hindu and he full filled this promise on 14th October 1956 only 52 days before his death by embracing Buddhism along with nearly ten Lacs of his followers . Such en-mass religion change by choice was perhaps the only example in world history. He was opponent to religious superstitions and rigidity. He was against none but suppression, hate and denial of political, social, educational and economic rights to Dalits including women. He waslower caste Mahar Dalit but adopted his surname “Ambedkar” from his soft hearted Brahmin teacher and he re- married Dr. Sharda Kabir ( later Mrs.Savita Ambedkar)a Maharashtrian Brahmin Saraswati bride. Some of good hearted friends, colleagues and teachers were from higher castes, so he enjoyed confidence of all those who stood for welfare of humanity at large. 

Had he not born at the right hour of history, the present history of poor, women, unprivileged, hated Dalit untouchables and working class people would have been completely different with their slavery chains intact andthe Constitutional rights for millions would have been buried deep in the free Indian soil? Whatever he did during his life he did with conviction, whatever he spoke or wrote, it was historic truth backed by deep studied. He remained loyal to his people and his country, the Bharat. He never said a word against any religion, but challenged religion based inhuman norms, “ isms” in them of hate to wards humanity more so to their own religious fellows, who did not toe their( Brahmins) wrong convictions. He was Masiha or saviour of poor, deprived, hated and neglected humanity. He was the only highest qualified academician, who entered the Indian politics. Politicians of his times proved dwarfs to his qualifications, qualities, character, labour and steadfastness to commitments. 

Despite all odds Bharat Ratana Baba Sahib Bhimrao Ambedkar was credited with such unique qualities that whatever field he touched, he left on it indelible marks of his scholarly intellect. He was born on 14th April,1891 in a poor Dalit Mahar family carrying history of military service. Bhimrao Ambedkar’s grandfather Maloji Sakhpal was a Havaldar in the British Army and his father Ramji Sakhpal was Subedar Major in Bombay Army of the East India Company. Dr. Ambedkar too joined service as the Military Secretary to the Maharaja of Baroda, who had granted scholarship to Bhim for his higher studies abroad. Later Dr. Ambedkar was to be appointed as Finance Minister of the Baroda state but the unbearable caste based hate and prejudices forced him to soon resign. The arrogant behaviour of a Brahmin peon with Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar deprived, the kingdom of Baroda of the scholarly services of economist of world repute. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar never compromised with his self honour and honour of his people. He preached to his fellowmen to live with dignity keeping spine erect. He succeeded in getting legal provisions and privileges for his people in t he Constitution of free India of which he was the Father. The worst enemy of Dalits and women, the Practice of untouchability in any of its form was made punishable offence in the Constitution of India. This negated the inhuman Hindu Laws of Manu. Earlier on 25th December 1925 Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar had burnt the Manusmriti page by page in full public view.

Dr .Ambedkar was the first in his community to pass Matriculation Examination in 1907 .He was first Dalit to get education in foreign lands in one of most prestigious world Universities like Columbia University USA, London School Of Economics U.K, Bonn University in Germany, Bar at the Gray’s Inn. He was rare of rarest Indian who obtained M.A; PhD ; DSc.; Barrister –at- Law; LL.D; D. Litt and many more Honorary Degrees from many foreign Universities. It is also a hard fact that despite being a world class supper human, he was not given any befitting honour by his Alma Mater the University Of Bombay during his life times. He was a reputed scholar in Economics, Political Sciences, Law, Constitutional Law, Anthropology, and Religion Philosophy. He was a great teacher also, backed by his deep studies of the subjects he taught. Perhaps he was first among Dalits to be appointed professor ( June 1928 to March 1929) and to occupy the chair of the Principal of the Government Law College Bombay( Now Mumbai) affiliated to Bombay University June 1,1935 to May 1938 where he was hated during his studies.

Dr. Ambedkar observed that the journalism which was earlier a profession had turned into business exploitation in the hands of capitalists. Dr Ambedkar sensed the need of a news paper of his own and said a leader without a news paper was like a bird without wings. He was perhaps the first Dalit to enter the world of journalism when launched on the Mook Nayak ( Leader of dumb) on January 31st,1920 ,on 3rd April,1927 the Bahiskrit Bharat( Excluded India), the Samta( Equality) the Janta ( People) on 24th November,1930,The Prubh Bharat ( Awakened Bharat ). His writings in these news papers spread his message very quickly among the depressed class masses. He stated his news papers much earlier than Mahatama Gandhi’s the Harijan, started in February 1933.

Baba Sahib Dr. Ambedkar was first Dalit to be awarded Bharat Ratana in 1990 posthumously after a lapse of 34 years after his death. This shows apathy of the ruling parties towards their National celebrities.

Hardly anybody could imagine that a Mahar Subedar Major’s 14th child Bhiva ( Bhimrao’s first name) could one day divert the world attention towards the deplorable condition of Indian Untouchable millions, seeking constitutional rights for them in Round Table conferences called by the mighty British Crown’s Government in their heartland . Dr. Ambedkar was one of the two Untouchables who were first to be nominated to represent the slaves to the British Indian Slaves. Dr. Ambedkar’s courage , convections backed by world’s highest degrees forced the British Crown’s Government along with Indian monarchs, politicians to listen the woes of half feed, half naked, illiterates socially lowest of the low through their own representative who had studied world history in foreign lands. He also warned the British to leave India soon as they have failed to make any improvement in the, social, religious, political, educations and economic conditions of poor particularly untouchable millions during their rule. In the three Round Table conference in London Dr. Ambedkar’s narrations were so logical and force full that all eye brows were raised to listen the plight of those who had never been represented before, in history in any such official forum. About his narrations news items were carried by news papers world over with editorials written in praise of the new found leaders of Indian untouchables. Not only Dr. Ambedkar’s views were highly acclaimed in all world spheres but they brought dividends for Untouchable in the future governments Of India. The problems of untouchable were brought on world forum for finding their solutions speedily. This way the British were made to realise their folly of siding with the the exploiters of Dalits by giving them treatment even worst than animals.

The British were made to find space for Indian untouchable in the future governance of India. To give political representation to untouchables Simon Commission was established. Dr. Ambedkar’s plea before Simon Commission with other organisations and leaders of Depressed classes was so forceful that the British India government announced Communal Award outlining the method of reserving seats in representative bodies with a right of duel votes to untouchables to use in the future election. This established the existence of untouchables as a definite and separate identity and equal stake holders in the future constitution. Another feather in Dr. Ambedkar’s cap was added. 

On this Mahatama Gandhi backed by Hindu reactionary forces , under took fast unto death in Yarwada Jail Poona ( Now Pune). Mahatma Gandhi was against granting any political rights to untouchables, saying theirs was an internal social problems to be solved within the frame work of Hindu Verna system. Dr. Ambedkar disputed Gandhi’s contentions by saying that if it was so, why hate against untouchables had remained intact for centuries. Tremendous pressure was mounted against Ambedkar to save Mahatma’s life. Therefore the Poona pact was signed by Dr. Ambedkar under duress to save Gandhi’s life but standing on equal pedestal with those who had denied evening touch shadow of untouchable but to talk of granting any human right to them for centuries. Reservation in the provincial and central legislatures, appointments in public services and local bodies with removal of disabilities of the depressed classes were the direct result of the Poona Pact. Denial of double election and duel voting as per Communal Award or separate electorates, gave a chance to upper caste political body heads to select dummy candidates from scheduled castes and scheduled Tribes to contest the reserved seats and be a party to denial of Constitutional Rights to the Dalit communities.

Dr. Ambedkar himself a great lover of books and a writer with millions of readership was the first to burn the Hindu Code book “ Manusmiriti” as Manu, its writer claimed “It contain laws with Divine sanction”. Dr. Ambedkar disputed Manu’s claims by saying .it was devised to give sanctions of inhuman suppression of untouchables and women. He was also first in the history of caste struggle to sip water of Choudar Tank ( Water Tank) by organising Satyagraha. Taking water from Choudar Tank was banned from centuries for the untouchable Hindus. He was hurt gravely in the melee but did not lose heart to fight law suit instituted against him and his followers. It took him ten years to win the law suit. To register untouchable’s just right to worship in Hindu temples, he organised Kalaram Temple entry struggle on 2nd March, 1930 with his follow men and women. This Dalit organised struggle was carried for five long years but caste Hindus did not yield any ground for untouchable’s right to worship in the Kalaram temple. Even now after nine decades of the temple entry struggle for five years superstitious Hindus do not allow the Untouchable to enter many of their temples.

Dr. Ambedkar claimed Mahatama jyotirao Phule (1827-1890) as his political guru. When Phule was convinced that illiteracy was main reason of untouchable slavery he along with his wife Mata Savitribai Phuley opened 18 schools in and around Poona ( now Pune) starting from January 1st in 1848’.Some of these schools were excursively for girl students of all castes. After a centaury of opening schools by Phuley Couple Dr. Ambedkar founded People’s Education Society on 8th July, 1945 base on five principles namely the ideal of knowledge, the ideals of compassion, the ideal of democracy, the ideal of equality and the ideal of justice is parents. The primary aim of this society is to promote higher education among the poorer people in general and Buddhists Scheduled Castes a,Scheduled Tribes and other backward Classes in particular. The Peoples Education Society founded “The Milind College, Aurangabad Maharashtra” a most backward area of Maharashtra state. Its foundation was laid by Dr. Ambedkar on 9th July,1953. The People’s Education Society is now manning a large chain of quality educational Institutions giving employment to thousands of youth.

A few more fields where Dr Ambedkar was also first in his achievements

Dr. Ambedkar was youngest of the 14th Child of his parents.

· Birth control:-In 1927 there were only three Indians who were talking about birth control and warning that India will face consequences of neglecting these reforms. These three people were J R D Tata, Dr B.R. Babasaheb and R D Karve. Dr Ambedkar locked horns with those, who in the name of tradition and religion, opposed sex education," said historian Hari Narke. R D Karve published a magazine called Samaj Swasthya (society's health) from July 15, 1927 to 1953. The magazine was dedicated to sex and health education to curve growing Indian population It preached birth control methods .Some orthodox Puneites dragged R D Karve to court, accusing him of spreading and encouraging "obscenity" by talking about sex education. Dr. Ambedkar as R.D. Karve’s advocate won him the case. ( TOI Pune City edition Apr 14, 2016,)

· Personal collection of books: 50000 (excluding the collection of books, which were lost when the ship on which they were dispatched from London was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine)
Perhaps there was nobody else in the world with this much collection of personal books in the human history?

· To challenge discriminatory rules and systems like a Khoti System, Mahar Vatan, bonded labour, unequal wages to women workers, long hours of labour in factories or houses on nominal wages, non existence of maternity leave for women workers, non entry of depressed classes students into government funded education institutions, non employment of depressed class persons in higher posts in government services, non payment for over time in factories.

· To advocate of nationalisation of agriculture, land to be vested in government, paid maternity leave, political rights to depressed classes people, paid over time in offices and factories at the double rate of normal wages, no religious interference in government affairs and such other government progressive measures.

· To launch a political party ( I L P) of Dalits for the Dalits and by Dalits. He won 17 seats in 1937 Provincial Elections including 3 from general constituencies. This was history of its sorts for Dalits to occupy the same political pedestal as their opponents from upper 

· To be appointed as Member of Viceroy’s Executive council as Labour, Employment, CPWD Minister from among Dalits. Dr. Ambedkar wrote the whole text single-handedly, as a duty to parliament, in-spite of his bad health and busy personal social service.

· To earn honour to be the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee to draft Constitution for free India.

· The First union Minister in the world history who resigned when his drafted Bill, Viz.The Hindu Code Bill for rights of women was not passed by parliament due to caste and sex prejudices of orthodox Upper Caste Hindus in and outsides of Parliament .

· He was first in history of Bombay on whose death Bombay witnessed largest funeral procession , where over five lacs Dalits embraced Buddhism in one go.

· He was perhaps first Minister of Indian Union, who was not allowed to address the Parliament to announce his resignation as Law Minister Of India. The Constitution he fathered was quoted to hinder to his last address as Union Law Minister.

· As Labour Executive Member of the Viceroy Lord Wavel ‘s council( 1942 and 1946) . He was sworn as the Labor Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council in July 7, 1942. Dr. Ambedkar did a pioneering work . Dr. Baba saheb Ambedkar believe that caste is not merely the division of Labour but division of labourers based upon the graded inequality. He laboured hard to framed Labour benefit laws as an Executive Council Member. Detail of the Laws framed during Dr. Ambedka’s tenure as member of the Executive Council Council.

· Reduction in Factory Working Hours (8 hours duty) : Today the working hours in India per day is about 8 hours. We do not know that how many Indians know, that Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was the Savior of Labors in India. He brought 8 hours duty in India and change the working time from 14 hours to 8 hours and became a light for workers in India. He brought these laws in the 7th session of Indian Labor Conference in New Delhi, November 27, 1942.

 Health Insurance Scheme.

· Labor Welfare Funds

· Provident Fund Act.

· Factory Amendment Act.

· Labour Disputes Act.

· Minimum wage

· Dearness Allowance (DA) to Workers.

· Leave Benefit to Piece Workers.

· Revision of Scale of Pay for Employees.

· Coal and Mica Mines Provident Fund:

· Creator of Damodar valley project, Hirakund project, The Sone River valley project

· The Indian Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill:

· Indian Statistical Law.

· Post War Economic Planning.

· India’s Water Policy and Electric Power Planning

· The original source of reference for all the 13 Finance Commission reports, in a way, are based on Dr. Ambedkar’s P.hd thesis, "The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India", written in 1923.

· Laying basis of establishing the RBI. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) came into picture according to the guidelines laid down by Dr Ambedkar? Reserve Bank of India was conceptualised as per the guidelines, working style and outlook presented by Dr Ambedkar in front of the Hilton Young Commission. When this commission came to India under the name of “Royal Commission on Indian Currency & Finance”, each and every member of this commission were holding Dr Ambedkar’s book named “The Problem of the Rupee – Its origin and its solution.” (VELIVADA). Despite this the Indian currency Notes Carry Mahatama Gandhi’s Portrait on them and Rabindernath Tagore as Brand Ambassador of SBI ,However GOI has issued set of 10 coins in honour of Dr.Ambedkar on his 125th birth anniversary

· Employees State Insurance (ESI.

· Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar framed many laws for Women Labors in RBI India :

· Mines Maternity Benefit Act.

· Women Labor welfare fund.

· Women and Child, Labor Protection Act.

· Maternity Benefit for women Labour.

· Restoration of Ban on Employment of Women on Underground Work in Coal Mines,

· Indian Factory Act.

· National Employment Agency (Employment Exchange

· Equal wages for equal work irrespective of Sex and caste of the labourer was brought in India.

· He inspired the Modern Buddhist Movement in India.

· Baba Sahib Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Ambedkar was a rare jewel and earned uncountable first in his life and after. Many surveys have been carried world over after Baba Sahib’s death which selected him as first among many world personalities.

· Ambedkar was opposed to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gives a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

· Dr. Ambedkar the Father of Indian Constitution was voted undisputed as the “Greatest Indian” in a poll Spearheaded by history TV18 and CNN IBN. Nearly two crore voters took part in the voting. The results were declared on 12 August 2012.

· Dr. Ambedkar the Messiah of Dalits and oppressed world garnered the second highest ( Next only to Mr. M.K. Gandhi, the Mahatma) jury votes in a three pronged process which gave equal weight -age to the popular vote, a jury and on ground poll. The poll was conduced by A+E Networks,TV18.

· Dr. Ambedkar ‘s name was placed at serial number ONE out of the 100 most pioneering students of USA’s most prestigious Columbia University since its start 250 years ago in2004. To commemorate this event they had built a memorial inscribing a list of 100 pioneering students of this university. This elite list contains names of Dr. Baba sahib Ambedkar , Ex-Presidents of 6 different countries, 3 American Ex-Presidents & some NOBEL prize winners.
To arrange the order of names of these very eminent pioneers , the Columbia University had formed a committee of scholars.......and this committee proposed to place name of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar at the top ( first). This memorial stands tall and depicts the glory of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar & his works.

Dr.Ambedkar said“ A great man is different from an eminent one in that he is ready to be the servant of the society”. He himself qualified this definition.

Words :- 3900 Er. H. R. Phonsa

The writer can be contacted on +919419134060
E-mail :-

University affiliated colleges
1. Siddharth College of Arts and Science, Bombay (Estd, 1946)
2. Siddharth College of Commerce and Economics, Bombay. (Estd. 1953)
3. Siddharth College of Law, Bombay. (Estd. 1956)
4. Milind College of Science , Aurangabad (Estd. 1950)
5. Dr. Ambedkar College of Commerce , Aurangabad (Estd. 1960)
6. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mahad,
Dist: Kolaba (Estd. 1961).
7. Dr. Ambedkar College of Law, Aurangabad (Estd. 1968)
8. Milind College of Arts, Aurangabad (Estd. 1962).
9. Dr. Ambedkar's College of Commerce and Economics (Estdl 978)
Diploma Institutes
1. Siddharth Institute of Commerce, Bombay (Estd. 1965)
2. Siddharth College of Mass Communications and Media, Bombay
(Estd. 1965)
3. Siddharth Institute of Industry and Administration, Bombay (Estd. 1967)

High Schools
1. Siddharth Night High School, Bombay (Estd. 1947)
2. Milind Multipurpose High School, Aurangabad (Estd. 1955)
3. Matoshri Ramabai Ambedkar High School, Aurangabad. (Estd. 1965)
4. Gautam Vidyalaya, Pandhai-pur (Estd. 1974)
5. Milind School, Aurangabad(Estd. 1975)
6. P.E.S. Marathi Primaiy School, Bombay (Estd. 1978)
7. Nagsen Vidyalaya Prunaiy School, Nanded (Estd. 1981)
8. People's Education K.G. School,
Bangalore (Estd. 1984)
9. PES English Medium School, Pune (Estd. 1985)
10. MUind Balwadi, Aurangabad (Estd. 1999)

Backward Classes Hostels
1. Shri Gadge Maharaj Vidyarthi Vasatigriha, Pandharpur. (Taken over by the
Society in 1949)
2. Matoshri Ramabai Ambedkar Vidyarthi Ashram, Dapoli. (Taken over by
the Society in 1962)

1. Buddhist Centre, Aurangabad (Estd, 1964)
2. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial Research Centre, "Rajgriha" , Dadar,
Bombay. (Estd. 1967)

Backward Classes Hostels Aided by the Society
1. Dr. Ambedkar Vidyarthi Ashram, Manmad, Dist, Nasik.
2. Shikshan Prasarak Ambedkar Vidyarthi Ashram Nandurbar, Dist: Dhulia.
3. Deenbandhu Ambedkar Vidyarthi Ashram Chalisgaon, Dist: Jalgaon.
4. Vidya Vikas Boarding, Nipani , Dist: Belgaum, Mysore State.
5. Sayajirao Vidyarthi Bhuvan, Patan, Gujarat State.
6. Siddharth Chhatralaya, Dholka, Gujarat State.
7. Backward Class Hostel, Poona.
8. Subhedar Savadkar Vidyarthi Ashram, Mahad, Dist: Kolaba.
9. Kanya Chhatralaya, Challisgaon, Dist: Jalgaon.
The Journalistic Legacy of B.R. Ambedkar, the Editor

The newspapers associated with Ambedkar are repositories of vast information on the history of Dalit political activism, which is why it's a pity that Ambedkar’s role as a journalist and editor has been largely ignored.

B.R Ambedkar. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Prabodhan A. Pol

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of writings on Ambedkar, caste, and Dalit politics. This surge is taking place primarily in the context of rising radical Dalit political activism in India. These writings have, however, appeared mainly at the backdrop of current issues which has largely affected the course of the anti-caste Dalit Bahujan movement.

One of their main features is the focus on Ambedkar’s political and social philosophy. His ideas, consequently, have not only shaped the contemporary discussions on caste and Dalit politics but have deepened our understanding of our society, its history and politics. Yet little is known about his journalistic legacy.

The newspapers Ambedkar was associated with have largely contributed in disseminating radical political ideas and motivated a churn within the society. The study of the newspapers helps us contextualise and trace the history of Dalit political discourse, issues of caste violence, representation, and religious fundamentalism.

Most contemporary writings on Ambedkar and Dalit politics largely ignore the significance of Dalit newspapers and their role in the history of the Dalit movement. The newspapers associated with Ambedkar are repositories of vast information on the history of Dalit political activism, which is why it’s a pity that Ambedkar’s role as a journalist and editor has been largely ignored. Unlike his scholarly writings, which were written in English, his journalistic works are published in Marathi.

Venturing into journalism

Dalit newspapers in Maharashtra are the legacy of Jotiba Phule’s Satyashodhak movement. It was only after the establishment of Din Bandhu by Phule in the late 19th century that Dalit newspapers began to crop up. Prominent Dalit leaders of the pre-Ambedkar era, such as Shivram Janba Kamble and Kisan Faguji Bansode, founded newspapers which were dedicated primarily to the cause of untouchability. These newspapers were short-lived and did not create a lasting impact.

In 1920, Ambedkar entered into the world of newspapers. He started his first newspaper, Mooknayak, on January 31, 1920. It ran for three years before being closed. Later, he went on to found three more newspapers – Bahishkrut Bharat (1927-1929), Janata (1930-56), and Prabuddha Bharat (1956). He was directly involved in the editorial management of the first two newspapers, Mooknayak and Bahishkrut Bharat. From 1930 onwards, he delegated the task to his most important colleagues, such as, Devrao Naik, B.R. Kadrekar, G.N. Sahastrabuddhe, R.D. Bhandare, and B.C. Kamble. Interestingly, Naik, Kadrekar and Sahastrabuddhe were not Dalits. 

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ambedkar’s active career as a journalist did not last long. Despite that, he was responsible for fundamentally shaping the contours of Marathi journalism. His insightful interventions through his newspapers were well-recognised even by his opponents. His lucid style of writing with a scholarly approach, and his command over the language were equally important in creating an impact at the time.

It is possible that his experience of editing Mooknayak motivated him to learn an argumentative style of Marathi writing. Ratnakar Ganveer, one of the earliest writers on Ambedkar, had pointed out that due to Ambedkar’s English schooling he initially faced difficulties in articulating himself in Marathi. In order to cope with the situation, he would write the editorials in English and then translate them into Marathi. He made great effort to learn and understand different dimensions of Marathi literature, which he profusely used in his editorials and commentaries. His strong but composed style of writing was clearly illustrated during the Mahad agitations of 1927.

One of the very fascinating aspects of Ambedkar’s journalism is manifested in his firm belief that journalism should not blindly cater to the masses. Instead, it should help in establishing democratic ideas. He argued that newspapers should lead the way by setting examples for the people. He consciously made decisions which deeply influenced his journalistic ventures, though it cost him dearly.

Ambedkar’s newspapers were cursed by a lack of funds – the very reason why Mooknayak and Bahishkrut Bharat eventually shut down. The perpetuity in that particular crisis was partly due to his firm position on the issue of advertisement. In one of his editorials in Bahishkrut Bharat, he criticised newspapers that encouraged irresponsible advertisements which upheld and perpetuated inequality and ritualism. Many prominent nationalist newspapers including Bombay Chronicle and Kesari regularly published advertisements on Brahmanical religious literature, events and activities which upheld Brahmanism and the patriarchy. He pointed out that he would rather prefer publishing no advertisements than publishing ‘socially immoral and vulgar advertisements’.

Establishment of Mooknayak and Bahishkrut Bharat

Mooknayak, founded on January 31, 1920, was a fortnightly newspapers published from Bombay on Saturdays. The Mooknayak office was situated in the working class neighbourhood of Parel. The title of the newspaper, literally means, the leader of the voiceless – inspired by Marathi quatrain written by Bhakti-poet Tukaram. Mooknayak received initial funding of Rs 2,500 from Chatrapati Shahu, a native ruler of the Kolhapur princely state and one of the most prominent public figures of the time in western India.

Ambedkar never became the official editor of the Mooknayak, he was its de facto editor during his stay in India. Pandhurang Bhatkar became the first official editor. Ambedkar had taken a break from his doctoral studies and reached India in 1918. He left India to complete his studies in 1920. Bhatkar was replaced by Dnyandeo D. Gholap. Gholap received the memorable distinction of becoming the first ‘untouchable’ to have been nominated a member of Legislative Council of Bombay Presidency in 1921. Ambedkar closely monitored the activities of Mooknayak from London.

From its inception, Mooknayak had to undergo serious financial and management problems. In Ambedkar’s absence, Mooknayak received generous help from his close Parsi friend, a well-to-do entrepreneur, Naval Bhathena, who studied with Ambedkar at Columbia University. He bailed out Mooknayak on several occasions. He convinced prominent Bombay based industrialists like Godrej to advertise in the paper. But as time marched on, it became more and more difficult for Ambedkar to monitor the activities of Mooknayak. He eventually broke his association with Mooknayak in 1923 due to his personal differences with Gholap. In the course of his dispute with Gholap, Ambedkar learnt an important lesson regarding management of the newspaper, which he utilised in later years when he established complete control over his periodicals.

As compared to Mooknayak, the Bahishkrut Bharat had a relatively stable and controversy free life span. It was a fortnightly published from Bombay. Bahishkrut Bharat was established during the course of the Mahad Satyagraha on April 3, 1927. It subsequently became the mouthpiece of the Ambedkar-led Bahishkrut Hitkarni Sabha. It was closed down because of financial problems in 1929. Nevertheless, it was a product of a powerful mass agitations started at Mahad in 1927.
During the 1920s, Mooknayak and Bahishkrut Bharat took bold positions on several contentious issues pertaining to religion, society and politics.

Bahishkrut Bharat literally means ‘Excluded India’. The title was proposed and ratified at a public meeting held at Bombay, which was presided by Ambedkar. It received initial funding from Dalit activists of Konkan and Bombay, who participated in the Mahad agitations. Ambedkar wrote the reports, commentaries and editorials, and was deeply involved in every aspect of publication. No extra staff was officially hired by him. He had once noted that his job at Bahishkrut Bharat was to write, report, and edit the paper simultaneously, due to shortage of finances. 

Anti-Dalit violence

Problems of a society divided by caste were often expressed in the writings of the Mooknayak and Bahishkrut Bharat through critiquing Hindu religion, its scriptures and society. The papers strongly criticised the Congress and right-wing Hindu nationalists for their indifference to the question of caste.

Ambedkar in Mooknayak argued that a nationalist consciousness cannot be developed by arrogantly ignoring social divisions. He compared Hindu society with a multi-storied tower with no stairs to connect one storey to the next. Here, the tower represented caste stricken Hindu society and each storey represented an individual caste. He argued that such a society which forecloses opportunities to different individuals to intermix with another lot was detrimental to national unity. As a result, such a society would only propagate indifference, hierarchy and violence, leaving no scope of genuine national unity.

The 1920s were radically transformative decade for the Dalit movement. Dalit mass politics in western India was essentially shaped in this decade by translating Dalit grievances into an effective political and organisational language. The Mahad agitation of 1927 unfolded the rise of assertive mass politics in western India. In the aftermath of violence during the Mahad agitation, Ambedkar began to argue that Dalits should be identified separately from the Hindu community. He pointed out that as Dalits were perpetually deprived from accessing common public spaces and they were continuously subjected to the upper caste violence there was no social cohesion amongst ‘untouchables’ and upper caste Hindus. In another editorial in Bahishkrut Bharat, he argued that Hindu society was incapable of realising basic social norms of intermixture and camaraderie. He argued that this absence of social affinity lead to caste violence.

The question of violence became one of the important areas of focus for not only Bahishkrut Bharat but also for the later periodicals like Janata and Prabuddha Bharat. They published many news reports and testimonies on the incidents of violence against Dalits in western India. Bahishkrut Bharat played very important role in mobilising the opinion against caste violence in the late 1920s. There are several evidences that illustrate how important editorials written by Ambedkar in the Bahishkrut Bharat were read publicly in the Dalit gatherings. His skills as an editor and an effective communicator were clearly demonstrated. Ambedkar’s emphasis on structural violence in defining the plight of Dalits crucially helped mobilise Dalits in western India.

Hindu-Muslim conflict 

In 1927, one of the issues that dominated the discussions in the Marathi public sphere was the interfaith marriage between a Hindu girl and a Muslim man. The girl in question was none other than the granddaughter of celebrated scholar R.G. Bhandarkar. Her marriage was staunchly opposed by Marathi newspapers, particularly those published from Pune. In response to the opposition, Ambedkar wrote a passionate editorial in the Bahishkrut Bharat supporting the marriage. He argued that our society should promote interfaith marriages as it could help in restoring confidence between Hindus and Muslims. While criticising opponents of the interfaith marriage, he argued that marriage was a personal matter, in which outsiders play no role.

During the 1920s, Hindu-Muslim conflicts had already affected the nature of politics in India, particularly in Bombay presidency. Under the leadership of V.D. Savarkar, the idea of Hindu nationalism was laid down in the 1920s. Discussions on Shuddhi and Sanghatan revitalised debates in the then Marathi newspapers. At the backdrop of a polarised environment, many mainstream Marathi newspapers, including some nationalist newspapers, supported a call to fight Muslims.

Until the 1930s, Ambedkar’s position on Hinduism was critical but it was more inclined towards reform. But in 1929, 5,000 Dalits from Jalgaon threatened to collectively renounce Hinduism thereby stirring up a huge debate on conversion. Ambedkar, in Bahishkrut Bharat, supported the Jalgaon Dalits, and asked them to embrace Islam. He argued that Islam promoted and practiced equality, which makes it easier for Dalits to get accommodated. He started a series of articles in the Bahishkrut Bharat providing information on the different aspects of Islam.

The 1920s also saw the rise of Mahatma Gandhi. Ambedkar’s perception of Gandhi in this decade was different from later decades as they were yet to face one another politically. The famous meeting between the two took place at the backdrop of the Round Table Conference. Though Ambedkar remained cautious about dealing with Gandhi even in the 1920s, he was positive about his politics.

Gandhi is regularly mentioned in the writings of Mooknayak and Bahishkrut Bharat. Ambedkar’s editorials in Mooknayak had opposed the non-cooperation movement started by Gandhi but it praised him for his courage to speak up against the Brahmin orthodoxy. The editorials in Mooknayak viewed Gandhi’s leadership of Congress with some optimism. Gandhi’s emphasis on eliminating untouchability had invigorated a hope of change in the politics. With the onset of Dalit mass politics in 1927, Ambedkar‘s opinion of Gandhi became increasingly critical. Ambedkar’s commentaries in Bahishkrut Bharat vehemently criticised Gandhi’s views on the varna system and his patronising attitude towards untouchables.

Simultaneously, Gandhi was also praised for his honesty and austerity. Ambedkar, while writing a commentary on Gandhi in Bahishkrut Bharat, insisted that Gandhi should use his charisma to address the question of caste and untouchability. Ambedkar rose to national prominence in the early 1930s. The decade of the 1930s thus witnessed the unfolding of new dimension in his relationship with Gandhi and Congress. This dimension was completely absent in the 1920s.

Thus, Ambedkar’s stint as an editor was short, but important. His editorship of Mooknayak and Bahishkrut Bharat played a crucial role in setting the tone for new politics which was oriented towards mass activism. His arguments were not only impactful in mobilising Dalits, they greatly helped in establishing his leadership.

Ambedkar has again begun acquiring centre stage, both politically as well as intellectually, making it all the more important to remember his journalistic legacy. His journalism not only illustrated his radical politics, but it also represented his firm belief in professional integrity.

Prabodhan Pol teaches history at Ramjas College, University of Delhi.

DR. Ambedkar’s views on Agriculture Income Tax 
Dr. K. S. Ingole Reader, Department of Economics SNDT Women’s University Mumbai 400020

Dr Ambedkar’s personality was towering and multi-faceted. He had extensively written on both most complex and technical, as also theoretical issues, including pressing day-to-day economic problems. He was essentially an economist by academic training and a recognized researcher in problems pertaining to public finance and political economy. This paper deals with his views on taxes on agriculture income in India and its relevance in the present context. From last two decades or so there is debate on taxing on agricultural income, most of the leading economists are in favor of taxing agriculture income. However, land lords, have strong lobby in Indian politics and consistently they are opposing taxes on agriculture income. Dr. Ambedkar have argued this issue before eight decades or so and favored the taxing agriculture with sound reasoning his views are very much relevant even in present context.
Role of Taxation in developing country like India

According to Dr. Ambedkar, the socio-economic development of an economy depends primarily upon the availability of adequate finances and their proper utilization. In India, taxation was assigned the central task of collecting sufficient revenue to finance economic development program in spite of low ability to pay taxes due to extremely low levels of income and consumption. The essence of revenue function of taxation policy in the initial stage of development was to cut down the existing level of consumption, particularly of well-off sections, and mop up the savings for public investment. However, as income rose consumption levels were to be prevented from rising and additional revenue generated1 . The strategy was to channel an increasing proportion of incremental income into building development infrastructure. Taxation was the main fiscal weapon available to the government for this purpose and it has to be used to the hilt. Taxing at progressive rates partly as revenue and partly as equity measure, the government attempted to make both direct and indirect tax rates progressive. However, it is to be noted that the merit of progressiveness has been lost while implementing it in letter and spirit.

Trends in Tax-GDP Ratio

Taxation level of a country is traditionally judged in terms of the ratio, which taxes bear to some measure of national income aggregate. Change in the ratio is determined by variations in both the numerator (Total Tax Revenue) and the denominator (National Income). Tax-GDP ratio is generally regarded as an index of relative tax burden in a country over a period of time or when countries are compared for the same period. Tax-GDP ratio indicates the percentage of national income that is compulsorily transferred from private pockets to the public exchequer. Hence, it signifies the relative share of the government in the disposition of national income.
Tax-GDP ratio is determined by such factors as the level of per capita income, composition of national income, size of the foreign trade sector, and the degree of monetization in the economy. With the launching of the five-year plans in 1951, and expansion in administrative and welfare activities of the government at different levels, the need for revenue increased and it was met mainly by additional tax

1 Dwivedi, D. N. [1994], Readings in Indian Public Finance, P. 22, Wiley Eastern Ltd., New Delhi
efforts. Consequently, Tax-GDP ratio started increasing in India, being 4.78 per cent in 1960-61, 6.17 per cent in 1970-71, and 7.66 per cent in 1980-81, and 8.99 per cent in 1990-91. However, it declined to 8.05 per cent in 1995-96, but again it increased to 9.91%, 11.26% and 12.49% respectively during the 2000-01, 2005-06 and 2006-07. However, though it shows increasing trends but the growth rate is very slow as compare to the size of our corporate sector and service sector. Thus there is a lot of scope to increase tax net.

Dr. Ambedkar’s Approach:

Dr. Ambedkar vehemently criticized the revenue system of British Government. His main criticism of the revenue pattern of British government of India was on the ground that it was against the interests of the poor people of India. Further, there was no justice or equity in tax policy. According to him, land revenue was highly oppressive. Therefore he argued that the government should undertake legislation to make the tax policy more equitable and elastici . According to him, the first and most essential requirement of good tax system is that it should be reliable. It does not matter whether that revenue system brings in large revenue or small revenue but whatever it brings it ought to be certain in its yieldii . The main features of taxation policy as advocated by Dr. Ambedkar were as follows.

1) Tax must be levied on taxable capacity or income.
2) It must be progressive ie the rich must be taxed more and the poor less.
3) Exemptions to tax payers should be allowed to those who have income below a certain limit.
4) Land revenue item must not be rigid but elastic and subject to variations.
5) There should be equity in taxation.
6) No taxation system should be manipulated to lower the standard of living of the people.
7) There should be efficiency in taxation.

Dr Ambedkar emphasized the necessity of changing the attitude towards the taxes. Therefore, he suggested taking immediate efforts to rectify the inequalities in the general system of taxation. Particularly he had the great objections to the then prevailing system of levying land revenue. While participating in the debate in the Bombay legislative council, he said that, the tax system of the Bombay presidency was inequitable and hence indefensible. According to him the land revenue, whatever may be the play of words whether it was tax or whether it is rent, there was no doubt that, land revenue was a tax on the profits of the businessman and therefore, there should not be difference in the methods of levying the tax on the income from agriculture and business. But in the case of land revenue every farmer, whatever may be his income was brought under the levy of land tax, while under income tax no person is called upon to pay the tax, if he had not earned income during the year. Such system was not made applicable to the land revenue. Whether there is a failure of crops or abundance of crops the poor agriculturist was called upon to pay the revenue. Further, the income tax is levied on the recognized principle of ability to pay. Under the income tax, the holders of income below a certain minimum level are exempted from tax payment. But under the land revenue system the tax was remorselessly collected from every one farmer whether he is rich, holding more than hundreds acres of land or a poor farmer holding one acre of land. Therefore, he sought the redemption from oppression and exploitation of land revenue system immediately.

Land revenue system

The foundations of modern land revenue system in India were laid during the period of the Mogul dynasty, the East India Company strengthened the land revenue system by introducing permanent settlement in Bengal and Bihar and subsequently this was extended to the other parts of the countryiii. Under the Government of India Act 1935 the land revenue was assigned to the states and the same is incorporated into the Indian Constitution in 1950 and then State Governments have attempted to have their own independent land revenue system, though the basic structure has not changed more. Even on the eve of Independence, land revenue was an important source of tax revenue in India. But thereafter its importance drastically declined. Land taxation in general has a great value of both revenue and non-revenue purposes. On revenue side land tax causes no distortion of output prices farmers are encouraged to produce at high level because they receive the full price for their crops.

Arguments for taxation:

Revenue argument is undoubtedly a strong justification for land taxation. Non-revenue objectives of land taxes can encourage land reforms. If the land tax rates are very high and progressive and impose heavy burden on large landholders, they will be forced to prefer smaller holdings and that will be of help in reducing the concentration of land in the hands of a few landlords. Land revenue is a levy on acreage basis in India. Therefore land tax is not a progressive levy since there are no graded rates and also since the rates are not related to net income from agriculture. In its present from it is highly inequitable because it is levied at a flat rate per acre without taking in to consideration a large and small size of landholdingsiv. Therefore, the tax burdens not equitably distributed.

The Taxation Enquiry Commission (1953-54) recommended the revision or tax taking into consideration the changes in prices of agricultural products. But government of India did not take it seriously. In India, political considerations are more important in the case of land taxation than in any other from of taxation. Therefore it is difficult to get political support for any move that leads to an increase in the tax burden on the agricultural sector. Farming lobbies act as interest groups and put up strong resistance whenever the government attempts to mobilize more revenue from the agricultural sector. Several proposals were made in the fifties and the sixties for reform of land revenue system, but none of them were accepted and implemented. A very valuable and by far the most comprehensive study of agricultural taxation is the one undertaken by the committee on taxation of agricultural wealth and income (1972) familiarly known as K. N. Raj Committee. Unfortunately, the recommendations of this committee also went into cold storage. To remove the deficiencies of the existing system of taxation of agricultural income, a drastic change in the system is needed. What is needed is a unified system of taxation of agricultural and non-agricultural incomes and for this purpose taxation of agricultural income must be taken out of the state list through a constitutional amendment and an integrated system of taxation of agricultural and non-agricultural incomes must be introduced.

The Central Government and the Planning Commission have emphasized on the necessity of raising additional resources from the agricultural 7 sector. Yet, the fact of the situation is that when it comes to practical implementation the central government cannot do anything in the matter, as agriculture is a state subject. The long-term fiscal policy (December 1985), recognized that taxing agricultural income presents many conceptual and administrative problems. Land revenue and taxation of agricultural income are states subjects under the constitution. The centre has no intention of seeking any change in the position. On such inability of central government the Sarkaria commission observed that such an approach however does not solve the problem and the reforms in sphere of agricultural taxation are long overdue. There is in general unanimity that at least the large landlords should be taxed. A suggestion often made is that in order to overcome the resistance by interested groups and in the interest of uniformity in taxation the union may levy a tax on agricultural income and its net proceeds be assigned to states.v It has also suggested that in the interest of the raising revenue and uniform tax on agricultural sector the Union Government might levy this tax as per arrangements under Article 268 of the Indian Constitution.

Political domination of Land Lords:

Taxes on agriculture have remained generally untouched since several years in India. On the contrary, land revenue on agriculture has been either dropped or reduced considerably. On many occasions the State Governments competed with each other to provide relief to the agriculturists by giving them tax concessions or by abolishing some taxes altogether rather than taxing themvi. As many economists point it out, land revenue from agriculture income is inelastic. It does not increase with the increase in prices of agricultural products. This trend is in the favor of pretty agriculturist. The affluent peasantry, who constituted perhaps the most powerful group within the Indian coalition, successfully imposed three conditions on economic policies.

1) Land reforms should not be pushed beyond a certain point,
2) There should be no taxation of agricultural income and wealth,
3) And the state should maintain high prices for outputs and low prices for major inputs and thereby maintain a budgetary policy with heavy subsidies.vii With the provision of irrigation and modern farm techniques production has became more stable. The farmer also gets an assured price for his product. Agricultural income is now quite high and stable. It is fit enough to be taxed like any other income.

It is necessary that agricultural income is now brought under taxation. The surpluses generated in the farm sector are large and are increasing year after year. The upper income groups are taxed in the urban areas, but their counter-parts in the agriculture sector are not being taxed. In principle, the agriculture income should be taxed the same way as urban income. The use of new technology and diversification in agriculture to horticulture and shrimp farming has raised income from agriculture. Now even with the land ceiling there is a case for taxing agricultureviii. The small or marginal farmer will not be against the large farmer being taxed. In any case, there is a very good economic rationale for taxing agriculture.

From, the point of view of horizontal equity, as far as possible, all incomes should be treated in the same manner for tax purposes. Hence, income from agriculture should be subjected to the same tax treatment as non-agricultural income with the necessary adjustments to take care of the special characteristics of agricultureix. The economic rationale is impregnable. That does not mean that agricultural income tax will be introduced in the next budget or so. That is because there has not been any change in the political perception. If at all, farmers have been pampered more than ever, farm inputs like fertilizers, electricity, diesel, etc are heavily subsidized. That is the price the politicians have to pay for winning their supports.

Taxation on agriculture income is good for economic health of the nation. But the powerful landlords lobby is constantly creating obstacles in the way of implementation. Therefore, this sector is remained untouched from any changes in tax pattern. Hence, change in political attitude and determination is necessary for taxation on agriculture income in India.
i Khairmode C. B. (1992) Dr. Ambedkar Chartra, Vol. 7, Maharashtra Sahitya Mandal Bombay P. 48.
ii Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writing and Speeches (1982) Vol 2, Government of Maharashtra, p. 164, Mumbai.
iii Sreekantaradhy B. S. Structure and Reform of taxation in India, Deep and Deep Publications, New Delhi 2000, p.72
iv Shrivastava Madhuri (1981) Fiscal Policy and Economic Development in India, Chug Publication, Allah bad P.168.
v Sarkaria Commission Report Government of India (1983) p. 263.
vi Mungekar B. L., Taxing the poor, The Independent, London, Date 22nd February 1994
vii Mrinal Datta-Chaudhuri, Journal of Economic Perspective, Vol 4, Number 3- summer 1990, Stanford University, Stanford C A 94305-6072.
viii C. H. Hanumantha Rao, the Economic Times, Bombay, August 24th 1995.
ix Raja J Chelliah, the Economic Times Bombay, August 24th 1995.

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