Dr.B.R.Ambedkar: an Advocate of Labour and Women’s RIghts
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Category : LESSONS
Author : Dr. M.A.Malik
“…..I will therefore turn to the constructive side of the problem. There is nothing new in it. What is your ideal society if you do not want Caste is a question that is bound to be asked of you. If you ask me, my ideal would be a society based on liberty, equality and fraternity. And why not?….” – Annihilation of Caste

“…..I will therefore turn to the constructive side of the problem. There is nothing new in it. What is your ideal society if you do not want Caste is a question that is bound to be asked of you. If you ask me, my ideal would be a society based on liberty, equality and fraternity. And why not?….” – Annihilation of Caste Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is a symbol of universal human values, which he strove to establish till his last breath. Even in the last days of his life, he was busy with two of his significant works: “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in India” (a social treatise) and a Manifesto for the Republican Party of India (a political treatise). He was born on 14th April 1891 in the town and military cantonment of Mhow (now officially known as Dr Ambedkar Nagar) in the Central Provinces (now in Madhya Pradesh), as the 14th and last child of Ramji Maloji Sakpal and Bhimabai Sakpal. He was born into the Mahar caste, who were treated as untouchables and subjected to socio-economic discrimination. Ambedkar recognized three persons as his gurus (teachers): Gautham Budha from Ancient India, Kabeer from Medieval India and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule from Modern India. Born in the very next year after Phule’s death, Ambedkar carried forward the legacy of his teachers till his death on 6th December 1956. In his time, there was no admission to schools for the majority (Bahujan) section of Hindu society, as the duty to educate and to be educated was considered to be the monopoly of Brahmins. Baba Saheb Ambedkar got admission into school as an exception to this rule, as his father was a military officer of Subedar rank. But, he faced the trauma of caste discrimination at every stage of his life. During his school days, he used to sit on his own gunny sack outside the class; he was not allowed to drink water from the common water vessel in the school and the peon of the school used to pour water for him directly. Whenever the peon was absent, Ambedkar would spend the entire day thirsty, as he recalls under the title,“No Peon No Water” in his autobiography, ‘Waiting for a Visa.” He faced caste stigma when he worked as a military secretary to the Gaekwads of Baroda. He even faced discrimination in sharing the common water pot from his fellow teachers when he was working as a professor of Political Economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai. Babasaheb was forced to leave his investment consultancy business as he was not getting customers after his caste was exposed. In spite of this environment, he was able to achieve the highest possible degrees in modern education from abroad. In 1897, he enrolled himself at Elphinstone High School, Mumbai, then the first and only untouchable to do so. In 1907, he passed his matriculation, becoming the first from his caste to do so. By 1912, he obtained his degree in economics and political science from Bombay University. In 1913, at the age of 22, he moved to the United States and passed his M.A. in 1915, majoring in Economics, and other subjects of Sociology, History, Philosophy and Anthropology from Columbia University. He submitted his thesis, “The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and its Solution” in 1923, and became a D.Sc. in Economics which was awarded from University of London. In the same year,1923, he became the Barrister-at-Law from Gray’s Inn, London. He was awarded PhD in 1927 for his thesis, “The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India” by Columbia University. As a learned legend Dr.B.R.Ambedkar penned many books and held many positions, from being the mind behind the Constitutional’s moral and ethical framework to his post-Independence contributions as Law Minister. But in this article, we will focus on his contributions to the labouring, toiling masses of India – workers and women alike. Baba Saheb Ambedkar is a crusader of rights and welfare measures for labour force. We can account his contribution in this regard with number of occasions. As a member of Bombay Legislature in 1938, on Industrial Disputes Bill which had the provisions for setting-up industrial courts and ban on strikes, he says the said democracy if fails to safeguard the rights of the working class is not the democracy and it is a mockery of democracy. During the debate, Baba Saheb told “A democracy which enslaves the working class, a class which is devoid of education, which is devoid of the means of life, which is devoid of any power of organisation, … I submit, is no democracy but a mockery of democracy.” In the same debate, he concluded, “Real equality between employers and employees can be brought about only by incorporating these two provisions. The employer must be compelled to disclose his budget and the government must cease to use the police force against the workers merely because there is breach of peace. Without this there can be no equality between capital and labour as to bargaining power.” Babasaheb was appointed as the member for labour in the Viceroy’s Executive Council- the Cabinet of Government of British India, during this tenure, he was able to formalize and execute many provisions for the labour class. To have first-hand experience with workers’ problems, he has visited many places including Jharia coalfields and industries in Dhanbad which falls in present day Jharkhand where he ensured boards were set-up to universalize subsidized grains for workers and made workers as members of these boards. He had set-up central food advisory committee in which workers had a decision-making role. He argued in favour of setting-up free canteens in every industrial cluster and presidencies. Babasaheb saw the state’s role as essential for the maintenance of a healthy workforce. In the viceroy’s council, Babasaheb emphasized “if Government was to help the industry it would not allow the industry to exploit labour.” He added “labour must be assured a living wage, fair conditions of employment and general welfare, in the interest of maintaining Labour Welfare.” Babasaheb argued for a state backed life insurance scheme which would be given to all industrial and agricultural workers. During his various tenures in office, Babasaheb has made provisions for a slew of labour welfare measures that are still active today which includes the following: It was Babasaheb who instituted the eight-hour work day in India, as well as dearness allowances, labour welfare funds, revisions of scales of pay for employees, leave benefits for workers and a minimum wage. Babasaheb set up the first employees state insurance, a social security and health insurance scheme for workers, in South Asia. Further, he passed The Indian Trade Union Bill of 1943 which called for the compulsory recognition of trade unions by the government. The legal framework for strikes used till today was formulated by Babasaheb. He also passed a range of laws protecting female workers including the Women and Child Labour Protection Act, the Maternity Benefits Act, and created the Women Labour Welfare Fund which was used to safeguard the health and safety of working women. While addressing the Constituent Assembly (25 November 1949), Ambedkar stated: “The consciousness of social security comes to a man when he feels that he is getting his basic rights”. As a representative of the Depressed Classes in the Round Table Conference, he pleaded for living wages, decent working conditions and end to exploitative dominance of landlords over the peasants. Dr.B.R. Ambedkar’s way for an agony free India is multi-folded which includes the solutions for issue of land ownership, industrialization and social equality. “The serious thought that Ambedkar had given to land issues is evident from the fact that in 1946, he had submitted a memorandum to the Constituent Assembly on behalf of his All India Scheduled Caste Federation demanding nationalization of land. This memorandum is available under the title States and Minorities. In this document, besides seeking Constitutional rights for the Dalits and the minorities, he had also demanded that the Constitution should determine the economic structure of India – which should be state socialism under which land, education, insurance and industries are nationalized. He said that agriculture would be a state industry, and the state would divide the land available in each village into fields of standard size and lease them out to all the residents of the village without any discrimination on the basis of caste or religion and in such a manner that there were no landlords, no tenants and no landless labourers. According to the memo, collective farming would be the norm and the state would arrange for water, equipment, seeds fertilizers, etc. The state would be empowered to tax the produce and take action against the lease-holders who violate the terms of the lease. Ambedkar said that state socialism was imperative for the fast-paced industrialization of the country and that private capitalism would lead to economic inequalities, just as it had done in Europe.” Dr.B.R.Ambedkar is a champion of woman rights in India too. He has inserted many new provisions in the Hindu-code bill which was introduced by Dr.B.R.Ambedkar as a Law Minister on 11th April,1947 in the Constituent Assembly as to provide equal rights to Hindu women .Dr.B.R.Ambedkar has placed the widow daughter, widow of a predeceased son on the equal status. He has inserted a provision to make daughter’s share as equal to the son in father’s property and to have a share in husband’s property and in mother’s property too. Dr,B.R.Ambedkar made woman as absolute owner of property. Two Types of Marriages i.e., civil marriage and sacramental were introduced. Civil Marriage has given freedom to women in choosing husband of her own choice irrespective of caste. Women has given right to divorce. As a member of legislative council of Bombay supported the bill in 1928 for paid maternity leave to women working in Factories and said “ it is in the interest of the nation that the mother ought to get a certain amount of rest during the prenatal period and also subsequently.” As a member of Legislative Council of Bombay, in 1938, he has recommended the birth control facilities be made available to women. He has also argued for reproductive choice, reproductive control, reproductive rights and reproductive freedom for women. In between 1942 and 1946 as a labour member in Viceroy’s executive committee, Ambedkar has passed several progressive legislations relating to better working conditions for women workers like casual leave, privilege leave, earned leave, compensation in case of injury and pension (which were adapted in All India Depressed Classes Mahila Federation conference on 20th July, 1942). Ideas of Dr.B.R. Ambedkar has influenced the following acts for women in India: The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, Sati-Prevention Act,1987, Dowry-Prohibition Act, 1961, Family Courts Act, 1984, Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, The National Commission for Women Act, 1990, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Dr.B.R.Ambedkar is in favour of getting political power to depressed classes as he has termed the political power as master key. In 1936, he founded the Independent Labour Party and contested the 1937 Bombay election to the Central Legislative Assembly for the 13 reserved and 4 general seats, and secured 11 and 3 seats respectively. Later, Independent Labour Party was re-named as All India Scheduled Castes Federation and contested for Constituent Assembly. In 1952 general elections he has contested from Bombay (present Mumbai) Parliamentary Constituency and got 1,23,576 votes in favour but lost it with just 14,561 votes. Dr.B.R.Ambedkar has served the country people in various other capacities too; as a military secretary to Gaekwads of Baroda, as a Professor of Political Economy in Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, as an Investment Consultant, as an Advocate, as a Professor of Economics and Principal of Law College, Mumbai, as a member of legislature, Mumbai, as a member for labour in the Viceroy’s Executive Council- the Cabinet of Government of British India, Law Minister of India, member of Constituent Assembly, as a Chairman to Drafting Committee of Indian Constitution. Dr.B.R.Ambedkar has left Hindu-fold of life and embraced Buddhism along with his 5 lakh followers at Nagpur, Maharashtra on October 14,1956. The 22 Vows that Dr.B.R.Ambedkar has taken along with his followers on that day are as follows. Ambedkar died on December 6th, 1956, making a black day for India forever. We can conclude this article by quoting his words on how Caste plays its dynamism in India and elsewhere if it is not eradicated in future (now it is present) “…Caste…It is a local problem, but one capable of much wider mischief, for “as long as caste in India does exist, Hindus will hardly intermarry or have any social intercourse without siders; and if Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, Indian caste would become a world problem.”

6 Comments

  1. Dr. M. A. Malik

    Excellent article to understand Dr.B.R.Ambedkar

    Reply
    • Gangadhar

      Excellent article. The entire accomplishments and services of Legend Dr. BR Ambedkar covered to be easily known by a reader who is first time intend to know about Babasaheb Ambedkar.

      Reply
    • Suresh Kavalla

      Very much understand levels about babasaheb through your article

      Reply
  2. Irfan

    good and precise article to understand the Dr. Ambedkar’s role and his mission to uplift the society

    Reply
    • Shankar Chatterjee

      I have gone through the article. I congratulate my friend Dr. Malik Sahab for writing lucidly about a great person , Father of Indian Constitution.

      Reply
  3. J.sarala Jhansi Rani

    Very informative and it should be read by everyone in india
    Really wonderful works done by Dr Babasaheb On those days
    We can understand the Role of Ambedkar for Down trawden,women
    and society as a whole
    Special thanks to AURA for publishing such agood article
    Thank you

    Reply

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