On 15th of September, Markanday Katju’s article entitled, Why India Doesn’t Need a New Charter of Freedom was published by DailyO, online news portal of India Today Group. I responded to the article which was published through the same portal on 18th of September 2018. Here is my response.
To this, Mr. Katju riposted and was carried on the portal on the same day. To this, again I continued with a response but this time my response was not carried by DailyO, which left a very important discussion incomplete and which was not fair to give space to one and deny that to the other side of the same story.
As such, I am reproducing my unpublished response to Mr. Katju’s article below to restart this important discussion. Hope this is carried by the OpIndia on its main website so that the discussion is carried forward to arrive at a consensus.
When ramblings, or rambling dissertation, make the worthy Ex-Justice of the Supreme Court of the largest democracy in the world to respond, or riposte to put it in his words, means the ramblings are not so much confused, I personally scorn to respond to ramblings of any sort.
Anyway, it is a dangerous assertion to make that India, or majority of them are not bothered about civil liberties, it is equivalent to putting the Indian masses with the people of dark ages. Liberties, and civil liberties are the basic and fundamental things which the people of all nations strive to get and Indian people are no exception to the rule. Whether I have been able to provide the cogent response to the assertion of Mr. Katju or not but the rule remains unchanged.
The question which Mr. Katju has posed is intentionally quite valid; a man who is hungry, unemployed or homeless remains engrossed with the ways about how to come out of those hardships and is hardly able to give a thought to civil liberties and other freedoms. But, it is not that the person never wants civil liberties, it is only that these liberties are given secondary importance and consideration.
The first importance, and rightly so, is given to survival and then comes the question of honorable and sustainable existence. Governments, especially democratic governments, have a simultaneous role in the both.
To his question I may put a counter question; does he mean that give a hungry man food, unemployed man a job, and homeless man a home, and your responsibility as a government and governments institution ends? Are the government and the institutions, not duty bound to provide these things and civil liberties simultaneously?
Who would refuse to the fact that poverty has destructive effect on all rights and freedoms and who is not aware about the prolific unemployment, status of poverty and unending distress of farmers alongwith the poor state of health care, education and other human development parameters. These are the impediments which prevent the people in distress to care less about civil liberties and freedoms. But, we cannot take away our sight from the fact that poverty since the adoption of liberal democracy has been reduced appreciably, state of education is comparatively better and other parameters have also improved.
When Mr. Katju states, “unless we can find a way of annihilating all of the problems sated above, all talk of a ‘Charter of Freedom’ sounds hollow” is not it equivalent of saying that the fathers of Indian constitution should have delayed the inclusion of Fundamental Rights in the constitution unless the problems of poverty, malnutrition, homelessness and others were taken care of. In that sense there should be no fundamental rights in the constitution even today for the assertion that many people do not have food, shelter and employment!
True, “necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry or out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made” (F. Roosevelt). This fact makes the New Charter of Freedom for India even more imperative where proving jobs, feeding the hungry and homes for homeless should be the utmost priority. In fact, these are part of freedom and liberties; freedom should include provision of food, shelter and jobs to people in a civilized world.
How can we call talk of freedom in a poor country, or for that matter in any country, a cruel joke if all the requirements about how the people can be free from poverty are taken care of in the tale? If new Charter of Freedom includes ways and means to end poverty more vigorously is that charter not the necessity which the India of today should strive to get enacted.
Considering the geographical and demographic diversities of India the best form of government that can rule the country is the parliamentary system. If this is not the case I am sure Mr. Katju would have not remained an integral part of this system for the entire period of his active service. He knows the merits of this system of government better than anybody else.
About the faults they are there and they creep in when institutions and people holding important posts in this system fail to perform their roles and duties well. Appeasing and appealing to caste and communal forces is a deviation which has been introduced in the system by the dereliction of the people and institutions holding important positions in the parliamentary system of governance. With these people and institutions, underperforming and avoiding their duties, if any other form of governance is adopted in India the faults will remain and the role of caste and communal forces will still be there. The need is to correct the wrongs, and uproot the entrenched practices & malformed habits.
About the test that Mr. Katju has mentioned I would like to share a story.
I belong to a middle class family. Every day, during my childhood days, number of people would visit to our family for a cup or two of Namkeen and tea. Today, nobody of those families visits us for that purpose and I would love to invite Mr. Katju to their families. He surely would be ecstatic to see the variety of biscuits that the families will bring for him. Their homes too are now of good standard and good standard. Isn’t this the proof that living standard of lot of people has been improved? No doubt that lot of work is still to be done but we can’t shut our eyes to the contributions that have been made by the parliamentary form of government.
To ease out the life of majority of people in distress in the country the best alternative is the New Charter of Freedom which should necessarily include the provision of food, jobs and homes as the first priority and with simultaneous freedoms and liberties.
Finally, I would like to end this by stating that my response is in no way for the sake of criticism only. If Mr. Katju wants food, jobs and homes for people I second that but simultaneous there should be freedoms and liberties for the people and New Charter of the Freedom can take care of that. Let me reiterate that not only congress but the entire should press to get that and Mr Katju can become an important force for making that a reality for India.