Constitutional Literacy Through the Constitution Day | Akhilesh Edgar
A unique initiative in Chhattisgarh to strengthen Secular, Socialist, Democratic, Republic of India
The Government of India declared 26 November as Constitution Day on 19 November 2015 by a gazette notification. The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi made the declaration on 11 October 2015 while laying the foundation stone of the B. R. Ambedkar Memorial in Mumbai. The year of 2015 was the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar, who was the chief architect of the Indian constitution and known for the strong and united India. 26 November was chosen to spread the importance of the Constitution and to spread thoughts and ideas of Dr. Ambedkar. India celebrated its first Constitution day on November 26, 2015.
On the occasion of Constitution Day on 26th November 2017, a large public meeting was organised at Rang Mandir, Raipur under the aegis “Save Constitution Save Democracy”, by “SC+ST+OBC+Minorities Sanyukt Morcha Chhattisgarh”.
Hon. Justice (Retd.) K. G. Balakrishnan, Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India and Former Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission was the chief guest of the program. Chhaya Verma, Member of Rajya Sabha was special guest.
Addressing to the gathering Justice Balakrishnan said that It was in 1979, when the first proposal was mooted to celebrate November 26 as an anniversary of the adoption of Constitution and assess the state of law in the country as envisaged by the framers of the legal document. Noted jurist and former parliamentarian LM Singhvi proposed to in the Supreme Court Bar Association that National Law Day should be celebrated to mark the adoption of Constitution on November 26. A resolution was passed by the Supreme Court Bar Association in 1979. The “National Law Day” was celebrated thereafter till 2015.
Initially Dr. B. R. Ambedkar did not want to be part of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had prepared some proposals for the Constituent Assembly. Many members of the Constituent Assembly wanted to express their views on these proposals. But only Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was permitted by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who was the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, to speak. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar gave his opinion over these proposals so profoundly that all the members of the Constituent Assembly demanded that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar be made the chairman of the Draft Committee. He accepted that proposal. There were 5 more members in this drafting committee. Other members did not contribute much due to illness, unavailability and other reasons. Only Dr. Ambedkar answered all the queries and other matters arising in the Constituent Assembly.
In the beginning of 1948, Dr. Ambedkar completed the draft of the Constitution and presented it in the Constituent Assembly. On November 26, 1949, this draft was adopted with very few amendments and it came into effect on 26 January 1950 – the day is celebrated as the Republic Day to mark the anniversary of occasion. The Preamble to the Constitution of India bears testimony to the historic occasion.
When the constitution of India was adopted, the citizens of India entered to a new constitutional, scientific, self-governing and modern India with the peace, poise and progress. The constitution of Indian was adopted to constitute the country as an independent, socialist, secular and republic to secure the Indian citizens by the justice, equality, liberty and fraternity.
“Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, in his speech before putting the motion to pass the Constitution, paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and said that I shall only hope that all those whose good fortune it may be to work this Constitution in future, will remember that it was a unique victory which we achieved by unique method taught by the Father of the Nation, and it is up to us to preserve and protect the Independence that we have won and to make it really bear fruit for the man in the street,” wrote Sailen Chatterjee, journalist and freedom fighter.
On 26th November 1949, Dr. BR Ambedkar said that India has now become full- fledged democracy. But social disparities are still prevalent in this country. Justice Balakrishnan emphasised that we need to take care about ways to remove these disparities and achieve social harmony so that each person of India can have the rights and benefits provided in the constitution. Today, in spite of having rights over land, water and forests and other laws, the scheduled tribes and indigenous people are not getting their due benefits and privileges. On the contrary their lands are being snatched away from them. We should take care that the scheduled tribes, scheduled castes and all other people should be able to enjoy the rights given to them in the Constitution. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Commissions and other commissions have already been formed, but people are not getting their due rights.
Justice Balakrishnan stated that today the SCs, STs, OBCs and Minorities are insensitive towards their rights due to lack of knowledge about the constitution. We should educate our people and our children about the Constitution. Education does not mean getting job alone, rather education means creating sensitiveness about the constitution and sense of overall development and awareness in the society. Un-education is the biggest hindrance in the development of India.
Mere observance of the Constitution Day is not suffice. Constitution Day may be a one-day affair with some activities, but Constitution Literacy is a process leading to right thinking and noble behaviour of the citizens. A country can be considered a developed nation only if it has informed citizenry. What is important is incorporating Constitutional Literacy in the life of the nation. The term ‘Constitutional Literacy’ does not imply teaching everything about the Constitution or enabling people to become experts in it. Rather, it implies exposing them to the Constitution, teaching them its salient features, enlightening them about their fundamental rights, enabling them to critically evaluate the relevance of various articles, shaping their mind to develop a positive attitude towards it and helping them appreciate the wisdom found in it.
The Constitution is a core legal document which lists out fundamental rights of citizens, their duties, role of the government, interaction between the government and its citizens, powers of the prime minister, president, governor and chief minister and defines how the federal structure of the country will be maintained. This document, with nearly 400 articles or provisions, also defines the powers of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. People are expected to revere their Constitution and feel that it is their duty to know what is in it.
SC, ST, OBC and Minorities should continuously take efforts to get their rights not in a violent but in a non-violent manner.
Justice Balakrishnana gave a call to all those present that they should participate in the social change because the SC, ST, OBC and Minorities have less social awareness and sensitiveness.
The greatest work of human rights activism is to become voice of the voiceless. Today the number of those people is more in the society who cannot raise their voices. If at all they raise their voice, their voice is subsided. We should personally involve in uplifting such people of the society. Though our individual effort will only be like a drop in the ocean, but if we do not raise our voice this one drop will vanish from the ocean.
The knowledge of constitution is a must for us. The main frame of the constitution cannot be altered. Though some amendment can be made. At a time when there are so many ideological clashes, rising intolerance among people of various communities, growing inequality, suppression of women’s rights, it is only the Constitution of our country that can bind everyone together and help find solutions to various problems. In these difficult times, it is important to have knowledge and a better understanding of the Constitution. According to Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, “The Constitution is workable, it is flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country together both in peacetime and in wartime.”
Chhattisgarh is not a poor but a rich state. Abundant resources are available here, which need to be utilized in a proper manner. Justice Balakrishnan expressed his best wishes for peace, security, justice and development to the people of Chhattisgarh.
Former cabinet minister Arvind Netam presided over the program. Akhilesh Edgar translated Justice Balakrishnan’s speech from English to Hindi. Adv Ramkrishna Jangade conducted the program. A number of distinguished social and community leaders addressed the gathering namely Adv. Dhaniram Banjare, Kamada Jolhe, Dr. Urmila Singh Marko, Ajay Chauhan, Dhansing Dhurve, KKL Gautam, Ramesh Yadu, LL Kosale, RN Dhruv and KP Khande.
On this occasion, Justice Balakrishnan felicitated Chhattisgarh Samajik Nyay Manch, Bhartiya Sanvidhan Pracharini Sabha, Chhattisgarh Legal Aid Center, Chhattisgarh Nagrik Sangharh Samiti , Chhattisgarh Bhatriy Sangh, Sarv Adivasi Samaj Chhattisgarh and Guru Ghasidas Sahitya Evam Sannskriti Akadami, for their valuable contributions to the society, by giving mementos.
Constitution Day was observed in many places, all over the state of Chhattisgarh. Recitation of Preamble of the Constitution was done in all the places. This two weeks long drive was initiated at Kawardha and Dhamtari on 15th November, which is birth anniversary of Martyr Birsa Munda.