Indian Constitution Day commemorates the adoption of the document on 26 November, 1949. It came into effect on 26 January, 1950, turning India into a Democratic Republic. Sadly, it was also chosen as the day by Pakistani terrorists to launch several coordinated attacks in Mumbai in 2008. A poorly trained police took on the attackers, many of its personnel not only sacrificing their lives, but also exhibiting extraordinary courage till such time the central forces took over. So, it is a day when Indians have twin reasons to feel proud.
The Constitution has faced many challenges over the years, including the dark period of the Emergency, when even the Preamble was tampered with. Despite this, the people prevailed because the document reflects most closely their diverse yet unified, and democratic, spirit. It is also a flexible constitution and has been amended over a hundred times, till now. It is by no means perfect, as it is sought to be interpreted by every political party in the light of its own ideology. It is a work in progress that has to meet the challenge of the changing times, particularly in the context of fast transforming technology that impacts every part of people’s lives. An essential element of this is that Parliament be as closely representative of the people as possible. The need to increase the number of MPs to provide clearer resolution to a population that has increased four-fold, is just one such challenge.
Pertinently, as Prime Minister Modi pointed out on Thursday – reiterating what many others have said before him – rights do not come without responsibilities. Sadly, although people after so many years have instinctively adopted the spirit, too many are not informed enough about the particulars that affect their lives. The focus of the Constitution is its fundamental unit, the individual. In too many ways, there has been the attempt by vested interests to change this focus to communities, castes, ideologies, even political dynasties. Every individual should be aware of this challenge and how to counter it and, as the PM said, this would become possible if knowledge and awareness is enhanced from school life, itself.
People should know that there will always be grievances, but these cannot be resolved by throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Even on Thursday, there were attempts to lay siege to the Capital and the Government by farmers from Punjab and the trade-unions. Although represented as ‘anndatas’, many among them are those committed tooth and nail to opposing the economic reforms being undertaken by the NDA. They do not have the people’s mandate, which is why they could not block the new laws in Parliament. So, after having nearly bankrupted Punjab, they are now set to inflict the same on Delhi. (Nobody cares about Covid-19 any more, except those struggling to breathe in the ICUs.) If such arm-twisting tactics succeed, what chances are there of discussion turning into debate, instead of disputes, as prescribed by President Kovind? It is truly sad that so many remain cynical and uncaring in this regard, even though the consequences will visit upon all!