Freedom fighter H S Doreswamy was 30 when the first Republic Day was celebrated with the framing of the Constitution. He has grown with the Constitution, and watched the many ways in which it has shaped public life in India. He now lives in Jayanagar, taking part in people’s protests, and responding to the nation’s various challenges. On Friday, a day before India’s 70th Republic Day, he spoke to Surupasree Sarmmah about the Constitution and its relevance today.
What is your wishlist this Republic Day?
There should be no poverty in the country, prohibition should be brought in, and rule of law should prevail. The right of every citizen must be upheld.
Do you see any drawbacks in the Constitution?
There is no defect in it, the fault lies in the way people adopt its provisions. If the Constitution is followed properly, a number of problems would be solved. The Directive Principles of State Policy came up later, after the full Constitution was written. When there was a reading, it was felt some things had been left out. So these were added on. No doubt they are a part of the Constitution, but they are not followed or implemented with the same vigour. They are more recommendatory in nature.
Some people are talking about modifying the Constitution. Do you wish to see any amendments?
It is a very sacred document, no doubt, but if it is going against the wishes of the people, it should be amended. Having said that, I would also say the changes can’t be brought in overnight. The opinion of the public, experts, parliament and state Assemblies should be taken into account.
Make sure the amendments are accepted by everyone. One can’t change the Constitution merely because one has a majority on one’s side. Our Constitution is taken mainly from the American one, with points from other constitutions. I personally don’t think there is any need for change. We have worked well with differences.
How much of the federalism envisaged in the Constitution is working now?
There was a time when the Constitution was strictly adhered. But what has happened now is that the Centre is encroaching on the powers of the state. It is a federal system and everyone has equal rights. The Central government should give people full power. But with GST and other rules coming in, the Centre wants some kind of a monolithic structure. This is wrong. In India, a country of villages, Gandhiji said there should be decentralisation. The panchayats should be given power and villages should be made self-sufficient in all aspects, like food, shelter, employment and justice. Every village should have its own institutions. But that aspect is not carried out by any government.
Does the younger generation know the difference between Republic Day and Independence Day?
I don’t know how many grown-ups are aware of the difference either. Schools are not doing their work properly… they are not preparing students for citizenship. Schools and colleges should make it a point to tell students about the Constitution and the fundamentals of the country’s rules and regulations. Every institution should empower students.