We need to remember the real Ambedkar, not the icon that he is being projected now; for, if he had not taken the plunge into politics, he would have been remembered as one of the great economists of the country, said civil rights activist Anand Telthumbe.

Addressing a programme to mark the 122 birth centenary of B.R. Ambedkar, Mr. Telthumbe illustrated Ambedkar’s acumen as an economist.

In the 30s, while there was a debate on agrarian crisis in the country, many chose to take the “superficial” route by blaming fragmentation of land, he said. However, Ambedkar argued that fragmentation was not the problem, and instead, put the blame on population pressure on agriculture (that is, the number of people dependent on marginal land for their livelihood) and lack of capital, technology that makes agriculture unviable. “This is a profound statement, implying the need for an industrialisation drive. If he had not gone into politics, he would be remembered as a great economist,” he said.

Ambedkar’s socialism envisaged formation of agricultural cooperatives — where the government provides seeds, technology and capital, and the landlord is given debentures for the cooperative — while all key industries are nationalised, said Mr. TelthumbeHe said, the “father of the constitution” first opposed the idea of a Constituent Assembly and even after the drafting of the Constitution, he had commented that it was “useless and needed to be burnt”.

“He is being portrayed as someone who wanted reservations. Though he fought for political reservations, he realised that the system was only creating stooges and not political leaders for dalits,” Mr. Telthumbe.

The activist rued that the India of today had marched in a direction that was contrary to Ambedkar’s ideals. “Every word of the preamble – secular, democratic, socialist – is a joke now. Everyone works for strengthening caste, even Dalit leaders, who want reservations,” he said.

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