History’s heroes Children

Father of economics

B.R. AMBEDKAR’S STATUE: Outside Parliament House, in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: V_V_Krishnan

He is the founding father of the Republic of India and he crafted our nation’s Constitution. He championed the cause of the disadvantaged and fought tooth and nail against the caste system. He is Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.

Son of Bhimabai and Sakpal, a subedar in the British Indian army, Bhimrao was their 14th child, and was born on April 14, 1891. The Ambedkars lived in Mhow in the Central Provinces (now in Madhya Pradesh). He loved to read books and sometimes used them as a pillow too. Since he belonged to the Mahar community, he had to take a gunnybag to class to sit on. If he was thirsty, he was not allowed to use the public facility, instead the school peon would pour water from a height into his mouth. This was the discrimination Dalits faced at that time. However, things have not changed much over the years, and even today such practices are followed in certain places.

His marriage to Ramabai was arranged when he was 15 and she, nine. Ambedkar did extremely well in studies and became the first Indian to get a doctorate in Economics in a foreign university. With a Ph.D from Columbia University, he went on to do another in London School of Economics, UK. He wrote three scholarly books on the subject, so much so Amartya Sen said, “ Ambedkar is the father of my economics”.

Social justice

Ambedkar founded periodicals like “Equality Janta” and launched full-fledged movements for Dalit rights. He demanded public drinking water sources open to all and rights for all castes to enter temples. He openly condemned the Hindu scriptures advocating discrimination and disagreed with Gandhiji on some matters.

In 1932, the Poona Pact was signed between Dr. Ambedkar and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, representative of the Hindu Brahmins relinquishing reservation of seats for the untouchable classes in the Provisional legislatures, within the general electorate. These classes were later designated as Scheduled Classes and Scheduled Tribes.

The year 1936 saw him starting the Independent Labour Party and also publishing his famous work — Annihilation of Caste where he came down heavily on Hindu orthodox religious leaders and the caste system.

The dawn of Independence saw the Congress Government inviting the jurist-economist to be the first Law Minister and he accepted the post. Days after Independence he was made the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee and ask to pen the nation’s Constitution.

His draft provided constitutional guarantees and protection for a host of civil liberties for the citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability and disallowed all forms of discrimination. Dr Ambedkar also supported rights of women and labour.

Disillusioned with the major religion of the country, Babasaheb as he was fondly called, converted to Buddhism. Almost 5,00,000 of his followers followed suit, just three months before his death. He wrote a book on Buddhism as well. His autobiography is titled Waiting for a Visa.

His wife Ramabai passed away in 1935. Thirteen years later, he married Dr. Sharada who preferred to be called Savita. A diabetic, Ambedkar was confined to bed the last two years of his life and died at the age of 65, leaving behind a legacy unparalleled. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1990, nearly 35 years after his death.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 8:02:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/father-of-economics/article24946771.ece

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