Today, the Constitution of India completes seventy three years of its existence. Over the years, the document has undergone a number of changes through amendments by the legislature and interpretations of its provisions by the Supreme Court.
On Constitution Day 2021, we attempt to reflect on the challenges we face as citizens despite the constitutional guarantees mandated by the Preamble to the Constitution.
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, saw how many lives were lost during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens scrambling to secure a resource as basic as oxygen for their loved ones knocked the doors of the courts. If the Supreme Court and especially the High Courts hadn't interfered and demanded action from the executive, the situation would have been even more disastrous.
Ours is a SOVEREIGN country, which got independence decades ago. But at times, we fail to understand the agony of refugees, migrants and foreigners, who are rendered homeless and stateless on account of technical and typographical errors.
We are taught about SOCIALISM, but equal pay for women is still a distant dream, especially in rural areas. We have reservation for Economically Weaker Sections, but India accounts for 139 million of the total 689 million people (20.17%) in the world living in extreme poverty in 2017. The fact that people still lose their lives to manual scavenging is a reflection of how our society treats those at the bottom of the pyramid. Not that the government is willing to admit to the existence of this deplorable practice.
The Preamble also calls for a SECULAR society, but there have been instances where individuals of a certain faith are discriminated against, and are made to jump through procedural hoops to prove their citizenship.
Contrary to our culture of treating guests like gods (Atithi Devo Bhava), foreigners of a particular religion were made to look like they were responsible for spreading COVID-19 across the country.
We are guaranteed social, economic and political JUSTICE, but owing to deficiencies in our criminal justice system, undertrials languish in prisons for decades, and some prisoners die before their trial. Black-letter laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) still exist on the books to keep dissenters behind bars indefinitely.
Our outside maybe EQUAL, but deep inside we all know how the maha-dalits in Bihar, UP and Madhya Pradesh are alive, just by eating rats and worms, in the twenty first century. It’s time now, it’s time to acknowledge that women need safe passage, and not free rides.
Every individual has the LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, but there are times when comedians are asked to 'sit-down’ rather than ‘stand-up’. The right to protest is haunted by the ghost of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Society still decides for individuals who they should be living with. Years after the Supreme Court decriminalised Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, same-sex marriage remains a distant dream for fear that it will desecrate the sanctity of the institution.
Everyone is aware about the trinity of Liberty, Equality and FRATERNITY, but some individuals are more equal than others.
There are two Constitutions - one for the citizens and another for the majority and those from the upper echelons of society. On this Constitution Day, let us hope for one document that equally applies to everyone, without any restraints.