Preliminary work by Sanjeev Sabhlok. Now, of course, we have Swarna Bharat Party.

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Our Socialistic Constitution

By Shanu Athiparambath, from his blog here. Also published here.

A writ petition by an NGO challenging the insertion of the word “socialism” in the Preamble to the Constitution was rejected by the Supreme Court on Monday. Section 29 A (5) of the Representation of the People Act makes it mandatory that every political party in India should swear allegiance to socialism. It came into effect through the Constitution (42nd) Amendment Act, 1976. The preamble reads as follows: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic.” A political party which fails or refuses to do so will be rejected at outset. Senior counsel Fali Nariman argued that the 42nd Amendment had evolved during the Emergency period, and that it violated the basic structure of the Constitution. Nariman had said before that “It is contrary to the Constitution and to its democratic foundations that political parties be called upon to swear allegiance only to a particular mindset or ideology.” Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had opposed the inclusion of the word socialism in the constitution.

Surprisingly, Justice Kapadia said that till now, no political party had challenged the constitution, and that the Supreme Court will consider it when the time comes. Facts don’t support this statement. S V Raju of the Swatantra party applied for the registration of a political party vehemently opposed to Socialism, and his application was rejected. “Socialism is a form of economic engineering. The grievance in our petition was that the country did not allow us to participate in the electoral process without telling a lie and we did not want to lie.” he said. So much for the claim that the Indian constitution allows liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship! Whatever one thinks of democracy, it should be evident that this decree of the Supreme Court in not compatible with it. In the words of Ambedkar, “What should be the policy of the State, how the Society should be organized in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself, because that is destroying democracy altogether. If you state in the Constitution that the social organization of the State shall take a particular form, you are, in my judgment, taking away the liberty of the people to decide what should be the social organization in which they wish to live. It is perfectly possible today, for the majority people to hold that the socialist organization of society is better than the capitalist organization of society. But it would be perfectly possible for thinking people to devise some other form of social organization which might be better than the socialist organization of today or of tomorrow. I do not see therefore why the Constitution should tie down the people to live in a particular form and not leave it to the people themselves to decide it for themselves.”
 
The chief justice said this while rejecting a petition in the past: “Why do you take socialism in a narrow sense defined by the Communists? In a broader sense, socialism means welfare measures for the citizens. It is a facet of democracy. It hasn’t got any definite meaning. It gets different meaning in different times.” All this is nonsense. The word socialism has a specific meaning. It is a political system in which all property is owned by the state.  It has always been so. We should take terms in its precise sense, and see it for what it is. If the Supreme Court finds the problem purely academic, they would have no reason to include it in the constitution. The last resort of people who want to debase liberty and freedom of expression is that people no longer believes it these days! If so, why insist that people swear allegiance to it?
 
The Indian constitution guarantees justice and equality before law. Socialism fails on both counts. If the society should collectively own all property, it would mean that some are slaves, at least partially. It doesn’t mean equality before law, and hence fails the universalization test.
 
Let us look at the policies of the present Indian Government. It has accepted the major proposals of the communist manifesto like “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax”, “Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly” and “Free education for all children in public schools” lock, stock and barrel. They have implemented almost all the other demands too, to some extent at many points in its history. The Government had confiscated property of emigrants, partially centralized communication and transportation and imposed several such monstrous legislations without any qualms. Mines, banks and wholesale grain trade were nationalized during the period of Indira Gandhi. There is no point in fooling ourselves. India has a long history of socialistic policies which kept most of its population poor for six decades. This has to change if we are to achieve progress and a re-look at our constitution would be a right move towards it.
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Petition against term “socialist” in Constitution rejected

(By J. VENKATESAN, The Hindu)

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed as withdrawn a writ petition challenging the validity of Section 2 of the Constitution (42nd Amendment) by virtue of which the word ‘socialist’ was inserted in the Preamble to the Constitution.

The petition, filed by the Good Governance India Foundation, also challenged the validity of Section 29 A (5) of the Representation of the People Act, which was inserted by way of Section 6 of the RP (Amendment) Act, 1989 making it incumbent upon every political party registered in India to pledge allegiance to the socialist ideal, failing which such a party would be rejected from registration.

A three-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishan and Swatanter Kumar, after hearing senior counsel Fali Nariman, Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam for the Centre and counsel Meenakshi Arora for the Election Commission permitted the petitioner to withdraw the petition saying that the issues raised would be left open and decided as and when the situation arose.

Mr. Nariman submitted that the 42nd Amendment, evolved in the climate of national Emergency, violated the basic structure of the Constitution. Prior to the amendment, the Preamble read as follows “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign democratic republic.” After the amendment, the Preamble read: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic.”

AMBEDKAR’S OPPOSITION

Mr. Nariman read out debates in the Constituent Assembly to drive home the point that Dr. Ambedkar had opposed the inclusion of word ‘socialist’ in the Constitution. He said the court should go into the question whether the powers under Article 368 to amend the provisions would include the power to amend even the Preamble. Justice Kapadia, however, told Mr. Nariman that so far no political party had challenged this and every one had subscribed to it. The court would consider it when the Commission faced challenge from any political party.

The NGO, in its petition, contended that the 42nd Amendment altered the Preamble, which was impermissible as it contained the ideals and aspirations or the objects which the Constitution-makers intended to be realised by its enacting provisions. It said that such an insertion was wholly inconsistent with the phrase ‘liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship,’ in the Preamble itself.

The petitioner submitted that the 42nd Amendment attempted to create a particular ideological basis for adherence to the Constitution, which was against the principles of a multi-party democracy and which breached the unity and integrity of the nation. The ingestion of the socialist principle was antithetical to the principle of democracy, which was considered a basic structure of the Constitution.

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Why Socialism Fails: A Parable

By Atanu Dey, Speakers Panel, FTI, from his blog here.

This is a parable that succinctly illustrates why socialism fails. It fails because of one fundamental feature of human nature: people respond to incentives. Actually, the most important lesson one learns from a study of economics is just that – incentives matter. Here’s the story.

An economics professor said he had never failed a single student before but had, once, failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said ok, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism.

All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A. After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

But, as the second test rolled around, the students who studied only a little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too; so they studied less than what they had. The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great; but when government takes all the reward away; no one will try or want to succeed.

[I am not entirely sure which source to credit for the story. It seems that this could be it but I don't know.]

The idea of sharing stuff equally is not a bad idea, actually, if it is confined to a small closely-knit group of people who all care for each other deeply – as in a family. The usual problems associated with interactions among large anonymous groups of people, problems identified as “prisoner’s dilemma”, or “the tragedy of the commons”, don’t usually arise in such small persistent groups. In any case, free-riders in small groups can be easily identified. Also, most people value the welfare of their own family members more than they value the welfare of strangers. That curbs any impulse to free-ride.

Indians need to understand why socialism fails. That is a necessary, although not sufficient, condition for India to get out of poverty.

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