While discussing the contribution of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar saheb (popularly known as Dr B.R. Ambedkar/Babasaheb) volumes are required to write as his massive contribution in all fields are assets to Indians. I wish to quote a line that has greatly motivated me. “Life should be great rather than long”, said Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who flagged the ‘Constitution of India’.
Born on 14 April 1891, Dr. Ambedkar showed the path of Dalits on how to lead a venerable life. Interestingly, his date of birth i.e. 14 April has coincided ( sometimes one-day variation) with great celebration in Assam, Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu as generally this date is celebrated as New Year in the respective state. In Assam, a week-long celebration is known as ‘Rongali Bihu’, in Bengali ‘Subha nabarsha’, Vishu in Kerala, Vaishakhi in Punjab, and Puthandu in Tamil. All these evince that he was born on an auspicious date and month. Dr. Ambedkar saheb passed away on 6 December 1956 but undoubtedly ‘his life was great rather than long’.
Hailing from the socially most backward class, he has shown everyone particularly in the lower echelons of the society, mainly Dalits how to survive with dignity. It may be mentioned that Dalit communities are found not only in India but also in Bangladesh, even among the Muslims of Bangladesh. Dalit in Bangladesh is a recent adoption earlier they were called indigenous or antaz but in recent times, Dalit is used. The data reveals that around 30 Dalit communities live in the South-west part of Bangladesh. Socially and economically they are backward, poor, and vulnerable. Bhumija Foundation of Bangladesh identified nine Dalit communities in the South-western region of Bangladesh based on their occupation and distinct culture.
Anyway, in his childhood, Babasaheb never felt the brunt of the caste politics or ‘Untouchability syndrome’ as he was born at Mhow, Indore present Madhya Pradesh in an army family of Army cantonment. In his own words “……my father was employed in the Army. He held the rank of Subedar at that time. Since we lived in the cantonment, we had little to do with the world outside the military area. I had no experience of Untouchability”. But after his father’s retirement, the situation totally changed. His father shifted to Satara and he felt the brunt of untouchability as even no barber was prepared to cut their hair as sequel Dr. Ambedkar’s elder sister used to cut his hair. Like this, he had to face many social issues in those days because of his caste (Mahar). Anyway, while Dr. Ambedkar ji served in the Baroda state he was denied accommodation on rent both by Hindu or Muslim house owners as a sequel he had to live in a Parsi Dharmasala, and there also he had to face serious problems because of caste.
Dr. Ambedkar was a man of vision and had a strong desire for the development of human beings. In his words, “I believe that the world can be conquered by intelligence”. Further, he felt “without social efficiency no permanent progress in other fields of activity was possible”. And that is why he emphasized self-respect, “Self-respect is the most vital factor in life, without it man is a cipher.” He considered education as the most powerful catalyst for bringing about the changes in the society. It is believed that he used to study even for 18 hours every day in his school days. Dr. Ambedkar was in favour of birth control and he was of the opinion that with a huge population India would face severe problems on many fronts. He may be quoted here, “the educated class has, by this time, fully realized the necessity of birth-control and fortunately, the leaders in our country also are unanimous on this point. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sir Rabindranath Tagore, and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu know very well the importance and the urgency of the movement for birth control and are in favour of contraceptives”. He had also stated that “Population in India grows decade by decade in geometrical progression. As against this unlimited growth of population what is available for cultivation is not merely a limited amount of land but a limited amount of land whose fertility is diminishing year by year. India is caught between two sides of a pincer, the one side of which is a progressive increase in population and production is increasing to an alarming degree, leaving India with the inheritance of poverty, more poverty, and chronic poverty.”. His theory of population growth in the context of India matches with Malthusian theory of population and our policymakers should look into this issue.
Babasaheb’s feelings toward women and their empowerment can be understood in his writing. “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.” Dr. Ambedkar’s contribution to the economic development of India was enormous as already mentioned volumes are required to write.
In 1990, Dr. Ambedkar saheb was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award. Although Babasaheb passed away on 6 December 1956, through his activities and contribution he will be in the hearts of millions of Indians.
On the occasion of his happy birthday on 14 April 2022, I extend my Pronam to the great soul.