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(To-day is Ambedkar Jayanti. I consider it appropriate to quote one paragraph from my ON THE LOOM OF TIME, Portrait of My Life and Times pp. 189- 192. I had been the Commissioner of Income-tax at Nagpur from 1986 to 1992.)
‘…..While I sat as the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals), I always felt that Dr. Ambedkar, from his photograph tucked on the wall, kept me under his constant vigil. Working under his full view, I felt saddled with an enormous sense of responsibility. When I became the Commissioner of Income Tax (Administration), I found that on the wall, behind my back, was an imposing photograph of Dr.Ambedkar which had been inaugurated by my predecessor-in-office several years back. Every year, on Dr. Ambedkar’s Jayanti, a throng of office functionaries would assemble to offer floral tribute to Dr. Ambedkar. It was the customary duty of the Commissioner to solemnly garland him and to offer roses and marigolds to him in recognition of his outstanding services to our nation. After this colourful event in the chamber of the Commissioner, the officers and the officials used to assemble in the first floor hall of the Aayakar Bhavan. Lots of speakers would speak on the various aspects of Dr.Ambedkar’s work stressing his great relevance to resolve the contemporary problems. Towards the end, it was for me, as the Commissioner, to say something about him. As I was accustomed to enjoy speaking (perhaps I was in love with my own voice), and as I had admiration for the great ‘Ambedkar phenomenon’, I used to speak at length which the listeners enjoyed, or suffered. So over years I heard a plethora of ideas about Dr.Ambedkar expressed at different fora. I had many occasions to move from place to place in my far-flung jurisdiction; and I saw Dr. Ambedkar’s statues dotting the landscape of the rural and urban Maharashtra. I noticed the people’s attitudes of deep veneration towards him. While at Nagpur, I enjoyed reading Dr. Dhananjay Keer’s biography of Dr. Ambedkar. Keer’s Dr. Ambedkar Life and Missions is an outstanding work. Dr.Ambedkar’s contributions have thus been crisply summarised in a sentence in the preface to the book :
“Ambedkar’s eternal search for knowledge, his incredible industry and his unflinching aim with which he raised himself from dust to doyen, from the life of a social leper to the position of a constitutionmaker, and his heroic struggles for raising the down-trodden to human dignity will constitute a golden chapter in the history of this nation and in the history of human freedom as well.”’
[ an extract from Shiva Kant Jha’s ON THE LOOM OF TIME, Portrait of My Life and Times pp. 189- 192)
“Three persons met in a conclave at the ‘swimming city’ in the Pacific to deliberate on the affairs of our world. They assembled in this ship. They were advertised in the media as the three flowers out to herald a new spring all around. One was with the highest Business Management doctorate from the world’s most prestigious university; the second was an economist flaunting gaudy academic distinctions; and the third had a distinguished career as a financier reigning with his wizardry the world of finance. Each of them claimed to work for the common people of the country. Each of them had easy access to the Government that claimed to work as the guardian of the people (parens patriae). The common people had a lot of expectations from them, they reposed a lot of faith in them. They never felt they could ever be deceived. This always happens when critical sense to discriminate between reality and illusion is lost. The persons in the conclave had a dexterous strategy. They seemed to work for common people, but served the ends of the present-day versions of the House of Medici (a 14th century political dynasty that had once ruled the world of finance), or the gang of the Zaharoffs (Sir Basil Zaharoff was an arms dealer and financier). They worshipped God but served Mammon. For them common people were no better than ‘beasts of burden’. They felt they sounded scholarly when they quoted Alexander Hamilton for whom the common people were merely ‘the great beast’.
They thought of three Indias. One India, called ‘India Incorporated’, of the nouveau riche, the high net worth individuals, the most successful looters, the most successful crooks, the MNCs, and creatures of the similar stuff. Mammon is their guide and Lucre is their love. They need a country on this planet because some stellar world is yet to be discovered or explored. They feel that all others beyond their circle are mere commodities to be turned into the grist of the mill of their greed. They feel the world exists for them. Not to say of a Government, even God exists to promote their welfare. The Second and the third Indias exist in the spheres away from the first, separated by the thickest smog ever seen. These two constitute Bharat, itself vivisected into two realms, one working for the first India as their workers, lobbyists, advertisers and cheerleaders and the other destined to exist bound on the wheel of fire. Some of these have before them inviting carrots for which any donkey is accustomed to bray, and move towards. The Third India is the Bharat of ordinary mortals whose destiny makes them either to become the instruments to run the market, or to become raw materials for creation of new products, or to become what the lawyers say res commercium.
Justifying their ideas they drew on the wisdom of J.B. Priestley who discovered four Englands in his English Journey (1934). He discovered four Englands: (i) the traditional England rich with wealth; (ii) the “bleak England of harsh industrial towns,” and (iii) the “England of dole”, a subdivision of England No. 2.” and (iv) the enterprising England of the 20th century.
But the delight of the experts in the conclave found no bounds, when a professor from a prestigious Business School, getting salary in lakhs, and lakhs pointed out that there existed precedents even in ‘the best of all times’. Even Benjamin Disraeli, who worked to make Victoria the Empress of India in the 19th century, had witnessed two Englands:
“Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different
planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, are not governed by the same laws…the Rich and the Poor.”
[ an extract from Shiva Kant Jha’s ON THE LOOM OF TIME, Portrait of My Life and Times pp. 400-401)