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The Constitution Of The Republic

THE Constitution of a country is, in essence, adjectival rather than substantive; it does not seek to prescribe what should be done, but how the authority of a government should be exercised.

 

The Constitution of a country is, in essence, adjectival rather than substantive; it does not seek to prescribe what should be done, but how the authority of a government should be exercised. It is strictly procedural in character. The procedure thus laid down is always based on a specific political philosophy, which when it strongly emphasises the consent of the governed, will be the philosophy of democracy with its insistence on the necessity of free persuasion in time for every substantial decision for change in the order of things. But historically it is only rarely that this enunciation of a political philosophy has been accompanied by an equally forthright declaration of an economic philosophy; it can hardly be said, for example, that the Founding Fathers of the American democracy envisaged the growth of the United States as a citadel of free private enterprise in the sense in which we understand it today. Nor did the declaration of specific social or economic purposes such as the egalitarian doctrine of the French Revolution and of the similar faith shared by the founders of the Kuomintang necessarily secure their fruition. It is, therefore, not strictly necessary to look to the Indian Constitution for the affirmation or denial of any specific social and economic pattern; that pattern must emerpe in the process of time and its character determined by the meaning and content which the people impart to their politica The realisation of this ideal of economic and, therefore, of social, justice and equality, within the framework of the Constitution is, however, a different thing, and must depend on the men an women who work it. It ultimately depends upon the growth of Par-ties wedded to the achievement of lesser or greater justice and the pace with which their programme can be worked out. There are certain basic factors which the best will in the world cannot alter, and the 'chief among them is the fact that the enthusiasm for the reduction of social inequalities and injustices with our present available resources in wealth would mean little consolation, to anyone. Our economic resources have to be multiplied many times if equality should not merely mean equality in poverty but in prosperity; the effort that is needed to achieve this degree of production cannot come from any single group and, as such, there must at every point be practical demonstration of the progress towards the ideal of distributive justice so that all groups have the incentive for the expansion of our economy to the levels which would ensure an increase, however gradual, in the standard of living for all. This cannot depend entirely on private, free enterprise. President Truman proudly declared in his State-of-the-Union message the other day, that national production in the United States had increased fivefold during the last fifty years; that hours of work had declined from 60 to 40 per week; that, with this background American economy can, on the basis of free enterprise, plan and reasonably look forward to such increasing abundance in the next half century that would make equality of opportunity much more real than any-amount of idealistic talk within an underdeveloped country. Private enterprise in India has never been robust and has rarely, if ever, taken the lead for a vigorous expansion of our national production. But this, of course, does not mean that for future development it should either not be regarded as one of the main tools or subordinated so closely as to hamper its growth

There' is a wide enough field in which State enterprise may increasingly enter and participate without having to clash with existing private enterprise or, proposed new undertakings. In this view, the question of nationalisation of (Continued on page 57) industries, which is always put in the forefront of any programme of economic justice, is not a problem that should seriously exercise the minds of the leaders of government for a fairly long time ahead of us. Private enterprise in the past has not undertaken "the establishment of any large plants dealing with basic or key industries but has contended itself, except for Tata Steel and Power plants, to the manufacture of consumer goods which were being imported on a large scale. And no great harm can arise if the modest field demanded by private enterprise is left to them subject to the residual State control which will always exist

There is the need to formulate a comprehensive plan, part of which would be the demarcation of the field which will be left clear to private enterprise. There is no indication that private capitalism would ever desire to make a bid for the control of the basic and heavy industries like steel and chemicals. The Constitution has provided the framework in which such a plan can be devised and executed. As economic and social planning is regarded as a subject in which the States and the Centre will exercise concurrent jurisdiction, the Constitution has left scone both for the unity that central direction can achieve and the degree of decentralisation needed for the regions to work out the details as part of a larger whole. The Constitution provides that the regulation and development of industries needed for defence and such others which are deemed expedient by Parliament will come under Central control. Agriculture yet remains a provincial subject, but as a result of execution of river valley schemes and as part of economic planning, it cannot escape Central regulation. There are. besides, the residuary powers with the Centre which will strengthen its hands in many new fields

The augmentation of the powers of the Centre is; therefore, the vital factor to be observed in connection with the future of bur economic affairs and the economics of the Constitution has to be sought in this than in the allocation of financial and taxing powers or in the procedure that has been laid down for their exercise

The provisions regarding inter-State trade and commerce would add greatly to this wide authority; in the United States, the Commerce clause, drafted in the age of post-chaises, has continued to serve the country's needs long after the character of commerce had been transformed by railroads, telegraph, telephone, radio and the aeroplane. It has served the Americans right from the days when the feeling of statehood was strongly entrenched down to recent times when, after initial set;-backs, it enabled implimenta-tion of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programme and the more vital requirements of the last war

 In incorporating, though with many reservations and exceptions, in Part XIII of our Constitution, provisions to secure the freedom of inter-State commerce from restrictions, some flexibility will be imparted to the economic life of the country to enable its freer growth. , The Congress Working Committee's decision to establish a Central Planning Commission has almost coincided with the inauguration of the new Constitution. The need for a new statutory body of this kind would show that the plans that had been made from time to time were largely unrelated to available resources. A Constitution or a plan or even the presence of men with the necessary , vision and drive cannot achieve a rapid growth of economic prosperity until there is the willingness on the part of the majority of the people to restrict present consumption, which means a desire to save and invest. In a totalitarian economy, it is brought about by State compulsion, by rigidly enforced austerity but with our democratic liberties assured by Constitutional guarantees, the main task of the Planning Commission would be to mobilise our resources for the success of planned economic progress. It is a task which needs the free and voluntary co-operation of a people willing to advance on the economic front and ready for the endeavour.

 

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