Amid protests by Opposition members of Parliament, Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh on December 3 reserved his decision to allow the introduction of a private member’s bill to amend the Preamble to the Constitution.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021, moved by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader KJ Alphons in the Upper House, seeks to replace the word “socialist” with “equitable” in the Preamble to the Constitution, among other changes.
The Bill also suggests changing the words “equality of status and of opportunity” in the Preamble to “equality of status and of opportunity to be born, to be fed, to be educated, to get a job and to be treated with dignity”. It has proposed to add “access to information technology” in the objectives of the Preamble.
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In an interview with MoneyControl, Alphons, the politician from Kerala and former Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, argued that the Bill was in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s action of empowering the people at the lowest level and that it wants words “socialist” that carries “political connotations of the Russian socialist era” to be removed from the Preamble. Edited excerpts from the interview:
Why do you feel the need for a Bill to amend the Preamble?
Some of these (words) are just ideological slogans of the socialist era of the Russian model. Say for example the word ‘socialism’, it has lost most of its meaning and it is now linked to a political movement. So I thought the more appropriate would be ‘equitable’.
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The word ‘equitable’ would mean much more. It means equality in opportunities, equality of everything. It (equitable) is not a term with an ideological baggage but it is something, we can say, has a right to India… The right to the resources of India, the right to the fruits of development… and that must all be shared. So it (equitable) is much more practical and loaded term which is non-political. That is why I suggested the word.
The Bill also wants to change other words on equality in the Preamble? Why?
The bill wants to substitute “equality of status and of opportunity” in the Preamble to “equality of status and of opportunity to be born, to be fed, to be educated, to get a job and to be treated with dignity”. Now, again, what does it mean to a common man? I have just defined that... The right to be born, right to be educated, right to get a job, right to live with dignity. So I have just amplified that. Because otherwise, it remains an empty word for most people. When I say that all should have the right to education, healthcare, jobs, what is wrong in that? I am only expanding the definition of what “equality of status and of opportunity” means.
The Bill also proposes to substitute the words “fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation” with “fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the community and the unity and integrity of the Nation. Happiness, assuring a high gross domestic happiness”.
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India lives in its villages. And, therefore, villages, panchayats and local communities are also important. So I have added that the dignity of not only the nation but also of the community be protected.
The last word “happiness” has been borrowed from Bhutan where the concept of gross domestic happiness comes in. I just want to add in the Preamble that this nation has the right to be happy.
RJD MP Manoj Jha says that “amendment to the Preamble is an attack on the very edifice of the Constitution”. What do have to say to that?
Of course, I am trying to amend the Constitution. If you are amending the Constitution (earlier amendments) why can’t the Preamble be amended? I do not understand. Most of those who are objecting to the amendment have not read my Bill.
Is your party leadership, including Prime Minister Modi, in the loop?
I had given notice about this Bill six month ago. Whatever we do is in line with what the prime minister has done for the country. He, for example, ensured that the poor also get the benefits of the development. So whatever I have suggested in the Bill is in line with what the prime minister has done to empower the people at the lowest level.
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How do you see the future of the Bill?
We know a private member’s Bill rarely gets passed in Parliament. The good part is that we have attracted the attention of the nation and the Parliament on an important issue. I hope it gets passed. But even if the discussion takes place, it is fine with us. It is up to the government whether it should be passed or not. The Bill is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s action.