According to Ambedkar, the education system must be built on the synergy between academia, industry and market. He was also against the communists and frequent labour strikes
Abhinav Prakash Singh
As we commemorate Dr Ambedkar Mahaparinirvan Diwas on December 6, it is pertinent to focus on some of the neglected aspects of Ambedkar related to the education and economic development.
They are even more important in the present time when the government is pushing the ambitious programme of ‘Make in India’ and skill development.
The views of Ambedkar on these issues can be gleamed from his work as an economist, administrator and politician.
While addressing the Technical Training Scheme Advisory Committee in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on August 24, 1944, in his capacity as the labour member of the Executive Council of the Viceroy, Government of India, Ambedkar made the following remarks: “No plan for the future development of the country can be deemed to be complete which does not provide for technical and scientific training. This is the age of the machine and it is only those countries in which technical and scientific training has risen to the highest pitch that will survive in the struggle that will commence when the war is over, for maintaining decent standards of living for their people”.
Unlike the Gandhians or the socialists, Ambedkar was a supporter of the urban-industrialisation. According to him, industrialisation was the only long-term solution to the problem of agriculture resulting from low productivity and surplus labour. Also because, modern industry breaks down the caste system by inducing professional mobility and economic freedom.
However, for Dalits and other weaker sections to be a participant in this process it is necessary that they have access to the technical and scientific education. Ambedkar advocated that education must be linked to the requirements of the market and that syllabus must be dynamic and flexible according to the feedback from the industry.
For Ambedkar skill development and technical knowledge were of the prime importance for Dalits and the masses than the liberal arts education.
In the ‘Memorandum on the Grievances of the Scheduled Castes’ submitted to the Governor-General of India in 1942, Ambedkar argued that the courses in science and technology promised a greater certainty of jobs but they were inaccessible due to their higher cost. He advocated creation of required infrastructure for mass education and government support in the form of apprenticeships and scholarships for the technical education.
Ambedkar saw the caste-system as a system of ‘division of labourers’ in water-tight silos, which is the anti-thesis of the division of labour; and Dalits are located at the lowest end of this economic ladder due to persistent social discrimination and denial of the economic opportunities. They get a raw deal even when they have requisite capabilities for a job or as he said, “In times of prosperity he is last to be employed, and in times of depression he is first to be discharged”.
The solution, according to Ambedkar, lay in imparting even better skills and technical competence to those belonging to the lower castes to ensure upward movement in the economic ladder. Otherwise they will remain stuck in the low-productivity and low-paying jobs even when they move out of their traditional professions. Such a movement, though emancipatory in its own right, is not enough to restructure the traditional social hierarchy of castes.
Ambedkar was also against the communists and frequent labour strikes. He appealed to the Dalits and other weaker caste workers to boycott the Left-wing strikes of 1924, 1925, 1928, 1929 and 1934 as it causes unnecessary disruption of the industrial production and leads to economic slowdown which hurts the masses the most.
During his address to the Conference of Untouchable Workers of the Great India Peninsula Railway at Manmad in 1938, Ambedkar condemned the communists as an enemy of the working class. He said that “nobody has brought a greater ruination on the workers than these men (communists).”
The manifesto released by his Scheduled Castes Federation for the general elections of 1952 reflected Ambedkar’s view that industrial expansion and increasing industrial production is the necessary first condition for a prosperous India.
He considered ideological debates on the pattern of industrialisation meaningless and advocated an approach free of the socialist dogma. The manifesto says, “Looking at the immense poverty of the people of this country no other consideration except that of greater production and still greater production can be primary and paramount condition. A pre-conceived pattern of industry cannot be the primary or paramount consideration. The remedy against is more production and not the pattern of production…”
Ambedkar considered industrialisation and economic growth as the necessary condition for the progress of the country and emancipation of the masses. For this, he advocated an education system built on the synergy between academia, industry and market to ensure creation of better human resource and employability of those from the disadvantaged sections.
It is a sad commentary that his views find audience seven decades after Independence and not in the early years of the Republic which were dominated by the Nehruvian dogma.
(Abhinav Prakash Singh is assistant professor, Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi, Delhi. Views are personal)For more Opinion pieces, click here.