UPSC MAINS 2019 : Ambedkar’s ideas of social justice still haunt country’s constitutional apparatus


Topic : Ambedkar’s ideas of social justice still haunt country’s constitutional apparatus

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 1: Indian Society




President Ram NathKovind and Prime Minister NarendraModi paid homage to Dalit social reformer and father of the Indian Constitution Dr BR Ambedkar on his 128th birth anniversary, also known as AmbedkarJayanti or BhimJayanti. A social reformer, economist and jurist, BR Ambedkar was the force behind the Dalit Buddhist Movement in India.



  • BhimraoRamjiAmbedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), popularly known as BabasahebAmbedkar, was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer
  • He inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalits), while also supporting the rights of women and labour.
  • He was independent India’s first law and justice minister, the architect of the Constitution of India, and a founding father of the Republic of India.
  • He was often called Babasaheb.


Birth and Education:

  • Bhim Rao was born on 14 April 1891 in an untouchable ‘Mahar’ family at Mhow, near Indore in the present Madhya Pradesh.
  • He was the fourteenth child of RamjiSakpal and Bhimbai. RamjiSakpal(1848-1913) was a head master in the Military School in the rank of subedar- major.
  • Bhimabai (1 854- 96) belonged to a well to do family of Murbadkars who were also employed in the British army.
  • Bhimrao’s family hailed originally fiom the Ambavade village located in the Ratnagiri District of the present Maharashtra.
  • There was a Brahamin teacher in his school with the surname Ambedkar, who somehow had a soft corner for the boy. It was the kindness of this teacher which made him ultimately adopt Ambedkar as his surname.
  • After successful completion of his studies at the Columbia University he left New York for London and entered the Gray’s Inn for doing Bar-at- Law and simultaneously enrolled himself in the London School of Economic and Political Science.
  • But, when he was half the way through his studies the Maharaja of Baroda called him back, as the period of scholarship granted to him was over.
  • Back in India he assumed the office of the Military Secretary to the Maharaja. But due to the unbearable humiliation he had to suffer at the hands of caste- Hindus he left Baroda state.



  • BabasahebAmbedkar was 14th and last child of his parents
  • BabasahebAmbedkar’s real surname was Ambawadekar. But his teacher, MahadevAmbedkar, gave him Ambedkar surname in the school records.
  • BabasahebAmbedkar was the first Indian to get a Doctorate (PhD) degree in Economics from abroad.
  • Ambedkar is the only Indian whose statue is attached with Karl Marx in the London Museum.
  • The credit of giving place to “Ashok Chakra” in the Indian Tricolour also goes to Dr. BabasahebAmbedkar.
  • Nobel Prize winner Prof. AmartyaSen considered Dr. B. R. Ambedkar as his father in economics.
  • In the London School of Economics, Babasaheb completed 8 years of studies in just 2 years 3 months. For this, he studied 21 hours in a day.
  • BabasahebAmbedkar’s initiation in Buddhism with his 8, 50,000 supporters historical in the world, because it was the largest conversion in the world.
  • “Mahant Veer Chandramani”, a great Buddhist monk who initiated Babasaheb to Buddhism, called him “the modern Buddha of this age.



  • He promoted the education of Dalits and made representations to the government in various capacities in this regard. He was part of the Bombay Presidency Committee that worked with the Simon Commission in 1925.
  • He established the BahishkritHitakariniSabha to promote education and socio-economic improvements among the Dalits. He started magazines like Mooknayak, Equality Janta and Bahishkrit Bharat.
  • In 1927, he launched active agitation against untouchability. He organized and agitated for the right of Dalits to enter temples and to draw water from public water resources. He condemned Hindu scriptures that he thought propagated caste discrimination.
  • He advocated separate electorates for the ‘Depressed Classes’, the term with which Dalits were called at that time. He was in disagreement with Mahatma Gandhi at that time since Gandhi was against any sort of reservation in the electorates. When the British government announced the ‘Communal Award’ in 1932, Gandhi went on a fast in Yerwada Jail.
  • He also worked as Minister of Labour in the Viceroy’s Executive Council. After independence, Ambedkar became the first Law Minister in 1947 under the Congress-led government. Later he resigned due to differences with Jawaharlal Nehru on the Hindu Code Bill.
  • He was appointed to the RajyaSabha in 1952 and remained a member till his death.
  • He advocated a free economy with a stable Rupee. He also mooted birth control for economic development. He also emphasised equal rights for women.
  • A few months before he died, he converted to Buddhism in a public ceremony in Nagpur and with him lakhs of Dalits converted to Buddhism.
  • He authored several books and essays. Some of them are: The Annihilation of Caste, Pakistan or the Partition of India, The Buddha and his Dhamma, The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India, Administration and Finance of the East India Company, etc.
  • Ambedkar considered the Right to Constitutional Remedy as the soul of the constitution.


Ambedkar framed many laws for Women Labours in India:

  • Mines Maternity Benefit Act
  • Women Labor welfare fund
  • Women and Child, Labor Protection Act
  • Maternity Benefit for women Labor
  • Restoration of Ban on Employment of Women on Underground Work in Coal Mines.


There are several acts enacted by Dr. B.R Ambedkar for the welfare of people:

  • Dearness Allowance (DA) to Workers
  • Leave Benefit to Piece Workers
  • Revision of Scale of Pay for Employees
  • Health Insurance Scheme
  • National Employment Agency (Employment Exchange)
  • Employees State Insurance (ESI)
  • Provident Fund Act
  • Factory Amendment Act
  • Labor Disputes Act
  • Minimum wage


Ambedkar thoughts on:

Constitutional values:

  • Ambedkar believed that unless the moral values of a constitution are upheld, the grandiloquent words in it will not protect the freedom and democratic values of the people.
  • Ambedkar also attached great importance to constitutional morality in the working of the Constitution.
  • He explained this — by referring to Grote, the Greek historian — as paramount reverence for the forms of the Constitution, enforcing obedience to authority acting under and within these forms yet combined with the habit of open speech, of action subject only to definite legal control.



  • The question of whether the President was bound by ministerial advice and could act independently of it or contrary to it arose in the constituent assembly.
  • Ambedkar was of the opinion that the president was bound by ministerial advice, and, Rajendra Prasad, the chairperson of the constituent assembly, had protracted exchanges with Ambedkar on this issue.
  • Ambedkar was of the firm view that “the President could not act and will not act except on the advice of the Ministers. He will never be able to act independently of the Ministers”.
  • These passages are reproduced in the landmark judgment of our Supreme Court in Shamsher Singh’s case, in which the Court accepted Ambedkar’s view.


Fundamental rights:

  • Ambedkar was also passionate about the guarantees of fundamental rights being appropriately incorporated in the Constitution.
  • The subject of fundamental rights was debated for 38 days after which the Assembly adopted a fairly comprehensive array of basic human rights covering a wide spectrum.
  • It is trite that rights without remedies are meaningless.
  • Guarantees of fundamental rights remain ornamental promises unless they can be judicially enforced: With that objective in mind, the draft Constitution provided that a person can move the Supreme Court directly for the enforcement of his or her fundamental rights without going through the high court.


Social justice:

  • Social justice was Ambedkar’s mission.
  • He fervently believed that mere equality on paper was not sufficient.
  • What was needed was de facto equality, real equality of opportunity for the millions who had been denied it.
  • On the last day of the constituent assembly, he pointed out the perils of a “life of contradictions”: “How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril.
  • We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy which this Constituent Assembly has so laboriously built up.”
  • The anguished questions posed by Ambedkar continue to haunt us.
  • Social justice, the signature tune of our Constitution, still eludes us. But we cannot afford to give way to despair.
  • The struggle for social justice must continue with determination and its achievement would be the best tribute we can pay to one of the greatest sons of India.


Sample Question:

What are the contributions of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar towards India? Discuss