A million ironies now – grammar of anarchy edition

Constitutional defence

B R Ambedkar’s grammar of anarchy speech at the Constituent Assembly—a perennial favourite with us at Takshashila—got several mentions last week in the light of Anna Hazare’s hunger strike demanding a draconian Jan Lok Pal bill against corruption. There’s no harm repeating the relevant words from his speech:

If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us. [Pragati]

Anupam Kher, who was part of the celebrity set that supported Anna Hazare’s hunger strike, is alleged to have criticised the Constitution (drafted under Ambedkar’s chairmanship) on television. His exact words are in dispute but members of the Republican Party of India—a party once-led by Ambedkar—decided to take the decidedly unconstitutional route of vandalising Mr Kher’s house to protest the insult to the Constitution.

The Sanvidhan Bachao Manch (the Protect the Constitution Platform) of Mumbai has correctly arrived at the conclusion that “The Lokpal would be the ultimate authority if the bill is passed. He would be above Parliament and the Judiciary which challenges the basics of democracy.” So they have decided to organise a peaceful protest rally at, well, August Kranti Maidan, on April 14th, Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.

What would Babasaheb say?

A million ironies now – salt tax edition

“Controlling and regulating all aspects of the Salt Industry”

Deep in the Union Budget for the financial year 2011, under Demand No. 12 for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Department of Industrial Policy and Production, is an expenditure of Rs 30 crore for the Salt Commissioner. The explanatory note says:

Salt Commissioner: The Organisation is responsible for administration of the Salt Cess Act, 1953, and the Rules framed thereunder. It regulates the production and rational distribution of salt including iodised salt. It also regularly monitors the price and availability of salt. The budget provides for establishment charges of the organisation and for development/welfare works.

If your interest is piqued, you can look up the Salt Cess Act and visit the website of the Salt Department. The latter tells us that “The Central Government is responsible for controlling and regulating all aspects of Salt Industry.”

According to its latest annual report (for financial year 2008), the Salt Department spent over Rs 17 crore to collect around Rs 3 crore in Salt Cess.

What would the Mahatma say?