The Inaugural of ‘Festival on Democracy’ took place at the auspicious hands of Hon’ble President of India- Shri Ram Nath Kovind in the presence of Hon’ble Speaker-Kerala Legislative Assembly and key Dignitaries. The ‘Festival on Democracy’ marks the 60 Years of Diamond Jubilee Celebration of Kerala Legislative Assembly and is aimed at Fostering, Inculcating, Sensitising, Reiterating, and Strengthening Values & Ethos of Democracy.

The two days conference began with National Anthem and a Welcome Address by Shri. P. SREERAMAKRISHNAN, Hon’ble Speaker, Kerala Legislative Assembly. Which was followed by informative and insightful speeches by Shri. RAMESH CHENNITHALA, Hon’ble Leader of Opposition; Shri. A.K. BALAN, Hon’ble Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Backward Classes, Law, Culture and Parliamentary Affairs; Shri. PINARAYI VIJAYAN, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala; Shri. Justice (Rtd.) P. SATHASIVAM, Hon’ble Governor of Kerala. As the Thought leaders behind the ‘Festival on Democracy’ their address helped set the context for the Day 1 Proceedings of ‘National Legislator’s conference’ on ‘Challenges in the Empowerment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Independent India’ that were to take place in later half of the day starting 2.00 PM. The opening ceremony followed by the Inaugural of the ‘Festival on Democracy’ by Hon’ble President of India took place at the Legislature Complex, Kerala Legislative Assembly, Thiruvananthapuram today 6th August 2018 from 11.00 AM onwards.

The Welcome Note for ‘National Legislator’s conference’ on ‘Challenges in the Empowerment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Independent India’ was presented by Shri A P Anilkumar, MLA. Shri Rahul V Karad- Executive President –MIT-World Peace University-Pune & Founder & Convener- Bharatiya Chhatra Sansad, National Teachers Congress & National Women’s Parliament Greeted the Audience. Representing Maharashtra- the Land of Birth of Dr. Ambedkar ‘Father of Constitution of India’ and messiah for India’s SC/ST/OBC community and as the Supporting Partner to Kerala Legislative Assembly, Mr. Karad shared his thoughts and vision on the National Level Initiatives supported by MIT-WPU for the cause of ‘Nation Building’ across India.

In session one, Shri. P.S.KRISHNAN, IAS (Retired) Former Advisor to Government of Andhra Pradesh gave a talk on ‘Concept of Empowerment’ and the need to ‘Fight for the Right’. He explained the aspects concerning the process of Empowerment in obtaining basic opportunities for marginalized people and the need for actively thwarting attempts to deny those opportunities.

Session two witnessed an address by Dr. N K Jayakumar- Former Secretary of KLA-a legal expert and a legal advisor to the Kerala Chief Minister. He questioned, ‘What can we expect from the Judiciary in empowering the SC/ST/OBC in India?’ He said that from his perspective the experience has been disappointing. Why? One is the Nature of Judiciary which is more class oriented. He went on to add that as per his observation, today if there is a conflict between a rich man vs Poor man the judge will be in favour of rich man. Cause Indian Judiciary has a class character and it’s been pro-rich, pro-market, pro-liberalisation. In reality Indian Judiciary is the most powerful Judiciary in the world. Judiciary interprets the Constitution of India. A law maybe passed by Constitution of India, which may be seconded my parliament but the next day it can be turned over by the Supreme court or Judiciary, that’s how powerful our Judiciary is. He gave an example of Reservations, wherein in a recent case of ruling by Supreme Court of India -whereby a principle was laid down that there shall not be any reservation in Promotions. 77th amendment to Constitution was introduced saying that ‘In promotions also Reservation may be introduced’. Supreme Court introduced further conditions, which made Reservations in Promotions practically impossible.

He further explained, that in relation to empowerment of SC/ST/OBC communities the attitude of court has been inconsistent. Former Chief Justice of India –Shri Krishna IYER was progressive thinker, however every Judge is not same, and often they are prejudiced. The only way we can make judiciary realise the spirit, objectives and rational behind the constitutions is through sensitising the SC/ST/OBC community and inducting more people from the OBCs into the Judiciary. The session shared the present day real picture of Democracy in terms of plight of SC/ST/OBC community in India.

The next Session saw Shri Majeed Memon Indian Politician and Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha of India from Maharashtra. He is a criminal lawyer by profession and leader of Nationalist Congress Party, sharing his pearls of wisdom and experience from witnessing the functioning of the Judiciary and the Constitution at close quarters. He emphasised on how ‘Democracy is the guardian and protector of liberty and liberty lies in the hearts of men & women and it has to be kept awakened and alert in the minds and hearts of the people.’ He stated that we have been an Independent Nation since 65+ years now and hence it is our duty to see that Democracy reaches every house in remote India in letter & spirit. Even if you are not educated, you must know of your constitutional rights and the Liberty accorded to you as the citizens. He complimented Kerala Speaker on this great initiative and hoped for this wave to reach all states of India. He reiterated the need for eliminating untouchability and reminded people of meaning of Secularism, ‘Secularism is a basic feature of the constitution, which guarantees quality, cohesive and casteless society. These principles of liberty, equality & fraternity are not to be treated as trinity but to be executed as in Unity’. He drove the point across as to how Progress of India has been from Casteism to Egalitarianism and how if we do not bring into practice the inclusiveness for SC/ST/OBCs into mainstream, we cannot achieve the goal set by present Prime Minister of India ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, which can be achieved only if we form an inclusive society by supporting SC/STs and OBCs.

Session 3 saw the noted Speaker Shri. KANCHA ILAIAH- Director, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy- Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad drive actionable Insights & Recommendations for the Government on ‘Casteism and Uprising of Scheduled Communities’ He asked the audience, ‘Do you there is there is an uprising?’He added, “Yes there is a serious uprising whereby there was an all India bandh. The riots happened particularly in north India. There is an uprising prticularly around cow protection when it created a crisis in SC/ST economy and therefore UNA happened and therefore Maharashtra Crisis happened. There is an Uprising whenever any sensitive attack on the great Dr. Ambedkar occurs.”

This positive solidarity shown by Dalits of India is remarkable sign of Uprising. He stated that Kerala is a Model State for other States of India to follow. Kerala society has produced first SC/ST president in India and the first Chief Justice from OBC. Then Again they are the first to uphold that Dalit priests will head temples from now on. This is how the question of untouchability, complete equality and equal education needs to be addressed. Kerala has to take one particular step- Pass a law to introduce English medium into Government Schools, otherwise Dalit cannot compete in other markets. Today English is in private sector and regional language is in government sector. This does not allow Dalits to compete with best-of best. There are private university’s run by corporates who do not implement Reservations. English Language is becoming a barrier for Empowering the backward section of society and in ensuring they get jobs in mainstream professions. He urged the Government to take measures to introduce Reservations in Private Universities & Private Sector Jobs. Kerala is the model state for development, literacy, man-woman equality, health, panchayats and therefore the growth seen in Kerala is far superior.

In the Next Session Shri Varprasad Rao spoke on Casteism. He mentioned how prior to Independence, SC/ST/OBC were prohibited from employment in Government Jobs, from doing Business, from owning a property and 4th from getting access to quality education. If this has been the case for centuries, then it is not surprising that we ‘Dalits’ are where we are today due to the wretched history imposed on us (Dalits). He expressed gratitude towards Dr. Ambedkar who was more than god for the oppressed Dalits/SC/ST. He went on to add, but for him, we would have continued in same pathetic condition. Dr. Ambedkar stated that Political power has a role to play in empowering the people. I myself left IAS and joined Politics to bring about real change and reduce the huge Economic Gap. 1% people are enjoying the state wealth and next 20% are enjoying state wealth, whereas remaining 89% are sharing rest of state wealth. In this SC/STs/OBCs have no place to make wealth. Political power is the key for developments and there is no democracy at lower or higher levels. According to him, Democracy is a big sham in India and only the rich and upper class are ruling the country. Reservations is just a concession. He observed how 93% of death penalties given out are to SC/ST people and raised the issue that the more important State/Central Govt banks don’t have SC/ST/OBC executive directors. Let the Supreme Court realise that the younger generation of SC/ST/OBC are far superior, if given an opportunity and equality. He reiterated that any amount of reservation given by Government will cater to only 2/3%, necessarily private sector needs to have Reservation as an obligation against the concessions in land they continue to enjoy. He urged the Government to adopt wider reservations and reforms to truly Empower the Dalits/SC/ST/OBC communities.

In the final Session on Constitutional Justice: Reality and Expectations Prof. GOPAL GURU Editor, Economic and Political Weekly drove the point on how the categories of caste and class are undergoing radical change due to Global capital working against the articulation of shared experiences of exploitation. How the ‘Constitution of India’ actually execute what it guarantees, which is ‘Justice to all’. As the constitutional expert he explained the crisis unfolding in India’s Supreme Court sighting some recent cases. The Conference concluded with Regional Conference sessions taking place in Legislative Complex Halls.

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