Today is Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 60th death anniversary, and it’s a good time to get to know the man a lot better.
Beyond ‘greatest dalit icon’ and ‘father of our Constitution’, there was a lot more to Ambedkar. Things we don’t hear political parties talking about, or read in our school books.
Here are just some of the many ways in which his work has left its mark on all our lives, even today.
1. Rights in the Workplace
Do you have a cushy nine-to-five job? Well, thank Ambedkar! Back in 1942, it was his idea for workers in India to have an 8-hour workday, instead of 12.
And that’s not all. Bhimrao also framed the laws that give government employees a dearness allowance and the the rest of us our Provident Funds.
2. Currency, Banking and Free Markets
Ambedkar was also the leading authority on currency and banking in his time – the Reserve Bank of India was created in 1935 based on his recommendations. The icon was also a staunch believer in free markets, the gold standard and economic freedom.
3. Generating Power
If dams were (as Nehru said) the temples of Modern India, than Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was certainly the head priest.
He was instrumental in the creation of the Hirakud Dam, the Damodar Valley River Project and the Son River Project – making sure a young country had enough bijli to fuel its dreams.
He also established the Central Technical Power Board, which manages hydro power station sites, hydroelectric surveys, analyzing problems of electricity generation and thermal power station investigation.
4. Gender Equality
Contemporary politicians like Sakshi Maharaj, Giriraj Singh and Sharad Yadav may not be able to free their minds from gender bias, but long before their time, Ambedkar had laid the foundations for women’s empowerment in India.
He framed the laws that gave women the Right to Property, Maternity Benefits and the Women’s Labour Welfare Fund.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Bhimrao also had a PhD from Columbia, laid the cornerstone for modern Dalit politics and drafted the Constitution – all at a time when most of his countrymen still saw him as an ‘untouchable’.
On his 125th birthday, it’s time we all celebrated his full legacy and contribution. Jai Bhim!
(With inputs from Monica Sarup)