Y2K Republic Day

Happy Republic Day to All of You!

On this occasion, a brief historical account may be pertinent. Fifty years ago, on January 26th 1950, the Indian Constitution came into effect. Since then, the Indian Union and the Indian Community worldwide celebrate "Republic Day " on January 26, every year.

A Constituent Assembly was formed with 389 members (292 elected members, 93 nominated members from independent princely states, and 4 provincial representatives of Chief Commissioners' Provinces). The Assembly started its work on December 9, 1946. Prominent leaders and members involved in drafting the Constitution were Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, B. R. Ambedkar, Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyer, N. Gopalaswamy Ayyengar, T. T. Krishnamachari and so on. The makers of the Indian Constitution borrowed heavily from the Constitutions of other countries, e.g., Parliamentary form of government from Britain, supremacy of Judiciary from the United States, federal system with a strong center from Canada, Directive Principles of State Policy from Ireland, the idea of concurrent powers and cooperative federalism from Australia, the system of procedure established by law (not by 'due process of law') from Japan, and so on. So, the Indian Constitution is the lengthiest Constitution in the world. It has 395 articles, grouped into 22 parts with 12 schedules appended to it.

In the India Union, the Constitution is supreme and the courts are vested with the power to adjudicate the validity of laws based on the Constitution. However, the Parliament has power to amend the Constitution. The Parliament can exercise this power in three different ways depending upon the subject matter of the amendment: 1) Amendments by simple majority-these are the matters related to the subject matter of Schedules (such as those related to Indian Citizenship etc.), 2) Amendments by two-third majority of both houses of Parliament- these are related to relatively important matters (such as those related to fundamental rights and so on), and 3) Amendments by two-thirds majority of Parliament and a ratification by at least one-half of the States- these amendments are related to the election of the President, the powers of Union Cabinet, State Cabinets and the High Courts in the Union Territories, etc. The Constitution has been amended 78 times by 1995! However, the Constitution is still in need of reform and modification in light of the new urges and aspirations of people.

According to Article 1 of the Indian Constitution, Bharat, or India, is a Union of States. When the Indian Union was formed from the British India, several independent kingdoms like Hyderabad, Kashmir and several independent principalities joined the Union, preferring a secular democracy. The borders of various states were redrawn based upon the linguistic nationalities of the people. Currently, the Indian Union consists of 7 Union Territories and 25 states that represent individual nationalities, with their Independent State assemblies elected by the people to rule and make laws in their national languages for the people of each nationality in the Union. This is a unique example in the entire history of mankind where so many diverse nationalities came together and reorganized their borders without violence to form a Union. Thus, the Indian Union may be compared to the modern European Union. While the European Union is still in the initial stages of formation, the Indian Union is at an advanced stage with a Union Constitution that is binding on each state, a Union Parliament to make laws for the entire Union, a currency for the entire Union, one defense for the entire Union, free access to anyone from any state, anywhere in the entire territory of the Union (with some extra privileges to the state of Jammu and Kashmir) and so on. The Indian Union could be a very good example for the fledgling European Union. However, there is still room for improvement in the democratic process. There is an urgent requirement for reevaluation and a thorough overhaul of the Indian Constitution. There is a tremendous need for political and economic autonomy and expansion of powers of the States in the Indian Union to realize the full potential of each State.

While the Constitutions, the goals and ideals of the Indian Union and the United States are entirely based on the principles of secular democracy, the diversity in the Indian Union poses greater challenges than that in the United States. Both countries share a history of colonialism and a dream of equality for everyone. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution proclaims to secure to all of its citizens social, economic, and political justice; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; and equality of status and of opportunity, and declares the Union to be a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. The Preamble of the United States’ Constitution proclaims similar ideals for the people of the United States. While the Constitution of the United States is one of the oldest Constitutions in the world, the Indian Constitution is one of the youngest constitutions. Although both the United States and the Indian Union are champions of secular democracy, never before in the world history, was there attempted an experiment with democracy on such a grand scale as in India.

With the end of Cold War and with the change in the political situation in the world, there is ample opportunity for these two great democracies of the world to come together and become more involved with each other for mutual benefit. In the emerging inter-dependent world of modern technology, where confrontation has no place and cooperation and competition are the way of life, the United States and the Indian Union should shed off their old prejudices and march together toward the goal of peace and prosperity to all, and realize the ancient Vedic dream of "peaceful one world-one family," by means of secular democracy.

Happy Republic Day to the Indian Union!

Peace and Prosperity to the Whole World- One World, One Family!!

Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, January 26, 2000

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