The Economics Faculty of Delhi University welcomed a new elective on Ambedkar while replacing the old elective paper, ‘Economics of Discrimination’, going against the decisions taken by the Academic Council of the institution on August 11 and introducing a series of changes to elective papers in the syllabus.

‘Economic Thought of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’, an elective paper welcomed by the Economics Department of Delhi University to be taught to undergraduate students this year has caused the axing of another elective subject, ‘Economics of Discrimination’, resulting in several faculty members expressing concerns.

The new paper includes Dr Ambedkar’s views and understanding of various aspects of economic systems; theories of economic development; labor welfare; economic policy making; and other issues in the Indian economy during the colonial period. It replaced a new ‘Economics of Discrimination’ paper, which was decided in the Academic Council meeting on August 11 while introducing a series of changes to elective papers in the syllabus.

The syllabi of this paper signifies that the subject talks about Dr. Ambedkar’s pioneering thought in the field of economics, relevance in the contemporary world and its implication for ‘social justice’, ‘equality’ and ‘inclusive development’.

An associate professor of Economics at Kamala Nehru College and an elected Academic Council Member, Monami Basu, mentioned to The Indian Express that the paper on Dr. Ambedkar was welcomed by the entire faculty as it talks about him as an ‘economic policy-maker’ during the post-colonial period, his thoughts on ‘colonial economy’ and how caste and labor are interconnected.  However, she adds that the paper on discrimination was dropped without consultation with Academic Council members, departments or committees of courses.

Another professor who has been teaching economics at DU for over two decades has professed to the Indian Express on conditions of anonymity that the focus on ‘caste discrimination’ has been diluted in the new Ambedkar paper and it is only 10% of the paper now. According to other faculty members, the now-dropped paper was the only one that focused on the concept of discrimination in the UG economics syllabus. It had themes such as gender and unequal burden of work; inequalities in access to land; and intersection of discrimination though race, caste, class and disability.

The first suggestion to drop three elective papers, including ‘Economics of Discrimination’, was made in an Academic Council meeting on May 26 and opposed by faculty members of several colleges. Vice Chancellor, Yogesh Singh had then consulted a six-member panel to revisit the syllabi.

Read Also: Text Removal and Renaming in DU’s History Syllabus: Brahmanization Term and Paper on Inequality Dropped

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Priyanka Mukherjee

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The decision to scrap the course on Dr. B. R. Ambedkar came after a standing committee reviewed the undergraduate curriculum in accordance with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. Amid widespread criticism against the decision, the Department of Philosophy wrote to the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University to retain the course.

The suggestion to drop the elective from BA Programme Philosophy by the Standing Committee on Academic Matters was first discussed on May 8th. A panel was appointed from the undergraduate and postgraduate levels to further elaborate on the same in a meeting on May 12. The committee is reviewing the curriculum in accordance with NEP 2020.

The University’s Department of Philosophy has strongly opposed this suggestion, saying that “Ambedkar is an indigenous thinker representative of the social aspirations of a majority of people in the country” and that research on Ambedkar is gaining momentum in the country. Accordingly, they have asked the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Yogesh Singh, to look into and reconsider the suggestion.

The course on Ambedkar philosophy was introduced in 2015. It includes the life and essential writings of Ambedkar, his concepts, and his research methodology.

Addressing various sources, a member of the Standing Committee reportedly said that no changes have been incorporated so far and that the final decision rests in the hands of the Academic Council, the varsity’s supreme decision-making body on academic matters.

This (the Ambedkar course) is not being dropped and this suggestion was not given by the committee. The suggestion was that new courses and old courses should be mixed together and it should be designed in such a manner that it should be attractive to the students and it should be designed in a way that it will be adopted in many colleges also… We suggested philosophies of thinkers from all backgrounds should be added.

– Prof. Balram Pani, Standing Committee Chairperson and Dean of Colleges, in conversation with the Indian Express

The Dean of the Faculty of Arts, who was present at the May 8 meeting, similarly added,

There were several suggestions made by the House to the philosophy courses presented before it. One such suggestion was to align the contents of the course ‘Philosophy of B R Ambedkar’… and to offer courses of other philosophical thinkers of India representing different approaches and schools of thought, so that students have options to choose any thinker they wish to study.

– Prof. Amitava Chakraborty, Dean of the Faculty of Arts

However, there were many sources that claimed the proposal to be true.

There were several suggestions made by the House to the philosophy courses presented before it. One such suggestion was to align the contents of the course ‘Philosophy of B. R. Ambedkar’… and to offer courses of other philosophical thinkers of India representing different approaches and schools of thought, so that students have options to choose any thinker they wish to study.

– A professor from the Department of Philosophy

Following the opposition, a sub-committee set up by the Standing Committee was appointed to discuss the revision of the syllabus. On 22nd May, the sub-committee suggested that the elective paper on B.R. Ambedkar be kept following the addition of papers on other philosophical thinkers as well, following which students can opt for their preferences. Sources concluded that papers on Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, and Periyar were being considered to be included in the curriculum.

The suggestions shall be placed in front of the Academic Council after approval by the Standing Committee.


Read also: DU to Launch 18 New Courses in Upcoming Session

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Aanya Mehta
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Amongst all the social reformers that India has had, Ambedkar was one of the most remarkable. For a country like India, where caste system is ingrained as such, the role of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar cannot be forgotten.

On 12th December 1935, Bhimrao Ambedkar was asked by the Hindu reformist group, Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Society for the Abolition of Caste System), to address their annual conference. He had been asked to speak about the horrifying and detrimental effects that the caste system brought upon the country.
However, when Ambedkar sent in his address, it was denied by the group. It had been deemed “too controversial”, and no one wanted to risk offending the higher caste groups. When they asked him to delete any provoking comments, Ambedkar had adamantly replied that he “would not change even a comma”. A year later he published this speech as the essay, “Annihilation of Caste”, which was remarked as one of the most scathing reviews of the caste system.

Inarguably, the caste system is one of the most shameful concoctions to be birthed out of archaic Indian traditions. A repressive and inhumane ideology, the caste system was one of the social constructs that many Indian reformists tried to abolish, and the contribution of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar was one of the most stellar.

Dr B.R Ambedkar dedicated his entire life to the abolishment of caste, and his contributions towards dismantling the system are extremely notable. Born to a Mahar family, Bhim Rao was one of the few lower-caste children to attend school. Despite the discrimination, he became the first Dalit to be enrolled into the prestigious Elphinstone High School and won the Baroda State Scholarship for three years. He finished his postgraduate education from the Columbia University in New York, and for his thesis, he wrote about the castes in India- a paper that was presented at the Columbia University.

When Ambedkar returned to India in 1924, he launched a social reform movement against untouchability. He founded the Bahishkrut Hitkaraini Sabha, an organisation with the resolve of uprooting India’s caste system. He organised various marches for Dalit rights to basic human activities that were denied to them, like drinking water from public resources, or their right to enter religious houses. As a famous symbol of struggle against injustice, Ambedkar along with other protestors, walked into public tanks and reservoirs to drink from their waters. In late 1927, Ambedkar presented in a conference and publicly condemned the religious text of Manusmriti and its inhumane justification for caste discrimination and the notion of untouchability. He then led a march later that year where he and his fellow protestors burnt copies of his text as a token of opposition.

For the rest of his years, Ambedkar continued to fight against the archaic system. His most famous contribution is the construction of the Indian constitution under his guidance as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. The Constitution of India, applauded as one of the most progressive documents of its time, abolished untouchability every form.

It has been over sixty years since Ambedkar’s reformations, and though caste still remains an evil that taints the society, it is only fair to recognise the immense struggle and development Dr B.R. Ambedkar contributed towards dismantling the caste system.
In 1936, Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar had said, “Political tyranny is nothing compared to the social tyranny and a reformer who defies society is a more courageous man than a politician who defies Government.” The life of B.R. Ambedkar is that of a courageous and brave man working passionately to reform the Indian society and rid it of one of its worst evils. His legacy is one of great example and precedent which we cannot afford to forget.

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Shreya Juyal

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Although known and lauded for his invaluable contributions to politics, law and social reform, Babasaheb Ambedkar’s work in the field of economics solicits equal praise.

“Sachin Tendulkar? Mumbai Indians”.

“Amartya Sen? Nobel Prize”.

“Shah Rukh Khan? Filmfare”.

“Babasaheb Ambedkar? Constitution of India”.

These were some of the answers that I received from my subjects when I had conducted a “Free-Association Word Test” on them, wherein the subject is told to state the first word which comes to their mind in response to the given word. Interestingly, every single subject of mine, spread across various age groups, had correlated Ambedkar with the Constitution of India, while there were largely wide ranging replies in case of the other names on my list.

Though certainly not meant to be an accurate quantifier of society’s opinions, this extreme result, while validating the almost unanimous public acknowledgement of Dr Ambedkar’s huge contribution to India’s political and judicial system, also betrays the fact that his equally or arguably more prominent contributions in other fields such as economics and banking – an example being the establishment of the still-functioning Finance Commission of India – are often overlooked or understated by a significant, if not a major, proportion of Indians.

Born in humble surroundings to a family belonging to the often exploited Mahar caste termed as “Untouchables”, Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, had an undying ambition to reform the shackled society that he was born in, and made his way up to the top, going on to get a Bachelor’s degree from the University Of Bombay and then proceeding on to procure two doctorate degrees in Economics from two premier institutions, Columbia University and London School Of Economics (LSE), while also managing to get trained as a lawyer from the prestigious Gray’s Inn at London.

The two dissertations that he wrote for his doctorates in economics at Columbia University and LSE, the first one which discussed the financial relations and financial distribution between central and state Governments, and the second one which was a critique on the Indian Rupee, raised important points of debate and discussion, some of which are still relevant in the current economic system.

Before he shifted course and embarked on a career in law and politics, economics was his foremost area of interest and in 1918 he was appointed for a brief period of time as a professor of political economy at Sydenham College. During that period, he wrote a famous essay on farm land holdings, for publication in a journal run by the Indian Economic Society, titled “Small Holdings In India And Their Remedies”, which still remains an article subject to critical evaluation and analysis by current economists.

Pramit Bhattacharya examines this essay and highlights Ambedkar’s farsightedness and evident mastery of the subject, in an article for LiveMint, titled “The Economics of Ambedkar”, writing “What is most remarkable about Ambedkar’s analysis is that he was able to conceive the notion of “disguised unemployment” much before it came into vogue in development economics, and that he was able to anticipate one of the key insights of Nobel Prize-winning Economist Arthur Lewis three decades before Lewis formulated his famous two-sector model of the economy.”

Dr Ambedkar pointed out that, the sole presence of many places in the country, where there is a combination of a large agricultural population coupled with a very low proportion of land under cultivation, meant that a significant percentage of the agricultural population was sitting idle. This was a forerunner to the idea of “Disguised Unemployment” which came up a few decades later.

While it is not possible to fully summarise in depth the wide reaching topics that Dr Ambedkar touched in his many works, one very significant argument he came up with was that the country was in dire need of industrialisation, which would curb the problem of idle agricultural population as well as smoothen out numerous other complications associated with the agricultural economy.

Besides that, he was against the supporters of minimum state intervention in the economy, or mainly industries and agriculture. He felt that capitalism would go against the principles of economic democracy and that unregulated economic activity would only lead to widening of the economic gap between the rich and the poor, and the exploitation of the latter. Thus he advocated an economy which would be regulated to some extent by the government.

Such ideas might seem common and basic to the current generation, but at that time, with the subject of economics not having been as explored and practiced at depth as it is today, and with old countries breaking up and new ones materializing, the decision of choosing a particular economic system to follow, after independence, was an arduous task. The fact that India’s political and economic framework is not extreme and reflects moderance and has largely remained stable over the decades is a testament to Dr Ambedkar and his fellow policy makers’ successful economic planning.

Apart from research papers and journals, Dr Ambedkar also wrote three books on the subject. He studied the financial and administrative system of the East India Company, and the British India Government in depth, and included many components in the post-Independence models. He is also credited with the establishment of the two most important institutions of the Indian economy, the Finance Commission Of India and the Reserve Bank of India.

Citing fiscal imbalances between the central and state Governments and between state Governments themselves, he conceptualised the Finance Commission in 1951, when he was serving as the Law Minister. Dr Ambedkar had presented an outline and various guidelines with respect to the formation of a central bank to the Hilton Young Commission. Based on these, the Commission came up with a set of recommendations which were later instrumental in the conceptualisation of the Reserve Bank Of India.

“While discussing the multidimensional personality of Dr B R Ambedkar, it is but natural and forgivable to forget that first and foremost he was an economist”, writes Abhinav Prakash Singh for Swarajya. He indeed touched countless lives, was involved in a vast number of fields and played numerous roles during his fulfilling existence as an Indian citizen, and wouldn’t have minded being remembered by his fellow citizens in any of those roles. But as a mark of gratitude and respect for his contributions, we ought to remember every single one of them.

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Araba Kongbam

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As Ambedkar turns 129 years old, the symbols of his legacy begin to matter more than ever.

Dr B.R. Ambedkar continues to be a guiding light for the people of India. Before the 70s, a large part of his work on Dalits and their emancipation was not known to the general public, post which it was published by Dalits activists seeking enlightenment through his writings. The thoughts and methods manifested by his work, to counter the entrenched system of caste in India, is called Ambedkarism.

Modern-day protestors, primarily the ones resisting the Constitutional Amendment Act, 2019, chant his name and claim his legacy as an advocate for equality and freedom. But is this devotion pure and absolute?

The Claim for a Sacred Legacy

Ambedkar’s revered status in civil society has always been known to every citizen of India. For a long time, his legacy was closely held by members of the Dalit community and several left-wing parties.

Hindu-nationalist leaders have used his image to claim their solemn adherence to the constitution, claiming that “No Government has, perhaps, given respect to Babasaheb the way our Government has” (Quoted by The Time Magazine). This reverence, they claim, extends to the annihilation of caste as well. Experts believe that BJP’s newfound love for the Dalit leader comes as a part of their attempt to woo non-upper caste Hindus. BJP also claims that Ambedkar’s thoughts are closer to their ideology than the left, citing his opinion on Article 370 and the Uniform Civil Code. However, the former is not true, as is clearly mentioned in the manifesto of his party, The Scheduled Castes Federation. Dalit activists, on the other hand, believe this to be an appropriation of Babasaheb’s legacy. As CAA protestors march forward chanting ‘Jai Bhim!’, the author of India’s constitution finds himself on both sides of the wall.


His legacy has been appropriated to an enormous extent. 2 years ago, a statue of him was painted saffron and repainted to blue in a village of Uttar Pradesh. Throughout his life, Ambedkar criticised socialists and Gandhians for revering Gandhi as a ‘Mahatma’, a concept he abhorred. It is, therefore, safe to say that he would’ve hated the current absorption with his images and statues. During Dalit protests against the dilution of SC/ST (atrocities) Act, and against the Constitutional Amendment Act of 2019, his pictures have been widely used as a part of the symbols of truth and constitutionality. However, whether Ambedkar himself would have approved of this shall continue to be a matter of dispute.

Dalit Movements

Prasant Jha, in an article for Hindustan Times, said “Dalit society is ahead of Dalit Politics”. Commenting on Mayawati and the current flagbearers of Dalit politics, the author expressed grief over a lack of debates and conversations about the oppression which continues to persist. Atrocities against Dalits have increased over the years. Activist Ram Kumar told Hindustan Times that assertion is the reason for this rise. “In my father’s generation, if a Pandit came along, he would sit on the chair, and the rest would sit on the floor. And now, if a pandit comes, he can sit with us, or can stand and we keep sitting”, he added.

But countering these atrocities, one of which is Rohith Vemula’s suicide, there are Dalit students marching against the VC of the Hyderabad University, carrying Ambedkar’s photo in their fierce hands. There are thousands of students who are able to complete their PhDs under government allowance. The act of studying is an act of protest for them. Within the hostel rooms of such students, Ambedkar’s photo hangs on one of the walls.

Constitutionality of Protests

Ambedkar deemed protests unconstitutional during his final speech in the constituent assembly, in the year 1949. “We must…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.” But if there are no constitutional methods left to achieve justice, protests can be deemed as constitutional. I, for one, do not think that when the Supreme court fails to deliver justice, as has happened a few times, people should stop and do nothing. Unconstitutional methods should be condemned. This was one of the reasons why Ambedkar, at times, criticized communists as well, as their use of violent means did not please him. As quoted in a paper by Ramadas V, “His disagreement with the communists was not on their aim of creating a socialist society but about the use of violent means to do so”.

Towards Annihilation

As the ship of time sails, India’s median voter becomes more nationalist than ever. Ambedkar believed that Hinduism equates to Brahmanism, which is inflexible and rigid. In such times, the dream of annihilation seems unattainable. But for disenfranchised Dalits, for exploited Muslims, for depressed minorities, the image of Ambedkar is a symbol of activism. A symbol of their living hope against tyranny and subjugation. The question of hero-worship, a warning posed by Ambedkar back in 1949, continues to linger. But for a Dalit robbed off his dignity and right to protest, hero-worship does more good than harm.

As saffron hands stifle you, chanting ‘Jai Bhim!’ might be the most empowering thing to do.

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Kuber Bathla

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Just as the world was gearing up for the 127th birth anniversary of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a seminar at Cluster Innovation Centre (CIC), University of Delhi, was allegedly cancelled at the last moment.

The seminar ‘Dalit Empowerment and its Challenges’ was scheduled for 13th April at 1.30 p.m. in the CIC seminar room. The posters for the same were posted across the North Campus and circulated diligently on social media.

The illustrated speakers list included Manoj Jha, a member of Rajya Sabha and the national spokesperson of the Rashtriya Janta Dal, Bal Gangadhar Baghi, a Bahujan poet and Jawaharlal Nehru University research scholar, Harish Gautam, a Dalit activist, and Bhasha Singh a journalist and an author.

According to the Nishant, a final year student of B.A. Honours (Humanities & Social Sciences), the seminar room was booked on 9th of April and the intent of booking was made clear to the director’s office. However, just a day before the event Prof. Harinder P. Singh, Director, CIC, declined the permission after the organisers personally informed him about the event. The Director cited security issues and instead asked the organisers to attend another event which the University is conducting on April 14th and in which Union Social Justice Minister is taking part.

Another student, on the condition of anonymity, told DU Beat that the Director asked the organisers to shift their venue from CIC to Shankar Lal Hall because he “doesn’t want any controversy in the Centre”. “The Director gave us a long speech explaining a complicated procedure that we were suppose to follow. Honestly, these are all excuses. Everyone knew that the seminar is going to happen. As we are working with the Communal Harmony Project, the project mentor, Prof. Ashu Misra, knew about the seminar. While filling the form for booking we explicitly wrote the purpose of booking. The administration is seeking refuge under ignorance. We spent weeks trying to contact the panelist. It broke my heart when I had to cancel all invites. All money that was put into posters is wasted,” he rued.

Speaking to DU Beat, Dr. Saleem Mir,  Coordinator of B.A. Hons. (Humanities and Social Science), said that permission wasn’t sought before the event. “As a Programme Coordinator, I was also not informed about the upcoming seminar. I got the call from the Director about the event and I couldn’t tell him anything about it. The students just sought permission to organise an event without giving the details of who is coming and why it is being organised. Any talk, event, workshop, lecture, activity, be it academic or co-curricular or extra-curricular, can be organised, but prior permission has to be taken from the Coordinator and the Director.”

He further stressed, “When even teachers take permission from the authorities prior to inviting the people or planning the event then shouldn’t students also do the same? Sometimes you can take permission a little later, but not just one day before the event. How is the University going to make security arrangements especially when a politician is coming to speak?”

When DU Beat contacted the Director’s office, Mr. Prem Bhagat, Assistant, told us that due to upcoming National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) visit and other engagements the Director missed the details of the event. He also told us the event was merely asked to be postponed.

The press release issued by the organisers claims that the permit was revoked “under pressure of some groups and individuals who are against the idea of Babasaheb”. “The abruptness with which the permission for the programme was cancelled shows the deep-seated Brahaminical attitude of some groups and individuals in Cluster Innovation Center,” the statement further asserts. The press release also accused Prof. Pankaj Tyagi, Coordinator, M.Sc. (Mathematics Education), of vandalising the posters. DU Beat’s attempts to reach Prof. Tyagi were unsuccessful.

Refuting these allegations Dr. Saleem Mir, Coordinator, B.A. Hons. (Humanities and Social Science) said, “Is our Director a Brahmin? He is a Sikh. Is the Coordinator a Brahmin?  I am a Muslim. I don’t understand where from did this Brahaminical pressure thing is coming from. As responsible citizens, we must not level such allegations so casually. As students of CIC, the organisers must feel ashamed before leveling these allegations in an environment like CIC where the faculty is always talking about the nation building with minorities, Dalits, tribals and the marginalised as the main engines of the progress of a nation. Our curriculum is designed in such a way that we undertake our semester-long projects majorly focusing on problems of the poor and downtrodden.”


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Niharika Dabral

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