Ambedkar as a visionary Economist

Dr. Kakali Majumdar
Dr. Bheem Rao Ambedker was not only a visionary Economist as his Doctorates from London School of Economics as well as his many Research papers and D.Sc. in Economics, will vouch, but also a social reformer who was pained and taken in by the many social ills afflicting our society. He, as a mass leader with immense fortitude and visionary outlook for the future, commanded respect among his peers who were themselves no less legendaries, as very few did.  Even against tremendous odds and most humble background that included social ostracization owing to the caste system, he presented himself as a tall figure and worked for subaltern sections of society that were left far behind in march to liberation and progress. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was greatly influenced by ideas of liberty, equality, human rights and Democratic values. As an Economist with profound insight and grasp of the subject, the question is how much are his methodologies implemented and how are these relevant in the present scenario of economic development of our country.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s basic economic idea was the establishment of Mixed Economy that is the current status of Indian economy. He was against the laissez-faire vis-a vis the socialism. Again he believed that capitalism is the root cause of economic inequality and thus not desirable. Ambedkar’s contribution to the well being and upliftment of the most marginalised sections of the society is only too well chronicled to be repeated, but his contribution in drafting the Indian Constitution, which we hold as a sacroscent commitment to the people of India, can never be overestimated.
Being a visionary economist and policy maker, Dr. Ambedkar put immense importance and made some thorough policy suggestion for the agriculture sector of India, as well. So far as Indian tradition of land holding is concerned,  huge inequality and uneven distribution existed in the pre Independence era. He criticized traditional definition of economic land holding and redefined the economic land holding. His definition is not based on the size of land holding, rather than the proportion of factor inputs to the production. He was concerned about the uneven distribution of land in India and was also aware of the pitfalls of small holdings. Dr. Ambedkar is of the opinion that small size of land holding is cause for low production and productivity in Indian agriculture sector. His main suggestion was the nationalization of entire agricultural land with collective farming. According to him Agriculture should be considered as state industry. That means the control and responsibility of agriculture should be taken care of by the state. Unequal land holding and insufficient use of tools of production are the key problems of Indian agriculture leading to the low productivity. As pointed out, Dr. Ambedkar was against the small land holding. With the focus of nationalization he advocated cooperative farming.
Dr. Ambedkar opined about the rapid industrialization through which some part of agriculture involved people, that existed in the form of disguised unemployment, could be shifted to some other productive sector. The move of surplus labour from agriculture will not only improve the productivity of the agriculture sector but also economy as a whole was the underlying idea of Ambedkar. Almost ten decade ago Dr. Ambedkar had said that agriculture should be converted into an industry which could improve the economy of India. But the point of more importance is that Agriculture shall be a state industry thereby implying that the overall control with regard to distribution of land, supply of productive inputs rests on the state.
He was in favour of taxing the agriculture sector with certain modification in the existing system. He advocated bringing the land revenue under the income-tax.
Dr. Ambedkar also suggested for mixed currency system in both gold coins and notes. He was also of the opinion to establish a central bank that will control the money supply and other related government activities. The concept of RBI is originated from the vision of Dr. Amdebkar. The monetary policies for controlling inflation etc. which are in practice today were prescribed by him long ago. His visionary recommendation with regard to Indian currency was that it should be changed every 10 years to keep a check on the problems of hoarding of black money and also check inflation. The step taken for demonetization by the present Prime Minister is a reflection of this thought of Ambedkar.
Thus if we consider the current Indian economic scenario, Dr. Ambedkar’s recommendation and thoughts will be visible to a large extent.  On his 126 birth anniversary, it is the high time that we once again take a deep look into the visions of Dr. Ambedkar and focus on its implementation in the present phase of the Indian economy.
(The author teaches at Department of Economics, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University)