CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF INDIA – VOLUME VII
Weddnesday, the 24th November 1948
JAIPAL SINGH’S QUESTION —
Shri Jaipal Singh (Bihar: General): Mr. President, Sir,I do not know whether I shall be in order in suggesting to you that this amendment be postponed until such time as we come to the consideration of the recommendations that the Advisory Committee has made particularly in regard to the Tribal Areas. Now the recommendations of the Advisory Committee as well as the Sub-Committees have not been given a chance for full discussion on the floor of this House.Therefore, I do not at this stage, want to go into details but I am bound to oppose the Resolution and amendments of this sort. We have heard such a lot of pious language about a democratic State, of a secular State, of our being voluntarily opposed to the establishment of the ocracy in India. Here, Sir, I submit, by the back door we are trying to interfere with the religious rights of the most ancient people of this country. You may laugh. Excess in everything is wrong. If you eat too much rice, it is bad for you. There are so many other things that you take in excess. But, if you take anything in its right quantity, it is good for you.Drink certainly is one of the things taken in excess which does no one good, but, let us remember that we should not be hasty in putting into the Constitution anything which is going to work for more bitterness than there is already.During our discussions in the Advisory Committee, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was pleased to put a direct question to meand it was this – “Kya yah mazhabi chij hai”. Is it really areligious right? On that occasion, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, the Honourable Sardar Patel gave me an opportunity to explain what the position was. Now, as far as the Adibasis are concerned, no religious function can be performed without the use of rice beer. The word here used – the phrase used is `intoxicating drinks’. Sir, that is avery vague way of describing the thing, and, also `injuriousto health’. My friend Prof. Shibban Lal has tried to put forward the argument of economic efficiency. He thinks that if prohibition were installed in this country, the economic efficiency of the workers would be ehnanced. I dare say it would be. But what I want to tell him is that it is not merely the industrial workers whom he has particularly in ruind, that are affected. I would like to point out to him the position of the very poor people, the
Adibasis, and,members who come from West Bengal and other places will bearme out in what I say about the Adibasis who are in such large numbers in West Bengal, Southern Bihar, Orissa and other places. In West Bengal, for instance, it would be impossible for paddy to be transplanted if the Santhal does not get his rice beer. These illclad men, without even their barest wants satisfied, have to work knee-deep in water throughout the day, in drenching rain and in mud. What is it in the rice beer that keeps them alive? I wish the medical authorities in this country would carry out research in their laboratories to find out what it is that the rice beer contains, of which the Adibasis need so much and which keeps them against all manner of diseases.
Well, Sir, I am not opposing this amendment because I want drink to increase in this country. I am all for seeing to it, and, seeing vigorously to it, that the Adibasis do not injure themselves by this drink habit. But that is quite apart from the religious needs and religious privileges; we shall educate them to lead a life of temperance. I am all for that. But this amendment is a vicious one. It seeks to interfere with my religious right. Whether you put it in the Constitution or not, I am not prepared to give up my religious privileges. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Vice-President: Order, order.
Shri Jaipal Singh: Sir, if you will forgive me, I would rather explain all this when we come to the recommendations which the Advisory Committee has made in regard to the Scheduled Tribes and others. This is not the proper time for me to talk in extenso. Here I would only point out to the honourable Members here that it is better not to be hasty,and, I would request you that this amendment be deferred until such time as we come to the recommendations of the Advisory Committee in regard to the Scheduled Tribed and Scheduled Areas; because, if we decide the thing at this stage, we shall be doing ourselves wrong. We shall be unfair to a very important and, at the present moment, politically helpless minority. There are hardly a dozen of them who can speak on behalf of them here, though they are thirty millions. This is a decision which must rest with the wishes of the people themselves. We are going through difficult times. Let us not make matters any more difficult. Sir, I need say nothing more than that I am opposed to this amendment, and my humble request to you would be that the further consideration of this amendment be taken up after we have come to a decision with regard to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Areas.
Dr.BABASAHEB AMBEDKAR’S REPLY —
The Honourable Dr. B. R. Ambedkar :- …..Sir, I was quite surprised at the speech delivered by my friend Mr. Jaipal Singh. He said that this matter ought not to be discussed at this stage, but should be postponed till we take up for consideration the report of the Advisory Committee on Tribal Areas. If he had read the Draft Constitution, particularly the Sixth Schedule,paragraph 12, he would have found that ample provision is made for safeguarding the position of the tribal people with regard to the question of prohibition.The scheme with regard to the tribal areas is that the law made by the State, whether by a province or by the Centre,does not automatically apply to that particular area. First of all, the law has to be made. Secondly, the District Councils or the Regional Councils which are established under this Constitution for the purposes of the administration of the affairs of these areas are given the power to say whether a particular law made by a province or by the Centre should be applied to that particular region inhabited by the tribal people or not, and particular mention is made with regard to the law relating to prohibition. I shall just read out sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 12 which occurs on page 184 of the Draft Constitution. It says:
“Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution –
(a) no Act of the legislature of the State in respect of any of the matters specified in paragraph 3 of this Schedule as matters with respect to which a District Council or a Regional Council may make laws, and no Act of the Legislature of the State prohibition or restricting the consumption of any non-distilled alcoholic liquor shall apply to any autonomous district or autonomous region unless in either case the District Council for such district or having jurisdiction over such region by public notification so directs, and the District Council in giving such direction with respect to any Act may direct that the Act shall in its application to such district or region or any part thereof have effect subject to such exceptions or modifications as it thinks fit;”
Now, I do not know what more my friend, Mr. Jaipal Singh, wants than the provision in paragraph 12 of the Sixth Schedule. My fear is that he has not read the Sixth Schedule: if he had read it, he would have realised tha even though the State may apply its law regarding prohibition in any part of the country, it has no right to make it applicable to the tribal areas without the consent of the District Councils or the Regional Councils.