“I feel that the Constitution is workable, it is flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country together both in peacetime and in wartime. Indeed, if I may say so, if things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we will have to say is that Man was vile.” —Dr B R Ambedkar
Since Clayton Christensen defined and analysed the phenomenon called ‘disruptive innovation’ in 1995, it has become a currency in the business world. In the age of Startups, ideas and innovations, having potential to displace existing market and value system, are being celebrated. The purpose of this ideation is not destruction but reconstruction for the larger good. Using simple applications to make human life better is the crux of the idea of startups. If we do not understand this spirit then same disruptive ideas can be destructive for the humanity.
Our Constitution is perhaps the most glaring example of putting disruptive ideas together in a dynamic form. The drafting committee led by Dr B R Ambedkar was consisting of great innovators and what they codified for democratic Bharat was nothing short of a startup. Bharat was largely believed to be uncivilised and illiterate and therefore, unfit to be democratic by the British. There was a support to this view among some intellectuals of Bharat as well. Still, our Constitution adopted ‘adult franchise’, giving all adult individuals an equal voting right at the same time. In a society with caste and linguistic division, it was a disruptive idea. People understood the importance of this right and used it judiciously time and again. Incorporating provisions for minority rights without referring to secularism and mentioning Union of States without direct reference to federalism in the American sense were creative provision that were meant to hold this nation together on the basis of cultural heritage.
But now communal politics in the name of secularism and regional politics in the name of federalism is being played by using the same provisions in a destructive manner. Abolition of untouchability in a single stroke and providing positive discrimination through reservation policy were other disruptive idea enshrined in the Constitution. Unfortunately, the spirit behind the idea was not executed with sincerity, which is why we are still grappling with issues of identity and discrimination on the caste lines. Still, there are tendencies to use the same voting for destructive and divisive politics in the name of caste, region or religion.
Maoists are the most destructive force who misuse the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Bharat to justify their violent acts. The irony is that their ultimate objective is to overthrow the same Constitution through armed insurgency. The support from urban intellectuals and media to them in the name of human rights is all the more alarming case.
The case study of Constitution exemplifies that having disruptive ideas is not limited to the business, economy or technological spheres but very much applicable to the process of nation building through socio-cultural processes. It also entails that besides the government push, socio-cultural milieu for mushrooming of such ideas and their implementation with right spirit is critical for turning an innovation into a startup.
This Republic Day, we should resolve to celebrate the disruptive ideas enshrined in our Constitution in the right spirit. At the same time, learning from the possible pitfalls, we need to cautiously implement the start up action plan to ensure that it germinates disruptive ideas and not the destructive ones.