Jagjivan Ram popularly referred to as ‘Babuji’ was born on April 5, 1908 to a Dalit family in Bihar. He attended high school at Arrah Town School, Bihar where he got an opportunity to interact with Madan Mohan Malviya. Malviya was deeply moved with his oratory skills and invited Ram to pursue his further studies at the Banaras Hindu University. Ram took up on this offer and went on to obtain a B.Sc from the University Of Calcutta.
Role in India’s Independence Movement:
Ram founded the Khetihar Mazdoor Sabha which focused on securing farmer rights and the All India Depressed Classes League. He worked towards strengthening Dalit rights and advocated for social reform to ensure equality. During the Indian Delimitation (Hammond) Committee hearings, in 1935 Ram stressed for securing voting rights for Dalits.
Contribution to Constitution Making:
Ram was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Bihar on a Congress party ticket. He was a member of several crucial committees including the Advisory Committee and Sub-Committee on Minorities Rights.
In the Advisory Committee, during a discussion on the definition of Untouchability, Article 17, Ram noted that untouchability is generally understood as a Hindu religious practice. But he had a query regarding the object of this article:
“whether it is to abolish untouchability amongst the Hindus, among the Christians, among the Muslims, and among the Sikhs, whether the intention is to abolish inter se untouchability among the various communities or whether it is to abolish inter-communal untouchability.”
C. Rajagopalachari clarified the Article’s object was to prohibit untouchability in any form without restricting it to one particular religion.
[The Framing of India's Constitution: Select Documents, Volume 2, ed. Shiva Rao, Pg. 226-227, 287].
Ram was one of the prolific parliamentarians. Having been elected to the Bihar Legislative Council in 1936 at the young age of 28 years, he holds the distinction of serving as a Member of the Central Legislature and thereafter the Parliament for more than 40 years.
During his long political career, he held various portfolios: Minister of Labour (1946-52 and 1966-67); Communications (1952-56); Railways (1956-62); Transport and Communications (1962-63); Food and Agriculture (1967-70); Defence (1970-74 and 1977-79); Agriculture and Irrigation (1974-77).
At the age of 78, Ram died on 6th July 1986 while being a member of the Lok Sabha; his cremation ground is recognized as a memorial – Samta Sthal. Every year on 5th April India celebrates ‘Samta Diwas’ (Equality Day) to commemorate his birth day.
He was a part of:
- Committee on Rules and Procedure
- The Advisory Committee
- Sub-Committee on Minorities
- Union Constitution Committee
Ram did not actively participate in the Constituent Assembly Debates.