Short Essay on The Right against Exploitation as specified by Indian Constitution

Articles 23 and 24 deal with the right against exploitation. Article 23 which prohibits traffic in human beings and beggar and similar forms of forced labour is comparable to the Thirteenth Amendment of the American Constitution abolishing slavery or involuntary servitude.

At the time of the adoption of the Constitution there was hardly anything like slavery or the widespread practice of forced labour in any part of India. The National Freedom movement, since the twenties of this century, had been a rallying force against such practices.

However, there were many areas of the country where the "untouchables" were being exploited in several ways by the higher castes and richer classes. For example, in parts of Rajasthan in Western India, which was in pre-Independence days a cluster of Princely States, there existed a practice under which labourers who worked for a particular landlord could not leave him to seek employment elsewhere without his permission.

Very often this restriction was so severe and the labourer's dependence on the "master" was so absolute that he was just a slave in reality. The local laws had supported such practices.

Evils like the Devadasi system under which women were dedicated in the name of religion, to Hindu deities, idols, objects of worship, temples and other religious institutions, and under which, instead of living a life of dedication, self-renunciation and piety, they were the life-long victims of lust and immorality, had been prevalent in certain parts of southern and western India.

Vestiges of such evil customs and practices were still there in many parts of the country. The Constitution-makers were eager to proclaim a war against them through the Constitution as these practices would have no place in the new political and social concept that was emerging with the advent of independence.

The ideal of "one man, one vote, one value", equality before law and equal protection of laws, freedom of profession and the right to move freely throughout the country all these would have no meaning if "one man" was subjugated by "another man" and one's life was at the mercy of another.

Although any form of forced labour is an offence punishable under law just as untouchability is an offence, this constitutional guarantee is only against private individuals and organisations.

An important exception is made in favour of the State which may impose compulsory service for public purposes. Compulsory military service or compulsory work for nation-building programmes may provide examples of such service.

The State may for instance, pass a law by which it may compel every university graduate to spend six months in villages immediately after leaving the university, on literacy work or other social service among the village people. Such a law, however, should not make any discrimination on grounds of religion, caste or class, or any of them.