While there is a lot to dislike about Late Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, the one thing I liked about her was her firm and strong opinions on matters of State. She pushed through the abolition of the Privy Purse in the Indian Parliament in 1971, which abolished the significant payout of monies to the Princely States of India which had acceded to the Indian Union by 1947 (some states required coercion and joined only by 1949). These states wer ruled by rich kings (no capital “K”) or princes, who had enough assets to pay for themselves and their families’ maintenance. However, under an arrangement worked out around the time of Indian Independence, Privy Purses were established, ensuring annual payments were made by the Government of India from its budget.
However, India became a Republic in 1950. It was the classic state with rule of the people, by the people, and for the people. Kings, princes and emperors and their accompaniments were of no value after 1950, though there were many Indians who were subservient to these folks (the same tendency which brought India down against the British). After the 1971 abolition of privy purses, the kings and princes and princesses officially became “poor” and common citizens. There are not many countries in the world apart from France, of course, which disbanded royalty which had ruled them for hundreds of years, and let them go away. There was no bloodshed in India against the kings and princes – there are many stories of how the erstwhile royalty survived in conditions worse than that of the common man of India, even living on railway station platform for instance.
All told, royalty is extinct in India. Nobody even mentions the titles of kings (some of whose lineage still exist, like in Rajasthan State and Mysore, a part of Karnataka State).
How about England? How about Australia, which is still shy of talking about becoming a republic? How about many other nations which were under British rule, and still are subservient to the Crown of England?
Absolute stupidity and nonsense, I would say.
Gone are the days of royalty and obeisance to them. Now they spend taxpayers’ money. In the U.K., the Queen of England has a huge budget allocation as the equivalent of the privy purse. Her palaces require expensive maintenance. The weddings of the royal family are huge affairs with huge costs picked up by the British taxpayer (one is coming up pretty soon if you are following the news).
I wrote about the “anachronism of royalty” in a 2011 blog post – you can read it here The anachronism of royalty.
Why does the common man still believe that the royalty are superior to him, and so deserve a better treatment? Do they have genes which distinguish them as royalty? Are they descendants of God himself? Do they deserve what they are getting for free, without doing any work of substance in return for the state?
The subservience of the common man to people with authority can only be allowed if it is out of respect for a democratic title – like the president or prime minister. The role is critical for the performance of duties in a democracy, and so we respect the role. Not necessary, of course. In a democracy, every person is equal to another person – there cannot be a distinction. This fundamental principle is violated in the current treatment of royalty.
France abolished royalty in 1789. Russia did that in 1917. India did that in 1971.
It is time for England and other princely states (there are many of them still around) to abolish monarchy in a democratic manner, like what India did. There will be protests, of course, but the fundamental principle of human equality and democratic application of the same cannot be contested either on legality or parliamentary procedures. One day or the other, it has to happen. Then you will have kings and princes walking on the street and drinking the same coffee that we do.
I am sure there are many poeple amongst us who still revere any royalty, and this concept of abolition of their privileges is going to be a big anathema to them. However, they have to just think of the sufferings of the common man. Things have not improved for the common man in many countries of the world. Why bother about the rich royalty who in any case, have huge assets and are incredibly wealthy?
The Indian way has proven to be the best – peaceful, no protests, even-handed. Legal battles went on, but finally the Supreme Court of India ruled against the reinstatement of the privy purse and other benefits in 1993. Speaking for the bench, the Chief Justice, L M Sharma, said: ‘The distinction between the erstwhile rulers and the citizenry of India has to be ended so as to have a common brotherhood.’ He added: ‘In a country like ours, with so many disruptive forces of regionalism and communalism, it is necessary to emphasise that the unity and integrity of India can be preserved only by a spirit of brotherhood.’
Yes, the Chief Justice captured the essence of democracy in that statement.
Think about it. England invented the concept of democracy and rule by elected representatives to the parliament. They invented parliamentary democracy, which has been adopted by scores of countries including India. But, the English system of governance still remains as constitutional monarchy.
Time for a rethink, I guess?
2nd December 2017