Street being renamed in honour of Indian political reformer
AMBEDKAR... regarded as a fighter in the cause of annihilation of the caste system

The section of Tower Street between Church Street and Lower South Camp Road is to be renamed Dr B R Ambedkar Avenue in honour of the Indian jurist and economist who played a key role in the writing of the Indian Constitution granting equal rights to all citizens.

That decision was taken in a resolution passed by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) two Fridays ago, and was described as “historic” by Kingston’s Deputy Mayor Winston Ennis at Tuesday’s KSAMC council meeting.

“Colleagues, we are all aware of the immense value that the Republic of India brings to Jamaica and how these values are reciprocated. We aim to continue to strengthen our ties through diplomatic, intergovernmental, cultural, educational, scientific and trade-based initiatives,” Ennis said.

At the time, Ennis had expressed hope that Indian President Ram Nath Kovind would be able to participate in the planned unveiling of the sign indicating the name change during his four-day State visit to Jamaica, slated to begin tomorrow.

A schedule of the activities on President Kovind’s itinerary released midweek lists the road renaming ceremony for Monday just after midday.

Chairman of the corporation’s Finance Committee, Vernon McLeod told the Jamaica Observer that it was customary for countries with historic bonds to name streets in recognition of an individual’s outstanding achievements. He said that Namibia had invited Prime Minister Andrew Holness to unveil Marcus Garvey Avenue in that country.

Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, regarded as a fighter in the cause of annihilation of the caste system — a social hierarchy imposed on people by birth — was born in a low-caste Mahar family, considered the lowest of the low, on April 14, 1891.

When people in that caste needed to drink water, someone from a higher caste had to pour the water from a height as they were not allowed to touch either the water or the vessel that contained it.

Dr Ambedkar overcame the discrimination and obtained degrees in economics and political science at Bombay University. He gained a PhD in economics from Columbia University. In 1923 he completed a BSc in Economics at the University of London, and the same year was called to the bar by Gray’s Inn.

When India gained independence from Britain in August 1947, Prime Minister Jawarhrial Nehru appointed Dr Ambedkar dominion of law minister and shortly after he was appointed chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution for the future Republic of India.

The Indian Constitution has guarantees and protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability, and the outlawing of all forms of discrimination.

Dr Ambedkar argued for extensive economic and social rights for women, and won the Constituent Assembly’s support for introducing a system of jobs in the civil services, schools and colleges for members of scheduled castes and tribes and other classes.

The constitution was adopted on November 26,1949 by the Constituent Assembly.

Claudienne Edwards

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