Rajasthan: Samvidhan Park Is a Welcome Step but Location Raises Questions on Accessibility

In a welcome move, President of India Draupadi Murmu inaugurated India’s first Samvidhan Park (Constitution Park) on January 3 in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Built at a cost of Rs 9.66 crore, the Raj Bhawan said that the park will make the Constitution accessible and available to common people.

Speaking at the inauguration event, Murmu said, “The main purpose of building this Constitution Park is to maintain awareness about the ideals of the Constitution. This is a very important objective, which is a big effort towards keeping the democracy of our country strong.” She expressed confidence that the Park would inspire the coming generations. Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra and chief minister Ashok Gehlot also underlined the importance of awareness of the Constitution. In the park, the journey into the making of the Constitution has been presented through elegant paintings, sculptures and other art forms.

Even after seven decades of its enactment, the Constitution has largely remained limited to courtrooms and administrative offices. Public appetite to know more about the Constitution, though, is slowly making it a people’s book. Efforts to make the Constitution publicly accessible has so far largely been limited to non-state actors.

Therefore, the initiative taken by the Rajasthan governor is a welcome step towards the state making the Constitution a widely accessible document. Scholars like Nicholas Stephanopoulos, professor at Harvard University, and Mila Versteeg, professor at University of Virginia, have argued that one of the best ways to boost the popular approval ratings of the Constitution is to make people more knowledgeable about the text.

So, the role of the state becomes critical in investing in ways and means, through its different branches, to ensure people’s familiarity with the Constitution and its values. As all public institutions are governed by the Constitution, the responsibility of taking the Constitution to the people is a part of the oath of being in public office. However, public offices in India have always remained distanced from ordinary citizens.

Given the historical inaccessibility of public offices, the location of the Constitution Park – within the Raj Bhawan premises – poses questions on its effectiveness. Public offices like the collectorate and block office, which are the first interaction sites for ordinary people, have a dismal track record in terms of accessibility, forget the high constitutional offices like the Raj Bhawan.

Raising this concern, a young activist working on constitutional literacy in Jaipur, Pavan, rightly remarked – How many common people visit the Raj Bhawan daily? Others have also expressed similar concerns. Hence, the location of such public spaces should be designed in a manner where people can access them easily. The concerns of the activists, civil society members and public-spirited citizens are founded on the basis of the nature and character of the space in which the park is located. As Pollyanna Ruiz, professor of media and cultural studies at the University of Sussex, argues in her book, “Articulating dissent that the public sphere mediates between state and individual, allowing them to articulate and rationally debate, to exercise a degree of political power.”

In this context, Samvidhan Park is a public space designed to propagate constitutional values amongst the people in a closed space. Spaces like Raj Bhawan are public in character but private in spirit and in terms of accessibility. People hardly visit these places. Closer reviews of the location and space of knowledge institutions reveals that these buildings are generally located in the central spheres of the city. The National Archives of India, National Museum in Delhi, the Partition Museum in Amritsar and Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur are testament to the fact that knowledge institutions or public institutes meant for imparting knowledge and reminiscing about the past should be located in the true “public sphere”m with accessibility from each nook and corner.

Authors Mamta Mantri and Anoop Kumar in their book City and Protests: Perspective in Spatial Criticism remind us that the accessibility of public spaces is interlinked with interest in public activities, including protests. Moreover, spaces sometimes act as a deterrent in access for common people. Different locations carry different meanings. Access points to more centrally located spaces generate more interest in common people, in comparison to the peripheries of public offices.

The Raj Bhawan is a closed, non-representative space that may limit public interaction with the Constitution Park. Generally, people interact with their public representatives in public offices, for which a very limited number of people get access. Being in a non-representative office, the very purpose of the Constitution Park may get defeated because of its inaccessibility. The Constitution is a public document meant for the public. True to its character, the Park must be relocated to spaces like Jawahar Kala Kendra or Albert Hall, which are more accessible for people, who are the primary target audience of this important initiative.

The government can say that they have already spent crores of rupees on it and relocating will further cost it coffers. While this seems like a valid point, what should not be forgotten is that given the issues of inaccessibility, if the Park at its current location fails to attract the target group, it will also be nothing but a waste of taxpayers’ money and state resources. Hence, if relocation is not possible then ways should be devised to ensure that it is accessible to all. In this regard, the state can take help from non-state actors by engaging civil society groups, youth groups and organisations working on constitutional literacy.

Moreover, we are raising the point of accessibility at this juncture because this is the first Samvidhan Park in the country and we hope that there will be many more in coming days. And while planning and designing those, the question of accessibility should be kept in mind.

Let’s not make an innovative and much needed project like the Samvidhan Park obsolete by making it inaccessible to ordinary citizens. Because if tomorrow there is a lack of visitors to the park due to inaccessibility, the government and state agencies might start saying that there is no need to build more Samvidhan Parks, because people are not interested in it.

Rajesh Ranjan is a Samta fellow, working on constitutional literacy in Rajasthan. Mahtab Alam is a multi-lingual journalist and researcher with interest in politics, law, media and literature.  

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Eid-ul-Fitr moon sighting highlights: Saudi Arabia, India may mark Eid same day

Eid-ul-Fitr 2022 moon sighting highlights: There is a wafer-thin chance that Muslims…

As Washington ramps up efforts to bring India on board with sanctions against Russia, U.S. treasury official on visit to Mumbai and Delhi

U.S. Assistant Secretary to discuss Russian oil purchases by India, rupee-rouble trade…

सड़क, रेल, 5G… अरुणाचल बॉर्डर से सटे तिब्‍बत में क्‍या-क्‍या गुल खिला रहा चीन, सेना ने सब बताया

Edited by दीपक वर्मा | भाषा | Updated: May 17, 2022, 1:08…

India Shelves ₹35,000 Cr Plan To Upgrade Su-30 Fighter Fleet Amid Russia-ukraine War | Mint

NEW DELHI : Several factors have shelved the Indian Air Force’s plan…