Contained in Part IV of the Indian Constitution, the directive principles are basic guidelines for the government to perform certain things and to achieve certain goals by these actions. Though they are non-justiciable in nature, (cannot be enforced in a Court of Law), yet they are treated as fundamental canons in the policy-making process regardless of the political ideology of the government in power.
Most directives such aim at the establishment of the social and economic democracy described in the Preamble to the Constitution.
Some important directives and the extent of the progress made in implementing them are discussed below:
Contains a directive which has made one of the most remarkable progress stories so far as its implementation is concerned. It requires the State to try to ensure that the ownership and control of material resources of the community are distributed so as to serve the common societal good.
In line with this goal, zamindari has been abolished and land reform laws have been enacted in many states so that agricultural land is not monopolized by a few people. Under the relevant laws, surplus land (beyond the permissible limit, which varies from state to state) is distributed among the landless labour. Of course, it is another story that the land reforms in India have not been very successful due to vested political interests and the landlords' reluctance to give surplus land to the government.
Asks the government to have village panchayats as units of local self-government at village level.
With the 73rd Amendment Act, it has become a reality, wherein all villages are supposed to have panchayats and regular elections every five years. Notably, the village panchayats enjoy both civic and judicial authorities to an extent.
Requires the State to have a common set of personal laws (those laws which deal with topics like marriage, divorce, succession etc.) for different religious communities. The issue has been pending for want of sufficient political will.
Contains a directive to the government to ensure Free Elementary Education upto 14 years of age. With the Right To Education Act (under which all schools, both government and private, are supposed to keep 25% seats reserved for the underprivileged children) operational, we can expect free, universal, compulsory primary education to become a reality.
Advises the prohibition of liquor, intoxicating drinks and drugs by legislative means. Subsequent to this, many states e.g. Gujarat and Haryana, have initiated some steps in this direction, with mixed results.