People and Society

Responsibility In A System

The definition of democracy, as we learnt in school is, ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’. It is a system in which the representatives are elected from the people, to govern them and take care of their welfare while making them a part of the process.

The citizenry are therefore one of the stakeholders in the governance system. To enable their participation they are given rights under the aegis of the governing principles called the ‘The Fundamental Rights’. These rights are bestowed upon the citizens to help them contribute towards the society in a responsible way.

The peculiar case in the Indian democracy is that individuals want rights but without responsibility. Everyone wants to express their thoughts, practice their religions, protect their interests but they are not ready to accept their responsibility when they go overboard interfering into matters outside their ambit. The relationship between rights and responsibility is like a marriage. Both take care of each other. But in India it is mostly dysfunctional.

I would like to elaborate on it quoting a few news reports where property was vandalised days after the new ventures were inaugurated for public use either private or governmental organisations.

News reports on destruction of railway property, vandalising places of public interest such as tourist attractions and loot of equipment from public infrastructure have made national headlines. This has brought out a debate on civic responsibilities. I would like to make my point illustrating those examples below.

Thefts on the train used to be a menace in the past. Today the passengers are the theives themselves. Some may label it kleptomania. I call it lack of civic responsibility.Let me back it up with a few statistics.

In another recent incident, there was theft and damage of property on the newly inducted train by the Indian Railways the Tejas Express on its maiden trip. Passengers stole headphones attached to the travel entertainment system and damaged the window panes.

Damaged window pane on the Delhi-Mumbai Tejas Express on its maiden run

This desecration of public property is an act of hooliganism and reflects a lack of civic sense. Taking the thoughts on desecration forward it pains me when I visit monuments and places of public leisure to see them ruined by betel leaf stains and graffiti proclaiming love of couples on remnants of history.

The Love Hyderabad installation was put up on the iconic Tank Bund in November 2016. It was dubbed by some sections of the media as the ‘monument of love’. But the monument itself did not receive any love. It was vandalised with graffiti and physical force. To preserve the installation it had to shifted from the Tank Bund to another location.

This is just another documented report in a large roster of reports of public vandalism. It paints India as a nation of people with no sense of public etiquette and reflects on us a society. This may sound harsh but it is something which needs to be said.

Recently we have the Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurate the Eastern Peripheral Expressway. The energy to the lighting on the expressway was being provided through solar power. Within a week of its inauguration there were news reports of the solar panels being stolen.

Reading and listening such news stories sometimes I do wonder do we deserve it? Do weed need improved amenities when we cannot use them in a responsible way ? We always whine about lack of facilities and amenities and every election season we demand more from political parties to vote for them. But are ready for them without learning about responsibility?

Responsibility is taught to children growing up as a moral lesson so they understand their duties. When they falter sometimes they are punished so that they learn from mistakes. But here there neither is learning nor punishment. The perpetrators are still scot free and the responsibility is on the institution to cut corners to ensure they are not tempted to repeat the same.

This is a massive collective failure of the citizens to educate themselves on civic sense and responsibility. Before questioning the government as we like to we need to question our ourselves are we taking care our share of responsibility.

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