By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Since independence India has steadily grown into a progressive and modern democracy. Our country has made enormous progress in science and technology. Now it can claim to be at par with other developed tions of the world. In spite of all that progress it appears that our country has not been able to actualize the visions of our ancestors, who happened to be the architects of the tion. Their vision has aptly been enshrined in the ideals of our constitution. The constitution of the Republic of India had envisaged the country to be a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic, which would secure to its citizens justice, equality, liberty and fraternity. I really wonder if we have been able to obtain them. Though we criticize the bureaucrats and the government on many issues, it is debatable if we possess the character to live up to our constitutiol ideals. It is no use blaming others for any problem. What is necessary for us is to practice a little introspection to find out our faults. Mahatma Gandhi envisaged a ‘Ram Rajya’, where all the citizens would get justice from the administration and where there would be peace and happiness for all the people. But that has not happened. Whose fault is that? It is no use blaming the government machinery for the sad state of the country, since I believe that we ourselves are also responsible for that.
We are vociferous in our demands for various benefits. All kinds of agitations, such as strikes, bandhs, dhars etc are called at the drop of a hat. The employees in diverse services want better wages, better amenities and various other benefits. Our demands are never ending and they always increase with the passage of time. There is nothing wrong in making demands, if they are justified. But the problem is that we often forget that rights and duties go together. One cannot exist without the other, since they are like two sides of a coin. Our demand for better wages may be justified. But are we also aware of our responsibilities? Better wages imply better work by the employees. But we do not see such conscientiousness in the employees. Rather we often indulge in such conduct which is unbecoming of a great tion.
In any government office punctuality seems to be a rare phenomenon. The officials do not value time. Benjamin Franklin had once recommended in his ‘Advice to a young tradesman’ that ‘Time is Money’. But in our country nobody seems to understand the significance of the statement or possibly they are not interested. In this context I shall rrate a very simple incident I experienced years back. While I was in service I needed some information on some urgent issue. So I wrote a letter to the concerned office begging for a reply. But it brought no response. After waiting for some time I sent a reminder, but it also remained unswered. After waiting in vain for a couple of months I decided it was time for persol onslaught.
So taking leave for a day from my institution, I reached that particular office precisely at 10 A.M. To my dismay I found that there was only a scattering of visitors, but no officials around. There also did not seem to have any seating arrangement for the visitors. It was a depressing site. There was quite a large lawn in front of the building, where I could see some limp flowers. You could perhaps call it a garden by courtesy. Possibly there was a gardener, whose method of gardening seemed to be rather slipshod. Since the official whom I had gone to meet had not arrived, I decided to walk around the so-called garden to get some fresh air. It was by no means a pleasant walk, because the place was full of weed and some of them thorny ones. No doubt the exercise was excellent for my physique, but mentally I was a tattered mass of nerves. Eventually the officials appeared in the premises and life began to emerge.
At last hesitantly I entered the office and asked a gentleman at a nearby table about the whereabouts of the official I had gone to meet. Nonchalantly he pointed towards a table at the far end of the room. I approached the table, but saw only a briefcase and shopping bag on the table. In my confused state of mind I wondered for a moment if these officials added invisibility to their other accomplishments. But no—it was only a delusion of the mind. A gentleman very soon came to occupy his chair. He did not seem to be pleased to see me. He just stared and asked me about my business. Suppressing my justifiable indigtion at his cavalier behaviour, I smiled at him and politely told him about the letters I had sent. There was no gleam of an answering smile in his face as his eyes were as cold as that of a fish. In a rough voice he told me that he was a very busy man and did not have time to answer letters. turally I was very annoyed, but had to choke back my retort. The man was not the least sorry for his tardy behaviour. I had to keep my temper under control. I offered him a handsome apology for disturbing him in his busy schedule. He told me that he had certain important matters to attend that day and asked me to come another day. I thought that enough was enough and I did not relish the idea of going to that office another day.
The whole building presented a gloomy appearance. The office seemed to be full of dusty files, which seemed to reach the ceiling. The floor, chairs, tables and everything seemed to be dusty. Possibly the office had not witnessed a broom or a duster for weeks together. There was no question of visiting that office again. With what I hoped to be an ingratiating smile, I had to take recourse to some unorthodox means to get my work done. Well, it was a small price to pay for my peace of mind. I believe that necessity sometimes compels us to tread the wrong path. Well, I had no other altertive. Perhaps the moralists would condemn my action and they would be right in their criticism. We all know that money can do wonders. Unless you are ready to loosen your purse string in order to grease the palm of some unscrupulous official, you will never get what is your due. One has to be very strong in character to resist temptation; but very few of us possess such strength of character. I suppose, most of us succumb to weakness which is ethically wrong. It happened years and years back. I have no idea if the same situation prevails now or if it has changed for the better. At least I hope so. But what I have heard is that the situations in these offices have become even worse than before.
Velity and crimes are rampant in our society, but they do not offend our sensibilities, because we ourselves are involved in them. Even young students are not free from crimes. They resort to unfair means just to pass the examition. Once students had to work very hard for the desired success. But in this age we see a marked preference for mediocrity and easy success. To achieve the goal they prefer short-cuts, which tendency is obvious in most people. But mediocrity is fatal and the goal should be excellence. Everybody wants to obtain more money, more wealth and more success and for achieving that goal people have to struggle real hard. Today also the same tendency prevails. We all want more money—more than we need. But we do not want to work more for achieving our goal. We want easy money without working for it. People demand and collect wages without doing any work. Often we hear of agitations by employees of various organizations for better wages and amenities. But they ignore the fact that one has to work hard for earning better salary.
Unless you are prepared to grease the palm of the unscrupulous official, your work will not be done, though it is your rightful demand, and they get their monthly wages from the authority concerned for doing their job properly. Then we hear that many of the government’s grants for the applicants are not utilized for the stated purpose. Medical grants are also misused by some people.
Bandhs are called on various issues—major or minor. I wonder how it benefits the agitators or anybody else. There is nothing voluntary about these bandhs. Shop owners are forced to down their shutters against their will, under the threat of dire consequences if the orders of the agitators are not heeded. Stones are thrown at the moving vehicles. People are attacked, if they dare to defy the orders of the Bandh organizers. Government property is often vandalized during a strike or a bandh. Buses are burnt or damaged, drivers are beaten up and the passengers are ordered to get down. That is the way to make a bandh successful. After all that hooliganism they thank the people next day for their “spontaneous support” to make the bandh successful. Is there anything more ludicrous? Do they ever think of those poor people whose daily bread depends on their day-to-day earnings? A bandh may imply a day of starvation for them. We do not seem to have any freedom of will, which is so essential for a democracy. Obviously it is not democracy, but a kind of mobocracy, as we learn from Plato’s teachings.
A mob of 10 to 20 people may sabotage a positive initiative. Some people encroach upon government property and if they are asked to vacate the plot of land, they start agitations, burn effigies and get involved in all forms of destructive activities. The common citizen has to run from pillar to post to get his/her rightful dues, but for getting justice a few palms have to be greased. Common citizens do not get service in the government offices, rather they are harassed. Money has to be offered to the employees for doing some work, which happens to be their duty.
The citizens of the country have many bad habits. They take betel nuts with tobacco and spit anywhere they like without bothering about the pedestrians who walk that way. After eating the ba or the orange they throw away the peel on the road. That is why our streets are littered with ice cream cups, chocolate wrappers, paper cups or any kind of rubbish. It is a fact that our people indulge in all kinds of civic improprieties. After any function in some household, next day you would find the road in front of the house littered with papers plates, cups, thrown away food and all sorts of garbage. We keep our own homes and compounds clean and throw the garbage in front of another’s home without the least compunction. By the road side you may find a vendor selling green coconut milky juice to thirsty passers-by. The people gather to buy the coconuts and sip the milky juice and then throw away the husk by the road side. Actually garbage on the road has become a common sight in our city and it is no use blaming the government agencies for the obnoxious sight, since we ourselves are responsible for making our city dirty. Groups of people go for picnics in diverse beautiful places, rich with tural flora and fau, and before leaving the place they do not bother to clean up the place. But strangely enough the same people behave in the best possible way while abroad. If they can keep the foreign country clean, why can’t they do that in their own country?
Some people remark that there are better hygiene and better traffic discipline abroad, but would breach the same back home. Our own people do nothing to improve the traffic situation or the health care system. In every sphere we see the same kind of sloppiness. Students do not study properly and hence often use unfair means to get through the examition. But if some of them are caught and expelled, the students resort to all kinds of protests and agitations. Some students turn violent, as they believe that they have the right to cheat in the examition. Assaulting invigilators, who detect the cheats and take action, have become a common practice. These students want to pass the examition without making any effort. For them cheating in the examition should be allowed and accepted gracefully. These same people become a burden to the state, as they have not been able acquire any skill for gainful employment. Rights are forcefully demanded, but duties are generally ignored. They seem to be uware of the fact that to claim your rights you have to do your duty earnestly. In our country there are enough rules and laws, but their enforcement is seldom effective. Whatever that may be, I think that it is time we realized that we cannot claim our rights unless we do our duty, since they go together. The realization of this truth may make us better human beings.