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POT-POURRI: Liberty Besets Responsibility

POT-POURRI: Liberty Besets Responsibility

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  8 Feb 2019 11:17 AM GMT

Parag Phukan

Our dear motherland, India, is a sovereign, democratic republic. After almost two hundred years of colonial dominion we became an independent nation and subsequently on January 26, 1950 we gave ourselves a constitution with many fundamental rights to the citizens and became a democratic republic. It’s only yesterday, that we solemnly celebrated the seventieth Republic Day of the nation. We always take great pride that we are the largest democracy in the world. Technically true. But do we really use our hard-earned liberty the way expected of responsible citizenry? At this juncture, it’s pertinent to do an honest introspection.

Any authority, any privilege comes along with responsibility. Authority and responsibility are the two sides of a same coin – one cannot be devoid of the other. It’s a package deal. Authority without responsibility can lead people, individually or severally, to dangerous situations. Unfortunately, we Indians are too good in demanding authority or snatching privilege by hook or by crook but when it comes to discharge the responsibility attached, we simply shy away. This national character is most unbecoming of a nation frantically aspiring to join the ivy league of developed nations soon. Unless changed, this selfish and irresponsible attitude is never going to give us a revered position in the comity of nations.

Democracy is a system of Government in which the citizens have the right to choose their rulers for a specified period by exercising their adult franchise, or in other words, voting for a particular political outfit or a group. In such an arrangement, virtually every citizen is a kingmaker or king-breaker. In democracies, the subjects are not ruled; they are governed under certain sets of law or rules. Democracy is not just limited to the governance of a country. In democratically-run institutions, organizations or even business, as in a co-operative society, each member is entitled to vote and take part in the decision making process. Abraham Lincoln’s famous lines, “Democracy: Of the people, By the people and For the people”, describes the genesis of democracy empathetically.

A Republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter” and not a private concern or property of any ruler or rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are not inherited, but are attained through a democratic process. In a Republic the Head of the State is an elected citizen and not a monarch by inheritance. There are Republican Democracies, like the USA or India and Monarchial Democracies, like the UK or Japan. The Constitution of India which made us a republic, has enshrined the citizens with many fundamental rights as enumerated in Article No. 12 to 35 of it. These rights inter-alia guarantee: Equality before law irrespective of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth; Freedom of speech, life and personal liberty, Right to Education; Right to freedom of religion; Cultural and educational rights; Right to Constitutional remedies etc. The crux of the issue is, all these rights and privileges must be used and enjoyed responsibly.

All citizens and the elected government must always understand, appreciate and remember the fundamental difference between the Nation and the Government. The concept of nationhood is not transitory, it’s ever-present and continuous. The Indian nationhood was there, is there and will be there. But on the other hand, the government in power is transitory; it is there in the seat for a limited period to act as the custodian of the nation. Hence, no government has the right to handle the nation as its private property and harm the basic foundation of the perennial nationhood. On the other hand, the citizens have the right to protest against the policies of a government and implementations thereof, in a democratic way without causing any harm to the country or fellow citizens. But unfortunately, most small and big political or other organizations of the country do just that selfishly for their narrow political or otherwise gains, without an iota of concern for the country’s development, progress and inconveniences of the mute masses.

As per ancient Greek order there are three distinctively different types of people. All were not considered ‘citizens”, per-se. This division is based on equality and intellect and legal or political status of an individual. This is still relevant in the present Indian context too.

The first group is categorized as “idiots”, not meaning mentally-deficient. They can be well-to-do and literate, but are totally individualistic and self-centered with the only motto of personal pleasure and treasure. With no public philosophy or intellect they are just upgraded apes. The second category is termed as “Tribes people”, not meaning tribal. With a strong parochial mentality, these insensitive people cannot think beyond their small group. Their allegiance is only to the group and not to the State. They are fearful of change, lack modern outlook and suspicious of new things. They harm fellow citizens causing hardship and inconveniences to achieve their narrow ends, destroy public and private property and so on. One doesn’t have to look far to find them. They are very much amongst us with their so-called ‘democratic war arsenals’, like strikes, bandhs, etc with the slightest pretext. These two groups cannot be termed as citizens in true sense of the term.

But the ideal citizens have the knowledge and skills required to live a healthy public life of civility. They thrive for common good, settle differences in a civilized manner. They may fight for their rights but are responsible for the smallest of the fellow human being. For them society is meant for caring and sharing. Now let us do an honest introspection to decide which category we wish to belong to. The onus is on us.

(The author of the column is a former Vice President of Reliance Defence & Engineering Ltd., Gujarat. Presently, he is a freelance writer, management consultant and professional trainer. He can be reached at

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