A Crash Course in Civic Responsibility

Posted by Harsha
August 2, 2017

Civics, what?

Think Civics and the first few images that come to our minds are of an almost-forgotten subject we studied as a part of History at school. We brushed through it, cramming what we could about elections, eligibility for posts and names of previous Prime Ministers and Presidents and thought we were done with a boring subject forever. And yet, what most of us fail to realize, thanks in part to our education system, is that Civics is one of the most relevant subjects for our times whose impact is greater than anything else we studied in History. How?

You step out of your home in the morning and instantly potholes on the road: who do you complain to? You see water logging on the roads: who is supposed to look after the drains? You see children begging on roadsides: why don’t they have access to education? Young boys and girls have no employment, who is answerable? You hear about the dengue and chikungunya outbreak: what are the public hospitals doing, who is responsible for fogging the roads? Pitch dark when you return home at night: why is nobody repairing the street lights? From traffic to law and order, from rising taxes to falling prices, everything you encounter in your day to day life is directly or indirectly decided by the people you elect, the people whose salaries you pay for and hence, is ultimately integrated with your rights and duties and hence, with Civics.

Civics touches almost every aspect of our day to day life; the only reason we are aloof of its manifold impact on us is because we are too ignorant and lazy to be bothered.

What is Civics and what are our rights and duties?

Let us do a round of revision here: The word civic originally means “relating to citizenship”. Civics, on the other hand, “is the study of the theoretical, political and practical aspects of citizenship, as well as its rights and duties; the duties of citizens to each other as members of a political body and to the government.”

This definition talks about the various aspects of citizenship, along with their rights and duties. Of these, the Fundamental Rights mentioned in our Constitution are oft-quoted and discussed. These are:

  • Right to Equality
  • Right to Freedom
  • Right against Exploitation
  • Right to Freedom of Religion
  • Cultural and Educational Rights
  • Right to Constitutional Remedies
  • Right to Education (added in 2002)

The list of Fundamental Duties given in the Constitution are:

  1. to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag, National Anthem;
  2. to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
  3. to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
  4. to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do;
  5. to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
  6. to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
  7. to protect and improve the natural environments including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife;
  8. to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
  9. to safeguard public property and not to use violence; and
  10. to serve towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity
  11. A parent or guardian has to provide opportunities for the education of his child/ward between the age of six and fourteen years. (Added in 2009)

What does civic responsibility mean and why is it important?

Even though our Constitution covers a wide range of general duties that a citizen of India should perform, there are also certain other responsibilities associated with democratic governance and social participation that have not been mentioned in the Constitution. These are called civic responsibilities and include voting and paying taxes among others. The primary difference between duties and responsibilities is that the latter is mostly considered to be voluntary i.e. people have a choice whether they fulfil their civic responsibilities or not. However, this does not mean that the role or impact of civic responsibilities is any smaller or less significant.

Democracy, by its very origin, was meant to be participatory i.e. the people were meant to be in power, whether directly or indirectly. This also means that the success of any democratic system depends largely on its citizens because democracy is a two-way road where government and citizen behavior reinforce each other. When we fulfil our civic responsibilities, we help build the communities around us, we make the authorities sit up and take notice, we influence government decision making, we bring about the much-needed change in our nation and we encourage others around us to participate in civic life.

As PM Modi said in his Mann ki Baat speech in March this year: Every citizen must discharge his civic duties and responsibilities. This in itself would be a good beginning to a New India.
PM Narendra Modi on our civic rights & duties.

However, there isn’t enough awareness or interest among a huge portion of our citizens about these basic principles. We are used to questioning the government (and rightly so) about what it is doing for us but rarely do we not ponder upon what WE are doing for the nation as citizens. And that is where things need to change. We need to engage in conversation, take action where needed, contribute in whatever way we can to positively influence our society and nation. As PM Modi said in his Mann ki Baat speech in March this year: “Every citizen must discharge his civic duties and responsibilities. This in itself would be a good beginning to a New India.”

Also at: www.blog.say2gov.com/single-post/2017/08/01/A-Crash-Course-in-Civic-Responsibility