I have several conversations with friends where we discuss various issues concerning India. One theme I usually find myself constantly returning to is the question of rights and responsibilities.
I have often bemoaned the lack of acceptance of personal responsibility in our country. We all desire freedoms of various kinds but in a democracy, rights always come with responsibilities. And what saddens me the most, is when we complain about law-breakers and corruption in India, we often indulge in it without realizing the inherent hypocrisy of it.
To give an example, we can recall Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption of 2011. Waves of people rose up in support of what was at the core of it, a group’s struggle to bring some accountability to the system. Now leaving aside all arguments of whether his plan was well thought out or not, he had support.
But support is not limited to sharing a photo on facebook or retweeting something. This activism of convenience is what we have become used to. We give ourselves a pat on the back and convince ourselves that we have done all we could. But when it comes to translating words into action, most of us fall well short. I personally know people who would pay 100 Rs. to a policeman as a bribe when they are caught driving without a seatbelt. And the same individuals are vociferous in their support for all anti-corruption movements.
And we have a habit of bending the rules and outright breaking them when it is convenient to do so and where there is a reasonable certainty that we won’t be caught. If we want to really to take a stand against corruption, why don’t we start by doing simple things like obeying simple traffic rules and not using our cities like garbage dumps? Surely this doesn’t call for anyone to risk life and limb.
The only way to bring accountability to the system is to bring accountability to ourselves. A friend is fond of pointing out that the times are changing and people are improving slowly but surely. The fact remains that people improve because individuals go out of their way to improve things. If things are to be changed, it is necessary that we become agents of change and not rest in the comfort of knowing that someone somewhere is exercising his responsibility. We have to do it ourselves.