by Swatee Jog
Years ago when I edited a children’s newspaper, we had declared an essay competition on the topic ‘Independence comes with responsibility’. I was amazed by the stark responses we had got from school children but otherwise who completely agreed. It felt good that we could seed a thought in their minds that being independent does not mean being wayward and footloose. My grandfather, just like many of ours would have, spoke passionately about the freedom struggle. Ours would be the last generation who had someone tell first -hand about the freedom struggle. The people then, fought with all their might against the British. They had just one enemy to fight against, we have many. And sadly, our enemy does not always have a face, it could be an ideology, the dark side of social media, apathy, unhindered desire and a general lack of values.
This enemy comes in all shapes and sizes, it is hidden anywhere, even amidst us and is hard to spot and difficult to eradicate. We fight our battles every day with a faceless enemy. We complain but rarely act. We wait for the government and the administrators to find solutions; we never become the harbingers of solutions. We crib about the potholes but rarely does anyone pick a spade and at the least pour some gravel over it. I remember reading of a CEO who picks up trash on his way to office. When asked why he did so, he just said “Because I saw it first”. Why does it take a government scheme like Swacch Bharat to inculcate a habit of cleanliness? Is it the government’s business to tell us to maintain it?
Independence is wrongly used as a synonym for unrestrained liberty. The right to expression comes with the duty not to hurt anybody. The right to equality must be followed in the true spirit and not just tokenism. The right to freedom of religion implies respecting every other religion in this world. Right to education comes with the responsibility that knowledge thus acquired be put to fruitful use for the country. We all take the national pledge that India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters. The pledge ends by saying that in their well being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness. Does it? What do I do that my fellow countrymen stay happy and prosperous?
Do I save water/food so that others may get it in times of need?
Do I save fuel to save some precious foreign exchange?
Do I spare some time and money to help the underprivileged?
Do I follow honest business practices?
Do I pay my taxes properly?
Do I raise a voice when I see a wrongdoing that affects my brethren and the country?
We fight an enemy of too little and too much. And the balance is so skewed, we can barely fight it anyway. It’s going to be an era of knowledge in the days to come. Countries that thrive on sharing and caring would prosper more than others. All change begins with us, whether it’s about cleanliness, creation of wealth, eradication of corruption or education, if I decide to start, who’s going to stop me? Getting educated, being responsible citizens, thinking about ‘we’ and ‘us’ and together getting on the bus towards prosperity will be the roadmap for our future.