Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Interestingly in India, many statements are made because they are fashionable. People continuously sing and speak about patriotism or honesty. We also have major celebrations whereby we restate our commitment to the nation. Of course those who speak or those who listen are all aware that these are hollow statements. Those who are involved in many kinds of illegal activities as well as corrupt practices have no hesitation in making such statements. One area where a lot of hollow statements in in the debate about rights and responsibilities. Right- based approach becoming popular is a recent phenomenon as far as India is concerned. For many years speaking about rights was a taboo. India being a developing country, everyone was being told that they should see what they can give to the country rather than what the country can give to them. Now we are no more a developing country. We are classified under the nearly developed nations, emerging super power etc. But still the dominant discourse is that of responsibility but not about rights.
Even though I am not a fan of rights-based approach I disagree with the argument behind the emphasis on responsibility in the dominant discourse around rights versus responsibility debate. Those who have gained economically from this development model by using all means, moral and immoral are trying to advice others, especially those who are far below poverty line that they should focus on their responsibilities instead of advocating for their rights. I would like to put it the other way around. People who have already gained, socially, economically and politically should focus on their responsibility where as the deprived sections of our society should repeatedly bring their rights to the forefront. The important questions we are faced with are
- why is that powerful lobbies are not able to accept that they have a huge responsibilities towards the deprived communities?
- Why are the politicians not understanding that it is their irresponsible behaviour that has brought this country to the present situation?
- Why are the educated people who take various kinds of benefits through the employment they have gained are not realizing that they have to share their gains with people with people who have not gained as much as them in 65 years of freedom?
- Why are the business communities so irresponsible in terms of grabbing the livelihood resources of the farmers and marginalized communities totally ignoring their responsibility towards others?
Ultimately people who have benefitted are trying to tell those who did not benefit to think of responsibilities and not about rights. Time has come that we start playing the card the other way around. All those who were pushed down, all those whose resources were grabbed should be the group asking for rights and those who benefitted should stop asking for rights. They should just focus on their responsibility towards society.
Why should the bank employees go on a strike, for that reason why should the pilots strike for higher salaries ? Do they understand that they [the bank employees or anyone with the responsibility to serve people] have a responsibility to think about the most marginalized before they ask for more money. Even the lowest level government officials are enjoying benefits that are many times higher than the benefits enjoyed by a farmer or an ordinary labour in this country. So the issue is not whether to speak about rights or not but who should speak and who should not speak about rights. This tendency of continuously advising the deprived sections of society to think about responsibility should come to an end. I get tired when I hear it again and again. This preaching is not going to help anybody but I know this was designed as a protective mechanism by the powerful lobbies.
While arguing for the rights of the poor and marginalized I do not want to hide the fact that even within those communities there is a question of rights and duties. Why should the men folks among the poor believe that the women should be dutiful. Why do they expect their women to cook, look after the children and care for everyone while the men can drink alcohol and beat their wives. Here again men need to think about their responsibilities and duties instead of always bossing on women. In any given context, there will be rights and duties. The women in the family should also have her rights in addition to her responsibility towards the children. We have remained a country for long where we have used these terms very loosely without realizing who should do what. Even if you argue the other way round that poor people should be more responsible then the argument should be framed in a way that they should be more responsible towards their family and children. In the present context, they cannot be more responsible for their family and children unless they fight for their rights from the system or powerful lobbies. They need to fight for their land. They need to fight for their protect their forest and resources. If they fail to fight, they will also fail to protect their family and children.
Rather than making a blanket statement, that people should think of their duties first and not about their rights people who make such statements should understand their own accountability before they keep advising others even though this may be the more fashionable thing to do. The distance between what you do and what you say is a huge problem in India. God alone knows when are we going to fill these gaps and become reasonably good human beings.