I know, Most of us will see that this is a loooong post, skim through the whole thing, find the words citizen, government, bureaucracy, read the flowchart and think that, here is an other ‘hypocritical do-gooder’ who thinks he can change the country! I would think so, and I’m not going to say you are wrong either; this is exactly that!
No, I am not asking any of you to hold a banner and become a social activist nor am I asking you to go on a indefinite fast for a noble cause. But if you do all this there wouldn’t be a greater thing. Every one of us has our own families to feed and our own friends to be with. We may not want to go out of our way to try and change the nation; that does not mean we don’t care because we do care! We do feel bad for the plight of our nation!
Well, basically we are not happy with our public administration<i.e. the action part of our government>, we feel that most part of the bureaucracy is either corrupt or insensitive to public needs and we feel that we cannot do anything about it because we are at their mercy.
Although we may not find the need to act upon these problems right away, we should know how to act when a situation arises. Just the awareness on what you can actually do about it will definitely make you a better citizen.
Throughout our school life we learn things like, how is a member of a legislative assembly or the Member of Parliament is elected, what is the structure of the judiciary, what is the rajiya sabha or the lok sabha, what is the work of the president or the prime minister. It is only once in a while that we get subtle hints on what a responsible citizen should do.
A government is not just the prime minister and his cabinet of ministers. It includes a lot more than that,
A government is a summation of many organizations (E.g. Ministry of rural development, PWD, Defense ministry, etc.), and each such organization is nothing but summation of people, i.e. common man.
A government is like a cart with two wheels, one is the bureaucracy and the other or the nation’s citizens. If only one wheel spins at a time, the cart will keep spinning in the same place. If both of them spin in opposite directions, the cart will break. If and only if both of them spin in the same direction, the cart will move forward.
So, why are we taught only about how does the government function and not about how we are suppose to be? Why are we not taught about how to BE governed? It is because of this ignorance on our part that sometimes we feel that the government is not doing enough even if it does what it has to do. It is because of this ignorance, neither do we demand transparency & quality from the government nor do we hold the government accountable for its actions.
In contemporary times good citizenship is equally important as good governance, hence there is a need for a new discipline or at least a sub discipline that teaches us how to be ‘good citizens’. This shall and will empower the common man. This discipline essentially may include four basic categories of information that every citizen should know.
Category-1: Effective usage of schemes
This category may include information on schemes that will benefit the public in their daily life; it will enlighten them on hoe to derive the most from the policies that are made for their welfare.
For example, consider this policy implemented by the rural development authority of India. It is called National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), it is the flagship program of the government that directly touches lives of the poor and promotes inclusive growth. This act aims at enhancing livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Unique features of the act include time bound employment guarantee and wage payment within 15 days, incentive- disincentive structure to the state government for providing employment as 90% of the cost for employment provided is borne by the Centre or payment of unemployment allowances at their own cost and emphasis on labor intensive work prohibiting the use of contractors and machinery.
This part may include concepts pertaining to citizenship and the importance of knowing them.
For example, what is tax? Why is it important to pay tax? What happens to the money you pay? What will happen if we don’t pay tax? Which section of the population is exempted from tax? – This section shall seek to answer such questions.
Category-3: Accountability measures
This category shall throw some light on how to make the government accountable for its actions and how do you derive quality from the government.
Consider the Right To Information Act, It means the freedom of people to have access to the governmental information. It means openness and transparency in the functioning of the government. It envisages the appointment of a Public Information Officer in every governmental ministry and department to attend to the demand of the people for official information against nominal service charge for certified photocopies of the documents. There will be however be exemptions from disclosure of information in eight areas of the country defense, security, intelligence agencies related information, cabinet papers, minutes of advice including legal ones relating to decision making, trade or commercial secrets, information likely to breach of privilege of the parliament & state legislature.
Information commission shall fine an official Rs.250 per day (subject to maximum of Rs.25,000) if information is delayed without reasonable cause beyond stipulated 30 days.
We can file an application by,
- Filing RTI application through Public Information Officer (PIO) or Assistant Public Information Officer (APIO) of the concerned department.
- File an application through post office.
The information shall be provided to the applicant within 30 days from the date of receipt.
Nominal charges required:
- Application fee (Rs.10/-) for central government departments, different for different state government.
- Further fee (Rs.2/- per page)
- Fee for document inspection (First hour free; thereafter Rs.5/- per hour.
Category-4: Guarding against exploitation of civil liberties
Our civil liberties are the basic right or the freedom that is offered to us by our constitution. This part may tell you how to protect your rights and how to retaliate if it is offended in any way. For example, knowing how to issue a police complaint in case of any infringement and following up on it is a very essential knowledge that one should posses.
Let us assume that my laptop is stolen, then I should go to the police station in whose jurisdiction the crime took place and not the police station in whose jurisdiction I live in, to give a complaint. Any personnel present in the police station ought to record a report from me and file a First Information Report, I will be asked to sign and I will be provided with a copy of the FIR.
Then if the culprit is nabbed and my laptop is found, the police will inform me about it and file a petition in a trial court. Then I will get a court summons asking me to appear before the court of law for the proceedings. Once the laptop is identified to be mine and the crime is proven, I will get it back and the offender will be penalized with respect to the case.
The complete procedure does not include taking even a penny from you, except that you have to pay for your own bus charges.
This is just a basic idea on how a new branch of civics can be formed in order to teach the people on basic citizenship. So the next time a 6th grader from a rural school opens his social science textbook and reads about NREGA, he will tell his unemployed dad on how to save their lively hood and not to buy a bottle of poison for the whole family, the next time you submit your passport application form expecting get a passport within 10 days but it has already been a month, instead of paying thousands of rupees as bribes, you shall just fill up a ten rupee RTI application form.
Every citizen gets a government that he deserves; eternal vigilance is the price that you will have to pay for your liberty.
An ideal citizen is well-informed, right conscious, duty conscious, participative, having a stakeholder mentality and assertive. Let us be one shall we?