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A citizen’s mann ki baat

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A citizen’s mann ki baat

This Independence Day, the Indian democracy will turn 70, certainly a long period to carry out a SWOT analysis. Looking back, we seem to have come a long way from where we started on the midnight of August 15, 1947. As India awoke to freedom, there were promises and expectations, hopes and aspirations. How far we could meet them may be debated. But that apart, there is a need to look from the viewpoint of the Indian citizen, particularly the post-Independence generation that opened up its eyes in a free country. We, the people of India, gave a Constitution to ourselves to be governed by the rule of law patterned on something like the American Bill of Rights that believes that certain inalienable rights of the individual are non-negotiable. The famous 1775 speech of Patrick Henry at the Virginia Convention that closed with words: “Give me liberty or give me death” proved to be quite prophetic and became the bulwark of the American Constitution. In this light, we need to take stock of our democracy. The largest it is, with some 1.34 billion people. A growing and vibrant democracy where the ordinary voters have often written history. Yet it seems that we have somewhere during our journey missed that vital element of democracy that is time and again uttered by the powers that be — the freedom from bhaya, bhookh, aur bhrastachaar or getting rid of fear, hunger, and corruption. As institutions lose their sheen with exposes one after another, the upright seem to be at the receiving end.

It is ironical that the Indian citizen still finds itself treated like subjects whose life and liberty issues are decided by the laws largely framed by British masters. True we gave ourselves a Constitution that gave certain basic rights to all citizens. But we seem to be missing the key issue. No one is advocating absolute rights to the individual, to give him freedom to do anything. Reasonable restrictions always go with all rights, and responsibilities and duties are inherent in rights. For all practical purposes, the right to privacy is implied in our right to life and liberty. Yet, the changes that the modern technology is bringing to the life of an individual call for caution and safeguards so that the soul of the republic is not bruised. Modern societies are not about eavesdropping that the sophisticated technologies in this digital age are capable of doing. Close policing is alien to the spirit of republican ethos and hence reasonable legal safeguards are needed to protect the privacy of citizens. Right to privacy is in no way a license to indulge in chaotic behavior. But certainly it is the basic feature of an individual’s right to life and liberty. Digitisation need not come in the way of citizen’s privacy to live life in his chosen way, of course without infringing on the life of others. Certainly because your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins. None can deny that. Right to privacy need not be mixed up with irresponsible behaviour. Digitisation has raised privacy issues at different levels, like surveillance by the Government, corporations misusing data, and criminals making merry. The concern of a citizen is about these and he seeks constitutional safeguards. He expects his country to be that heaven of freedom about which Tagore said: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.”

The writer is a professor of management and public speaker. He can be reached at ppathak.ism@gmail.com

 
 
 
 
 

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