Duties vs Rights

Veerendra Jaitly

CEO: C_cube Consultants

We all come across a number of individuals in our life who are very conscious about their rights. During any discussion, they would like to support their behaviour quoting their Right to Freedom of Expression or their Right to Freedom of Speech or even their Right to live their life, the way they want.

It is worth noting that rights are solely a form of personal entitlement granted by the constitution of the country where you are staying. One must remember that individuals have a reciprocal obligation also to respect the rights of others if they expect to have their own rights respected in turn. If your neighbour feels that he has the right to play loud music till middle of the night to celebrate the birthday of his son, he must also realize that you too have the right to sleep peacefully without any unnecessary noise.

If I have the right to speak anything in my organization or the residential society where I stay, I must understand that it is my duty that I don’t hurt anyone. Even while discharging my official duties, if I have to issue some instruction that may not be liked by the majority, I can always use an appropriate language in such a way that it doesn’t disturb the harmony of the organization and everyone understands that it is ultimately for the good of the organization.

Similarly, the right to religious expression is also quoted at a number of places. This right ensures that members of religious minorities are protected from interference in the exercise of their religious freedom. At the same time, it means that it is their duty not to denigrate the religion of the majority. People must show the tolerance when it comes to religious practices too when they differ from their own. It is very important that when we ask for our right to worship the way we want, we must also take into consideration our duty that it doesn’t disturb the community in general and doesn’t hurt the majority.

Human beings are social animals. The system of our social organization gives equal priority to both the community and the individual. It tends to emphasize the dual nature of rights as both freedoms and duties. Any society as a whole can progress only when everyone fulfils his/her obligations to the fellow citizens. In a progressive society, we acquire the ability to exercise our rights only when we learn to respect the rights of the others. If while exercising my right, it clashes with the right of a fellow citizen, we should immediately think of our duty to the society, community and the country we live in.

At times, the human rights activists go out of the way to plead and protest for the terrorists and naxalites when they get killed by the police or armed forces. They forget the gruesome killings of children, ladies and anyone else who comes in their way. How can such people who have no respect for the law of land, expect mercy from the legal system or the law enforcement agencies as a part of their rights.

Fundamental rights are rights and freedoms guaranteed by constitutions of some countries and therefore have a legal sanction and are enforceable thru a court of law. Similarly there are fundamental duties basically a responsibility bestowed on us as a citizen of the country and we are expected to perform them as good citizens. Thus the primary difference between fundamental right and fundamental duty is that fundamental right is based on privilege granted to us by the constitution of the country where we live in whereas fundamental duty is based on accountability as a good citizen or as a good human being.

It is a right and duty of the wise ones to purify the strong by teaching them their duties and to strengthen the weak by teaching them their rights. – Subrahmanya C. Bharati

I have a feeling that our politicians talk a lot about their rights and I have never seen them talking about their duties. You may have heard politicians instigating their followers and the general public to fight for their rights in the name of their cast, sub caste, religion, language or any other excuse. Have you ever heard these politicians anytime, anywhere telling their followers about their duties towards the society and the nation? Do these politicians themselves demonstrate their duties as members of parliament or members of the legislative assemblies? The answer is a clear ‘NO’. They have always bothered about their own rights, their own perks and their own luxuries and forget about their duties towards the masses who had elected them. Our politicians should demonstrate a leadership today where they follow their own duties in an exemplary manner and also emphasize to their followers about the duties they must perform instead of harping about the rights all the time.

It is a must that we are aware of our rights but it is much more important that we carry out our fundamental duties fully well so that the society as a whole gets benefited. Some of our fundamental duties include educating and nurturing our children, due care of the aged, respect for the ladies and support for the handicapped. Other duties include payment of taxes, adherence to traffic rules, throwing the litter in the dust bins only. Evasion of fundamental duties by the citizens cause chaos in the community. One of the reason for our dirty surroundings is that we are careless and not carrying our duty properly in this regard. Isn’t it our duty to use electricity judiciously? Isn’t it our duty to conserve water, plant trees and not cause pollution as responsible citizens of this world? 

Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country. – John F Kennedy

In India, we crave all the time for our rights. When it comes to our duties, we are reasonably good as far as our duties towards our families are concerned. Almost all the parents sacrifice their own comfort, time and everything to bring up their children in the best possible manner. We in India have a very good culture of looking after our old parents also to a large extent. Most of us think this as our noble duty to serve our parents.

But we are by and large clueless and careless when it comes to our duties towards our society, our community, our city and our country. We keep our house clean but throw the litter on the road through the window. We talk a lot about respecting the ladies but when it comes to even offering a seat to an elderly lady in the bus or train, we try to evade. May be we have not been educated properly about our duties from our childhood. There is a greater need for teaching our children about our duties in our school, in our society and in fact anywhere. And the duty of the elders is to set such examples for our children, if we want to have a society where everyone knows his/her rights but respects the rights of others too and performs his/her duties also all the time everywhere.