FUNDAMENTAL DUTIESFundamental Duties of citizens serve a useful purpose. In particular, no democratic polity can ever succeed where the citizens are not willing to be active participants in the process of governance by assuming responsibilities and discharging citizenship duties and coming forward to give their best to the country. Some of the fundamental duties enshrined in article 51A have been incorporated in separate laws.
For instance, the first duty includes respect for the National Flag and the National Anthem. Disrespect is punishable by law. To value and preserve the rich heritage of the mosaic that is India should help to weld our people into one nation but much more than article 51A will be needed to treat all human beings equally, to respect each religion and to confine it to the private sphere and not make it a bone of contention between different communities of this land. In sum, the Commission believes that article 51A has travelled a great distance since it was introduced in the Forty-second Amendment and further consideration should be given to ways and means to popularise the knowledge and content of the Fundamental Duties and effectuate them.
The most important task before us is to reconcile the claims of the individual citizen and those of the civic society. To achieve this, it is important to orient the individual citizen to be conscious of his social and citizenship responsibilities and so shape the society that we all become solicitous and considerate of the inalienable rights of our fellow citizens. Therefore, awareness of our citizenship duties is as important as awareness of our rights. Every right implies a corresponding duty but every duty does not imply a corresponding right. Man does not live for himself alone. He lives for the good of others as well as of himself.
It is this knowledge of what is right and wrong that makes a man responsible to himself and to the society and this knowledge is inculcated by imbibing and clearly understanding one's citizenship duties. The fundamental duties are the foundations of human dignity and national character. If every citizen performs his duties irrespective of considerations of caste, creed, colour and language, most of the malaise of the present day polity could be contained, if not eradicated, and the society as a whole uplifted. Rich or poor, in power or out of power, obedience to citizenship duty, at all costs and risks, is the essence of civilized life.
Spirit of Harmony and Dignity of Women Some further thought needs to be given to clauses (e) and (f) of article 51A. Article 51A(e) desires the promotion of harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities and renunciation of practices derogatory to the dignity of women. It is couched in broad terms but it should be clear that attacks on minority communities or minority opinions are frowned upon. Respect for both are essential and the wording lends support to a broad humanism to cover such differences as may exist or better still, co-exist.
Two thoughts can be distilled. The first is that the objective will not be reached unless there is a determined effort to restrict religious practices to the home on the justified premise that one's religion is a personal matter and is not conducive to mass assertiveness. The other is the status of women.
Lip service is being paid to the doctrine of gender equality. The fact remains that generally women are still regarded as inferior both home and workplace although the Commission has noticed an improvement, however dissatisfied it may be with the degree of the at improvement. It is necessary to separate religious precepts from civil law. Civil law as the name implies is a matter for society not for religious leaders and it would seem to us to be axiomatic that in matters of civil rights, laws of property and inheritance and marriage and divorce, although practices may differ, legal rights that accrue must be the same. For example, a marriage may be solemnised according to religious or social custom but the rights of a woman in the case of divorce must be the same no matter what her religion is.
Clause (e) of article 51A also seems to cover the need to regard all human beings equally. In this connection, it is necessary to consider the question of the upliftment of the Scheduled Castes and other disadvantaged sections of our society. The scourge must be eradicated. The Constitution gave us ten years to do the job; the provision has been extended to fifty years and we are in our sixth ten-year period but we are no nearer the goal. The discrimination is two-fold. It is economic-condemning whole sections of our society numbering millions to menial jobs as part of the evil of treating them as sub-human. We have provided for reservation of jobs to these people, we have even given them separate constituencies to represent them. It has created a vested interest in backwardness. The other adverse result is that it has had no effect on their status in society, which continues to be determined by birth and not human worth and human personality. It is this social stigma which still plagues our people and the struggle to restore to them basic human dignity has made no significant progress. While the Commission appreciates the context in which affirmative action became necessary, it feels that reservation of jobs and seats in the legislatures will not help this aspect of the matter.
It is quite clear to the Commission that the disease of considering human beings as high or low based on the accident of birth is a disease rooted in the mind and it is in the mind that the defences of a society based on human dignity and equality must be constructed. Logically this leads directly to the conclusion that the key lies in education. The time to begin training our young people to respect the National flag and sing the National anthem, to respect women, to hold all religions equal and deserving of as much respect as one's own, to accept that all human beings are born equal and are entitled to equal treatment are among principles best taught by examples when the child is too young to understand but not too young to obey. The focus must, therefore, shift to education which has suffered from serious neglect. Schools restrict admissions on unacceptable criteria, teachers themselves are untrained and often politicised, as is the curriculum. Despite these hardships, many of our young people have done well.
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