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Rights and duties

“A society that puts equality (of outcome) ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom and force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.”  Thomas Sowell

 ” The central idea of old Indian or Indo Aryan culture was ‘Dharma’, which was something more than religion or creed. It was a conception of obligations to discharge of one’s duties to oneself and to others.”  Pt Nehru   

Born free, but everywhere in chains – An individual is born free, but in real life, s(he) finds oneself in chains all the time.

An individual as social-person  – A Famous philosopher Aristotle says – man is a social animal. “if a human being does not live with men or amongst men, then surely either he is god or a beast.” While living in a society, one is not supposed to care only for one’s own-self,  one’s own comfort zone, one’s own liberty/rights/needs/conveniences, and unmindful of others’. 

Rights and duties intertwined – Rights and duties are so intriguingly intertwined with each other that one cease to exist without the other. One’s rights become other people’s duties and others rights his/her own duties. Clear-cut vision and a balanced approach towards one’s rights and duties is a must for any matured/civilized society.

Fine and balanced tuning between rights and duties – A fine and balanced tuning between rights and duties is a must for any civilized society. For achieving it, effective systems of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s rights is a necessary.

In ancient Indian scriptures, for duties the word ‘Dharma’ is used. ‘Dharma’ embraced within itself different ideas and concepts like religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”, “ethics”, “spirituality”, or “responsibility” etc.

Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights forming the natural foundation of human relationship, India had evolved around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant. In Indian culture, sacrifice is regarded far more important than success, and renunciation is regarded as the crowning achievement.

All the people in the society were governed by Dharma at all times, be it a ruler or ruled, parent or child, teacher or student or man or woman (Prabhu, Pandarinath, H., Hindu Social organizations, P. 30).  The ideal of Dharma gave an abiding sense of purpose to the individual’s life, an aim to be actively striven for, cutting across class distinctions and caste boundaries, bridging the distance between rural and urban folk and between the illiterate and educated. Dharma enabled different groups to act cooperatively and to regulate the behavior of its component members.

During ancient India, Dharma guided individuals to remain true and to fulfil their duties earnestly. Molding one’s life according to Dharma is not an easy task. It requires tremendous will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties found it difficult to observe Dharma.

Such a system in India had prevented ancient India to exercise coercion against its working class, whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip. It stopped people from taking law in their own hands. While other nations passed through many bloody revolutions, Indian systems kept on adapting itself to changing times. It had filled the whole of society with a sense of duty and trained them in obedience. The sense of duty had helped the people to adjust themselves to most drastic changes in the past.  

Constitution of India on fundamental rights – The fundamental rights of Indian citizens are embodied in Part III of the original Constitution.

The Fundamental Rights guarantee civil rights to all Indians. The purpose of Fundamental rights  is to preserve individual liberty and democratic principles based on equality of all members of society. It prevents State authorities from encroaching on individual liberty. It also places  upon state an obligation to protect the citizen’s fundamental rights from encroachment by society.

Seven fundamental rights are provided by the constitution – right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, right to property (Right to property was removed from Part III by 44th Amendment of Indian Constitution in 1978), and right to constitutional remedies.

Dr Ambedkar had said that the responsibility of the legislature is not just to provide fundamental rights but also and rather more importantly, to safeguard them. Fundamental Rights act as limitations on the power of legislature and executive, under Article 13, and in case of any violation of these rights the Supreme Court and the High Courts of States have the power to declare such legislative or executive action as unconstitutional and void. Article 12, includes not only the legislative and executive, but also local administrative authorities and other agencies and institutions which discharge public functions or are of governmental character.

 Fundamental Duties –— Fundamental Duties were introduced by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. Article 51-A describes the duties of Indian citizens saying that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India: To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem; to cherish and follow the noble ideals etc.

Develops de-centralization of control systems – Balanced exercise of rights and duties automatically develops de-centralization of control systems, misuse of authority and prevents chaos. However, a balanced outlook towards rights and duties is very difficult.

Focus of Western and Eastern societies – Western societies give more stress to “rights” of an individual. On the other hand, in India and eastern part of the world, societies put more emphasis on “duty”. Both the systems leaves something more to be desired.

Duties/Dharma of an Individual according to Indian Philosophy – Principles of Dharma, Karma and Varna are the three pillars, on which the culture of traditional Indian society is based. Dharma , along with a ‘Religious Idea’ is also a ‘Principle’ and a ‘Vision’ of an organic society, in which all participating members are independent, yet their roles complimentary. 

What is Principle of Dharma – Dharma specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. The principles of Dharma not only regulated the behavior of an individual within the community, but also provided universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life. The principle of give and take guides the human relationships. People are taught to lead a simple life free of covetousness, greed or lust.

There is  a  common  Dharma,  general  norms  of conduct, which are applicable to all individuals irrespective of caste or creed. These are nothing,  but   mannerism, leading individuals to the path of righteousness and values of good conduct,  Such as

  • Smritis teaches the people to follow ten principles of steadiness, forgiveness, self control, abstention from appropriating any thing belonging to others, purity, control, correct discernment, knowledge, truthfulness and absence from anger.
  • Kautilya lists harmlessness, truthfulness, purity, absence of spite, abstinence from cruelty and forgiveness as common duties of all persons as members of an organized society. He advised people to abandon lust, anger, greed, vanity, conceit, and overjoy. According to him desires fulfilled, never extinguished, but grew stronger. Therefore, desires should be directed in proper manner towards proper objectives.
  • Manusmriti guides people to control the five faculties of sense and five organs of actions. The purpose of education and learning should be to train the faculties of a person to channelize his/her  energies towards right activities. Discipline and productivity are necessary for education.

In order to maintain a smooth relationship of people belonging to different sections of society, Dharma prescribes a separate Dharma for appropriate to their nature and customs,  Separate Dharma for different sections of society, different classes and different stages of human life. It is based on attitude and aptitude, inherent qualities, and potentialities of its members at different stages in life. Dharma of Brahmin is not the same as that of a Shudra, or Dharma of a student not that of an old man. Separate rules of conduct have been aimed to inspire every one to perform one’s own duties and obligations, giving everybody opportunities- social, economic physical and spiritual – to do their jobs well and preserve the tradition and lifestyle of all communities.

Winding up – Too much importance to rights though gives more opportunities to enjoy life, but makes individuals selfish and unmindful of others conveniences. Too much importance on duties makes a person or a group too much humble, tolerant and submissive.



January 27, 2017 - Posted by | Social and political values and systems | ,

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