Should the fundamental duties be made legally enforceable?

The Constitution Day that was celebrated all across the nation on 26th November provided an opportunity to introspect how far we have traversed as a vibrant democracy. No doubt, the political equality has been achieved to a great extent but when it comes to economic & social equality, the scenario looks dismal. The ambit of rights and entitlements have broadened, the subaltern classes have made their presence felt but all said and done, the fact that around 58 percent of the national resources are held by 1 percent of the population shows that we are still far away from the creation of an equal & egalitarian society that has been the vision of the founding fathers of our constitution.

Democracy has deepened thanks to universal adult suffrage and the principle of one man-one vote-same value but simultaneously, it has engendered social cleavages. Politics has veered around rights, freebies & subsidies, reservation demands by various social communities and populism; there is hardly any discourse on national priorities and nation building.

Let’s commence the discussion from what the former USA President Kennedy had famously said,’ Ask not what the nation has done for you but what you have done for the nation.’ His words appear prophetic when we look at the prevailing situation in India. Everyone seems to be looking at the state for freebies, there appears to be no concern for self development & self empowerment and yes, people are increasingly vocal about their rights for which they don’t think twice before taking to streets and damaging public property. In the dim and bustle of all these clamoring, it is conveniently forgotten that the constitution expects us to perform certain fundamental duties also as responsible citizens.

You can’t adopt a cynical attitude towards the state, keep complaining all the time and think that state will do everything for you. A state, as a representative entity, deserves respect & cooperation and it is our moral obligation to behave as responsible citizens and perform activities that are in accordance with Indian constitution.

The Fundamental Duties were added under Article 51 (A) in 1976 on the recommendations of the Swarn Singh Committee. It was taken from the constitution of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Unlike the Fundamental Rights, it was legally not enforceable and this allowed many to get way with flagrant violations of their duties towards the nation.

Now let us find out what these duties are and how far we have fulfilled our duties as matured citizens of the state. At the outset, there were 10 Fundamental Duties but in 2002, by the 86th Amendment of the constitution, another Fundamental Duty relating to education for children between the age of 6 to 14, was added, taking the tally to 11. As responsible citizens, people should abide by the constitution, respect its ideals and institutions &show respect to national symbols but what are we doing? We are making an issue over singing of national anthem and discussing frivolous issues as whether we should stand up while it is sung. Saluting the national flag is patriotic or it’s blatant unpatriotic act.

Institutions have lost credibility and erosion of the public trust is visible in legislatures, executive, media and even in judiciary, leave aside bureaucracy. Representative of dalit community is even sought in judicial commission and Lok Pal. Identity has even percolated into institutions. Respect for composite culture & heritage, protection of unity & integrity of the country and harmony & brotherhood in a multi racial, diverse and plural society should have been our concern but just pause & ponder, have we done our duties as citizens adequately?

We are needlessly making Yoga the topic of controversy. In the name of secularism and progressiveness, we are attacking our own roots, our religion, our own texts and what not? There are caste wars, states are fighting over water, communal riots do happen and a host of other problems like nationalism/intolerance discourses keep cropping up from time to time from which commoners have nothing to gain in tangible terms. Are these acts going to promote brotherhood and harmony in a multi racial and plural society like ours? We are supposed to protect public property & abjure violence but just imagine the damage to public property during Jat % Kapu reservation stirs. We should strive for excellence in all spheres whether individually or collectively but as a society we are complacent with our chalta hai attitude.

Some of us feel govt will take care of us and we may get reservation with lower attainments, so why the need to strive? In the name of empowerment, the state has converted a significant section of the population into passive beneficiaries. Environment protection doesn’t even cross our minds. Just imagine the ridicule heaped by the opposition on Modi for his laudable initiative Swaach Bharat. We, as citizens, have failed collectively, to discharge our moral obligation towards the constitution by performing our duties. A nation is only as great as the people who constitute it. It is not the constitution that has failed us but it is we who have failed the constitution.

It’s high time some urgent measures are adopted to provide a legal status to the Fundamental Duties. The judiciary has already given some interpretations. Though the duties are not legally sustainable, it is expected that for your claim for right, it is essential that you perform your duty as a law abiding state citizen. Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties are basically the two sides of the same coin. They are complementary and not exclusive of each other.

Rather than maintaining the status quo, some new sets of Fundamental Duties like Duty to vote compulsorily as now, you have a NOTA option, Duty to pay Taxes, Duty to abide by Swaach Bharat moral obligation and Duty not to use non Biodegradable waste protects, conserve energy & plant trees must be added. Measures are needed to shake the people out from slumber and make them realize the value of our hard earned freedom with a lot of blood and toil and how much painstaking efforts our founding fathers of constitution had put in drafting this vast constitution to build our nation.

It is irritating to see the high decibel debates on nationalism, secularism and cultures in TV studios and at times, they appear to be so ridiculous & low. Symbols represent the nation. Identity politics should never come into the way. Nationalism may be in mind but it also needs deeds & displays. Even the much acclaimed liberals have even ideologically intolerant at times; let’s move on and give this subject a decent burial.

Fundamental Duties are very much important for building nationhood and a vibrant civil society. They are no less important than the Fundamental Rights. A Fundamental Right Heavy democracy in total disregard to Fundamental Duty is unsustainable in the long rule. For a multi racial, multi cultural and plural society like India, nation building has to be a priority and hence, the importance of symbols of nationhood – the anthem, the flag, the song, the epics and texts, culture. We need to grow up and confront the divisive trends. Ambedkar incorporated the civil rights for the depressed clauses into law books because he felt Hindu society won’t change by mere calls for change. The same needs to be done now. Fundamental Duties should be made legally binding and not left upon the will & thought of society. There has to be some cost for liberties.

Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) and Fundamental Duties may not be legally enforceable, people may not approach courts to seek remedy for their violation but they are the guiding lights of governance and citizen participation in governance. Don’t forget, at times, DPSP has taken precedence over Fundamental Rights and some of them have found their way into statute books. The judiciary has been appreciative of DPSP as they promote common good. The same yardsticks need to be made applicable to Fundamental Duties. Only that nation becomes great where people are self regulated and disciplined in their national commitment.

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