2016 should be the year where India sees the rise of civil movements

  • Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Dec 31, 2015 23:52 IST
Coolies clean the platforms as Swachh Bharat campaign in Borivali. The new year should be when the individual asserts their role in helping society, rather than relying on the State. (Pratham Gokhale/ HT Photo)

Let’s begin the New Year with a quote from an unusual writer beloved of children all over the world — ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot/ nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’ As the year begins, we should perhaps pay closer attention to these words by Dr Seuss.

It may seem simplistic but a good New Year resolution would be to stop complaining and expecting others, primarily the government, to make life better for us, we should take control of our lives in whatever way we can. There are so very many things that we as citizens can do to make our lives and those of people around us better.

For a start while the Delhi government is busy with its odd and even car rules, could there not be a citizens’ movement for safe driving? Anyone who has braved Indian roads knows that a simple trip from point A to B is fraught with danger and tension thanks to road hogs and bad drivers.

We should not need a Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to make us aware of how dirty our surroundings are in many cases and how oblivious we are to them until some epidemic hits us. A clean-up drive should not be an occasion to be observed once or twice a year, it should be a way of life just as spitting, littering and so on should be simply unacceptable.

We have seen that civil society movements can be very powerful. In the Delhi gang rape case, people almost brought the government to its knees, and whether right or wrong was able to influence legislation on the subject.

While this is not to advocate that people take to the streets at the drop of a hat, there should be people’s movements on issues like safe spaces for women in public, a drive against harassment of women in public places, rehabilitation of the homeless and better public transport. If these are well-managed, public policy can be influenced and changed.

But for that people should stop waiting for someone else to take the initiative. Whether the government says so or not, there is much sense in car pools, using public transport where available and switching to more eco-friendly cars. It is in the greater common good to recycle garbage, to ensure that pavements are not encroached upon, to make sure your elected representative does his or her job.

It also makes sense to have a social media campaign to push Parliament to do its job and not waste our time and money in useless bickering and name calling. This should be the year that you stand up and reclaim the individual as the pivotal unit of society. Then things are really going to get a whole lot better and you will have been the catalyst.

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