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There is a famous corollary, “Who came first: chicken or the egg?” From this another corollary which draws its way is “What is more important for people to be aware of: Rights or Duties?” Quite often we say that we have certain rights which are incorporated in our Constitution, but forget to realise our duties towards the State. The concept of rights without duties is frivolous and completely vague.

Almost in every State, especially in a Democracy, rights are vested in the citizens; but, in return State expects some duties from its citizens. The person is conceded right to life, right to free speech, right to move freely, right to practise and profess his own religion and what not. In case these rights are infringed, the State also acts as the law abiding guardian of these rights.

In a way, since State is protecting every individual from being maltreated by the other person, it even expects some duties from the citizens also. Like, the citizen is expected to render his services to the State in times of War, to maintain law and order in the State, not to indulge in acts of blasphemy and sedition, we can vote and accept the duty of picking out leaders, etc.

A tussle between the two

However, there is a clash between rights and duties, which an individual has towards the society. People demand more and more and contribute less and less. Rights are being demanded whereas, duties are being forgotten. Duty refers to a sense of moral commitment to someone or something. However, it should be born in mind that a duty-centred society is preferred to right-centred society. In case of a right-centred society, individuals are only concerned about their individual rights and not about their duties.

In this tussle of rights and duties, rights pre-dominate over duties. Rights are vested in an individual by the State, whereas most of the people try to derelict their duties. We have a duty to vote during elections, but how many of us really go out in the scorching heat of the sun to vote, how many of us stand unanimously in times of war, how many of us follow the traffic rules, and list is endless.

The biggest disadvantage in India is that most of the people are not even aware of their rights.  When you don’t demand, how can you expect anything in return! Before we expect everyone to realize their duties, it’s imperative that we make them aware of their rights. One of the good ways is to get the under-privileged aware of their rights and the privileged ones aware of their duties. Unfortunately what happens most of the times is just the opposite!  It’s true that it’s not possible to objectively state what comes first-Rights or Duties. But unless we have our hands filled with something, what can we give away.

“Rights! There are no rights whatever without corresponding duties.” 

       –Samuel Taylor Coleridge


2 Responses

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  1. […] Rights of an Individual Versus Duties Towards the Society ( […]

  2. I agree with the author when he says the under-privileged need to be made aware of their rights and the privileged should be made aware of their duties. And yes, not only in India, but elsewhere also, the exact opposite is true. The individualistic society we live in just about stops short of considering rights above duties as the “modern way of thinking”. Modernity is all about giving priority to your own happiness and well being, at the cost of somebody else’s. We tend to forget that there is thick line of difference between giving it a priority above anybody else’s happiness and well being, and giving it a priority at the cost of others’. One needs to enjoy his / her rights, but doing that at the cost of somebody else’s rights is wrong.

    Ruminating Optimist

    June 9, 2013 at 7:27 pm

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