Citizens should think of themselves as ‘consumers’ of government services. Just as people expect a minimum standard from some multi-national corporation or major brand and vociferously complain if the service is not of the expected quality, the willingness to tolerate deficiencies in the performance of government agencies or social behaviour should end.
It is also important that pressure on these issues be applied in a manner that is effective. People often take resort to protests and demonstrations, but these are often self-defeating, as they rapidly descend to ego-clashes. The natural higher moral ground of the consumer is lost.
What about situations for which citizens are themselves responsible? How about all the rude and inconsiderate behaviour exhibited on the streets, in queues, buses, restaurants and other public places? One of the reasons why eve-teasers get away with their actions is the general chaos and lack of disciplined behaviour among the general public, making it just ‘another aberration’. Orderly social behaviour would ensure anti-social activity would stand out like a sore thumb, attracting a fitting response.
Whom does one complain to when a fellow citizen indulges in one of the numerous objectionable activities that are so common in public life? How are the unstated rules to be enforced? Even the supposedly educated persons completely disregard the basic courtesies necessary for civilised functioning. It can be confidently stated that larger deficiencies in social and government functioning result from the very poor standards of civic behaviour that go unchecked.
Quite obviously, many citizens are so greatly disempowered that they cannot even express their disapproval, let alone confront the wrong doers. The problem requires a multi-pronged approach, but the responsibility of the ‘empowered’ sections of society becomes greater in this context. In Dehradun society, for instance, the large number of retired Defence Personnel and ex-officials can become involved in behaviour-modification drives, taking time out from playing Golf or Bridge.
As groups and individuals, such citizens should proactively engage with all sections of society and explain the advantages of ordered civic behaviour. It must be explained how everybody has a stake in the smooth functioning of society. Cops need to be coached on how their job would become much easier if they paid attention to the small things. Their officers need to understand that intelligent deployment of the force at their command to ensure social discipline would lead to fewer mishaps and incidents of crime. No two-wheeler rider should feel safe from a ‘challan’ issued for not wearing a helmet or speeding, even in the middle of the night. It should become psychological reflex to abide by the law because of the inflexibility of the law on such issues. This will spare the cops the ugly experience of picking up dead and mangled bodies from the roads, and all the bother involved.
It is amazing to see the grand expectations people have of the politicians, and the poor standards they set for themselves. How much easier it would be for the government agencies to function if the people refrained from taxing the already overburdened services with their destructive behaviour? Examples of this can be seen everywhere.
It is because of all the ‘clutter’ demanding constant attention that legitimate complaints about important issues fail to be addressed. If the basic ‘courtesies’ are observed in everyday life by, both, the consumer and the ‘service’ provider, a lot more can be got done, and faster.