The issue I want to address in this article is of great relevance and utmost importance i.e. adherence to rules, regulations and laws. Let us understand what do these terms stand for. Rules are the statements that establish a principle or standard, and serves as a norm for guiding or mandating action or conduct. The main difference between rules and laws is the consequences associated with breaking them. While each is developed to invoke a sense of order, fair play, and safety, the weight of a law is much heavier than the weight of a rule. Laws are like the legal version of rules.
Our life is a part of a social contract. Being a part of this we get into the habit of following certain set of norms, both societal and legal. Societal norms are intricate and are intertwined with various cultural and religious beliefs. On one hand we are obliged to follow norms and rules and on the other hand law ensures that we follow them under legal terms. Talking about India in particular, I have observed that we not only celebrate our culture and diverse religious beliefs but also strive hard to follow what the culture and society dictates. Indians easily take offense when their religious and cultural beliefs are hurt. We are so sensitive about them that we cannot even tolerate someone expressing any opinions contrary to us. I appreciate this kind of sensitivity and respect but it is often seen that this respect takes the form of aggression and violence which brings our peaceful and nurturing culture and the sublimity of our religious diversity and the values propagated by them into question.
What happens to this passion when it comes to the adherence to laws? “Supreme Court has given many revolutionary decisions. It’s rulings in 2017 strengthened fundamental rights, equal rights for women, and accountability for security forces violations. In August, the court declared the right to individual privacy “intrinsic” and fundamental under the country’s constitution, and emphasized the constitution’s protections, including free speech, rule of law, and “guarantees against authoritarian behaviour.” That month, the court also ended the practice of “triple talaq”. But over the course of time we have seen people protesting against many legal decisions and show violent protest to get their demands accepted. It is totally correct to raise your voice in order to ask for your rights but the violence and aggression that results out of the protests presents a gruesome picture of our country.
Indians follow all rules and laws when they are in a foreign country, in the Western world. However, when they are in India, they usually don’t follow laws. The basic reason for this is lenient laws and deeply rooted corruption. Another reason is the casual attitude of our citizens. On one hand our country is famous for its “jugaad” in any situation and on the other hand we are criticized for our “chalta hai” attitude. From breaking traffic rules to damaging public property, our attitude has become sloppy and casual. So, if this is the attitude of our elders, what do we expect our children to follow? Also, our education system which had inherited subjects like “Moral Science” at the time of Independence and till about 15 years later, gave the subject a miss, thinking it to be a “missionary” subject, against Indian values, conveniently, again forgetting that “Morality” is generic and is defined by times, beliefs and contexts rather than a religious group.
There are many reasons for this type of approach but the most important is the way we are brought up and the way things happen around an individual from childhood to the adulthood. Do our children not see that if father is stopped for not wearing the helmet or seatbelt then he can manage the person responsible for enforcing the rule? Do they not observe us using mobile while driving motorbike and cars? Children know it well how ‘connections and relations` are used to flout the rules. Observing all this kids also become lenient towards laws and get into the habit of taking the traffic rules casually (zebra crossing has lost its importance as people have stopped using it appropriately, dumping garbage anywhere on the street has become a norm and protest against government policies without even understanding them has become a way of life which makes the way we are treating democracy questionable.
Over the years the parents at home and the teachers in the schools have become so much `accommodating` for the children not following the norms set for everybody. They get away with any rule broken by them and when the same is repeated it becomes their habit. And this is the main reason that we grow with attitude that rules are made to be broken. So there seems to be nothing wrong with rules and laws (which we have in plenty) but the way behave and do not obey them is unfortunate. If the children see the adults value and follow the rules at home and outside then the kind of situation we are in can be managed. No society can survive without some norms followed by all. Recent incidents of protests and statements (by self-made champions of a particular group or sect) against the decisions of our honorable courts are not all healthy for the democracy and the country. For this we adult and the people in responsible position will have to take a call and follow what we want our children to do.
Lord Krishna says in Gita (3:21): “Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” When it comes to Indians, elections and selecting our leaders becomes not only a matter of suffrage but also an emotional matter. This puts a great sense of responsibilities on our leaders. It is quite unfortunate that our leaders have been unsuccessful in implementation of laws and breech of laws has just become an excuse for the parties to blame each other for political gains. Being in the field of education for almost my entire life I advise my teacher colleeagues time and again to present themselves as the perfect role models for the kids. I tell them that they have to live two lives. One is their personal life and the other is their life as a teacher; a teacher who is the epitome of exemplary moral and social behaviour. But examples set in the school are not enough. When kids see some of their elders and a few leaders being casual about laws, they feel that it is easy to break rules and get away with it.
Establishing and enforcing rules is a labour of love that helps guard your child's safety while increasing her/his sense of cooperation and acceptance. Far from limiting her/him, the boundaries you set now will give her/him the security she/he needs to become more responsible and independent as she/he grows. We have to tell our kids that rules are for their benefit. Give them this situation, “Just imagine what life would be like without any rules. What if anyone was allowed to take anything they wanted, including your stuff? What if people were allowed to drive their cars on sidewalks? If there are no rules to follow, things could get chaotic and dangerous.” We will need to explain this to them, “If it seems like there's no sufficient justification for the rule, don't ignore or break the rule. Instead, determine what you can do to try to change the rule. Working within the rules to change the rules is something legislators do every day all over the world.”
We as a society will also have to reflect upon the way we treat our kids when they voice their opinion against certain rules, social conventions and government policies. Isn’t it strange that in schools children are loved, heard, encouraged to voice their opinion, nurtured and respected and when they go to college and put forth their opinion, they are treated with violence and charges of sedition? Isn’t it our failure that we cannot communicate the purpose behind the laws and discuss issues with them with reason and logic?
With these questions I leave you to ponder. Communication is the key. With better communication, conversation and understanding we can make a lot of difference. I would conclude with these thought provoking lines:
“I used to think that when I grew up there wouldn't be so many rules. Back in elementary school there were rules about what entrance you used in the morning, what door you used going home, when you could talk in the library and how many drinks of water you could get during recess. And there was always somebody watching to make sure.
What I'm finding out about growing older is that there are just as many rules about lots of things, but there's nobody watching.”
― Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
― Phyllis Reynolds Naylor