Monday, April 30, 2012

quest for "Active Citizenship"

The public services provided by the government have always come under the radar of criticism for being inefficient and untimely; be it health, education, waste management or maintenance of roads. The best Bhutanese People do is brew hot talk in our living rooms regarding the issues of a community and live a dormant life outside our apartments. This zeitgeist, ‘that’s none of my business’ or ‘government is responsible’ mentalities must be up rooted if you wish to live a life of an active citizen under the new set of democratic government. And in doing so, you help in making a vibrant Democracy for our future generation. 

The drivers who ply their cars on this road didn’t bother about the pothole. It was there for a month or two. It was not repaired or may be the concern authorities who are duty bound to look after the maintenance of roads were unaware of it.  But the drivers kept on driving down the road and people walking on the side pavements didn’t felt it was their headache too.

The expressions my friend shared with me and the ones I saw on many faces that drive foreign cars along this road were amazingly funny. When the lower part of their luxurious car hit with the stone beneath they click their tongues and squeeze their faces. But the sad part of it is when the pothole is left behind by the wheels the issue also gets a backseat and is soon forgotten. Had elites who used this road called the municipality to mend the pothole, it might have been done immediately.
But the beauty of democracy lies not in the riches or the famous. The beauty lies on the power of ordinary people who pull up their sleeves to make things happen.
The resident on the right side of this road finally took up the responsibility to fill up the hole. It was a week ago at around 7:30 pm when they came out with spades in their hands and a huge pile of soil to mend the road.  Now I see less of funny faces and the normal speed on this sloppy road has resumed.

This is a simple and a small example of an active citizenship. Had the family never felt differently from us, the pothole would have kept on entertaining me and other pedestrians with more funny faces and disgrace the government and the country as a whole.    

The workshop organized by Bhutan Center for Media and Democracy ( geared by facilitators from Stony Brook state university, New York)from 2nd to 7th April entitled “Media Literacy curricula development” was extremely Pro-Active in nature. Pro-Active in a sense that it was primarily concerned to make Citizens more informed about the use of media in democracy and other democratic possibilities for citizens to take part actively in making decisions that affect a small community to a nation as a whole.

 A group of teachers from schools around the Capital attended the workshop. The very fact that ‘teachers’ were being invited clicked the purpose more. These teachers (including me) are expected to infuse media literacy in children of their respective schools and motivate them how to use media to bring democratic changes, become an active citizen and how can we all be the watchdog of media to help them become more responsible in reporting the issues concerning all of us.

After a weeklong workshop I somehow agreed to be more responsible citizen myself.

The mere survival of democracy will depend on the way how our future citizens (students/children) act in and view democracy. So, I even felt that I have somehow been also bestowed with a title ‘Guardian of Bhutanese Democracy’. Though unofficial yet equally sensible because after attending the workshop I am now responsible to teach and format the minds of my school children to act and re-act more democratically and use the might of media to bring changes.

And in teaching them (my students) I envision that in the years to come a family (of my student) who comes out to mend the road will have several other families coming together to lend their helping hands and few years down the line the families, pedestrians and drivers will not be waiting or wishing for a government agencies to arrive to rescue them….instead they will have a sense of ‘RESPONSIBLLITY’ to ACT and RE-ACT graciously!

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