‘People have the power’, American singer-songwriter Patti Smith wrote in 1988. It was one of the most powerful rock songs of all times. I think she could not have been more right. People indeed ‘have the power’, sometimes more than they realise, to change things around them and voice their opinion. These are just a few small ways in which you can bring about change.
Stop blaming, start acting
Those of you, who blamed the government for your city’s or neighbourhood’s problems, raise your hands.
Just as I had thought, all of us, at least once in our lives, have blamed the government for the poor conditions of the roads, for garbage piling up in the corner of our building and ten other civic issues. However, have you ever stopped and asked yourself if you too were a part of the problem? In most cases, governments and citizens share equal responsibility for things going terribly wrong in a city.
So, what is your role as a citizen? Speak up! Find the right channel to address your grievances. Most of the local government agencies such as BBMP, MCGM, or NMC have call centres, apps and websites through which you can report issues and get involved. These agencies are also quite active on social media. All you need to do is tag them in a post or write to them and they will raise the issue on your behalf.
Do all these problems get solved in a matter of a few hours? That depends on a lot of factors, such as the ward’s level of development or the kind of issue reported. Nevertheless, do not get demotivated if the issue doesn’t get solved immediately. Have patience, follow up and don’t lose hope!
Would you like to go a step ahead? Join your area’s Resident Welfare Association (RWA).
Received a WhatsApp forward? Think twice before sharing
Thanks to social media, every day we receive a huge amount of information, more than we are able to process. Even though this has undeniable benefits and perks, as a responsible citizen, you should have the ability to sift truth from falsehood and the intellectual accountability for the information you pass on to others. In simple terms, if you receive a link to a piece of news and you’re not sure if it is true or fake, think twice before forwarding it.
Check photos and media carefully, verify with other sources and if it is a piece of fake news, stop the spread. WhatsApp FAQ section has an interesting list of tips that you can follow to help prevent the spread of rumours. Websites such as altnews.in, thequint.com and smhoaxslayer.com can also help you in your quest for the truth.
Be compassionate towards animals
Did you know that Art. 51 A (g) of the Constitution of India states that it is the fundamental duty of every citizen ‘to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures’? From conserving water and caring for animals, ensuring that they are given their vaccines in time and neutered, there are several ways in which you can make life easier for birds, animals, and insects.
What is the cause you have at heart? Is it animal welfare? Education? Women empowerment? Find an NGO in your locality and volunteer. You think you don’t have enough time or can’t leave your house for a long time? Most NGOs have various requirements, which might include managing their social media pages, fundraising or translating their material in local languages.
So you think you’re an active citizen now? Well, there is one last (but not the least) important facet of active citizenship – influencing others to change and make a change. To really make an impact, you need to encourage your friends, family, and neighbours to act for social change, thus creating a community of active citizens.