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My Citizen to Citizenship Journey

If you are born in a country, you do end becoming a citizen of that country by virtue of your birth status. But citizenship as the way I see it, is more evolved than just birth status and sometimes goes beyond the narrow confines of nationalism. Of course I love my country, but then I love the world too and so also civilization and its preservation. Citizenship to me is something more godly, more spiritual and it comes from being one with the world and its denizens.

Growing up in a particular country also implies growing up with its biases , injustices, inefficiencies inequalities, and poverty. People experience it first hand and it also gets honed and cemented through reading, viewing and discussions. In my case, since I was teaching economics and its implications, I was slightly more exposed of it through articles, data and information that came into my inbox through human and electronic interfaces. Slowly it started hitting hard and it starting hurting as to why am I part of it, but still not doing something about it.

Everyone earns a living and it is important for basic survival and happiness, but can you earn a living and still practice citizenship. Are they ways that you can contribute besides just going to attend neighborly events, weddings, parties, religious gatherings as a social and political animal. Everyone does something meaningful every day of their lives, except only their vision, scale and commitment levels may differ.

What if you had to really convert the meaningful involvement into a significant citizenship quotient that could bring change. How do you do that is a question that requires a great deal of thought. For a critical mass to practice citizenship on a more evolved level, they need understanding, space, time, and even at times resources to devote. Unfortunately society is wired in a way that revolves around at daily routines, earning a living, some entertainment and family topped with a bit of ego boosting. In a way, policy makers, government, society mores also do their bit in perpetuating lifestyles and values that ends must making life more like a roller coaster rather than something that is deeply meaningful, altruistic and balanced.

Obviously in our own ways, a lot of us are trying to bring change in mindsets, attitudes and the lens with which we view life. I am trying to do the same and therefore my journey from citizen to citizenship is also evolving. At times it is spiritual, sometimes reflective and sometimes replete with tongue in cheek humor. Bear with me, together you and I just might end up getting somewhere.

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Citizens standing for Peace

14th of February 2019 henceforth, will no more stand for Valentine’s Day, instead it will be remembered as a day when a terrorist rammed hundreds of kg of RDX in a CRPF convoy killing 44 soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is an irony that a day meant for celebration for love turned thereafter, literally into an opportunity for self proclaimed nationalists to spew hatred and revenge. Some did it in television rooms, some in social media groups, and some even took to the streets to beat and intimidate. There were mobs, that not only took to gheraoing institutions to hound Kashmiri students, but also forced landlords to forcibly make these students vacate their rooms. Some others tried to find political legitimacy in market places by unleashing terror on helpless traders. There was mourning no doubt, but there was mayhem too by lumpen elements and some over-enthusiastic zealots keen to prove their nationalistic superiority through war-mongering.

Even after three days had elapsed, the madness had not stopped, although it had considerably been contained, with some contribution by disciplined institutional mechanisms of the establishment. However if something or someone made the difference in not allowing communal mindsets to completely take over the political discourse of the country, it was the role played by ordinary citizens across the country who rallied around for peace and restraint. Some gave clarion calls to debunk fake news and forwards, some shamed the hyper active war-mongers, and some willingly opened their homes to give shelter to students and persons who had been targeted. Some went to court to ensure protection mechanisms, some took to social media to negate the glories of aggression, some wrote moving stories of how families were destroyed in the wake of war.

The massacre was horrifying, but the intent of terrorism was far deeper than just the killing of 40 plus soldiers. It was an act of aggression to widen communal fault lines within society, and create more stooges of terror across the length and breadth of the country. This is where they faced the might of some ordinary citizens who rallied around the principles of the constitution and ensured that this country remains committed to the cause of peace and harmony.

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Citizen Science

Cornell University describes citizen science as a form of organized research as one in which members of the public engage in the process of scientific investigations which means asking questions, collecting data and thereafter interpreting results. It involves 5 steps (https://www.citizenscience.gov/toolkit/howto/#) which are as follows:-

1. Scope your problem
2. Design a Project
3. Build a Community
4. Manage Your data
5. Sustain and Improve

Citizen science is aimed at fostering collaborative intelligence and co-creation to facilitate both scientific and community-based solutions. In fact a new global citizen science secretariat was launched at the Science-Policy-Business Forum of the UN-Environment in December 2017. The formation of this network of network is also aimed at tracking the contributions of citizen science towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs)

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Citizens of the Indian Republic

The constitution of a free country came into force 70 years ago and the fact that we continue to hold it supreme is a cause of celebration.

But there is far more to celebrate as well and that is the rise of a movement that is progressively moving toward to being a more inclusive and empathetic nation. Take the decriminalization of Article 377, the demands of 33% reservation for women, the starting of an exclusive women’s party, the positioning of health and education for all as national policy imperatives and the making of sanitation as the right of every citizen.

Corruption is still on the radar and so is poverty and inequality but the narrative has somehow expanded to include the citizen voice’s as active participants of policy and development in achieving that. The right to information, right to work and right to education are powerful narratives that allow the citizen to demand what is his/her right rather than just being passive recipients of a government decreed largess.

There is something that is changing in this country and that is the voice of the citizen, more focused, more louder, more emphatic. It is not just roti, kapda and makaan, there are a whole set of issues to demand and engage. Rural distress, environmental degradation, protection of forests, natural habitats, biodiversity, quality education, clean food, clean air, jobs creation, gender diversity and equality, occupational safety and the list goes on. It is no more about bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger bank balances, it is the need that is felt across for quality public transport, affordable housing, financial inclusion and easy access to all public services. Social media and its proliferation in the hands of every citizen informs and engages in the form of comments, feedback and active involvement.

Despite these inroads in citizen awareness, yet there are dangers to citizens being misled and misinformed in the name of religion, state, party, caste, and narrow notions of nationality, These represent real dangers to progressive citizen movements that press for sustainable development, participatory democracy and inclusiveness in work and living spaces, expression and recognition.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to educate, empower, and engage with citizens, by citizens and for citizens to ensure that the Indian republic remains on course.