“The cost of discipline is always less than the price of regret. So self discipline is the biggest investment for success in life” (Late President APJ Abdul Kalam)

By Barnes M

Amidst the many defects of our Indian society, I would consider a culture of indiscipline as a major one. When it comes to both personal as well as collective discipline, we Indians fare miserably. In more than umpteen times we have shown to the world that we are an undisciplined nation. The present situation of the Covid 19 pandemic has more than enough confirmed this character of our nation. The current exponential spread of the second wave of this pandemic, as experts agree, is due to the laxity of our people in observing Covid 19 protocols. How disheartening it is to see indiscipline right from the top to the lowest rung of society. Our own Prime Minister and Home Minister and many other political leaders openly flout the Covid 19 protocols of wearing face masks and social distancing. They organize massive rallies in West Bengal, Assam, Tamilnadu and Kerala where thousands of people crowd on each other with no masks and social distancing. If our top leaders do not show the example of being disciplined persons, how do they expect ordinary citizens to behave otherwise? Often when we compare ourselves with other nations even with our Asian neighbours like the Chinese, the Koreans or the Vietnamese, we find ourselves far behind in matters of discipline. The manner in which the netas and the crowds openly flout the Covid 19 protocols has only aggravated the pandemic situation and today we have become the second most affected pandemic country.

When we talk of indiscipline, we can witness such an attitude not only in relation to this pandemic, but it is evident in other walks of life too. I remember how one day when I was on a flight from London to New Delhi, there were many Indians in that particular British Airways flight. When we were just one hour before touching down at Delhi Airport, to my shame as an Indian, my fellow citizens got up from their seats and started talking loud and then they began to use their mobile phones. The air hostesses tried to appeal to them to settle down and to switch off their phones, but her appeals fell on deaf ears. It was a very bad experience I had of the so called “Indian indiscipline.” Again if we talk about cleanliness in our country, the main cause for our unclean and polluted environment, is lack of personal and collective discipline. How often we have seen our citizens throwing empty water bottles or food packages on the roadsides. How many times we have witnessed irresponsible persons dumping their garbage on public drains and rivers. Our Wah Umkhrah is a clear testimony of this attitude. The efforts of many good citizens who are trying to clean this river, are going down the drains as long as people continue to use the river as a dumping place. I am proud of the people of Mawlynnong and a few other villages who display such a high degree of personal and collective discipline in matters related to cleanliness. How I wish all Indians who have visited these places learn a lesson from them and not merely shower verbal praises, but concretely imitating their virtue. Unfortunately, this is our Indian attitude – that even those who have been abroad and seen the disciplined behaviour of those people, come back and behave the same way as before.

When it comes to traffic discipline, we cannot but feel ashamed at the manner our Indian drivers behave. In our own State, traffic indiscipline is being perpetrated first of all by VIPs or the so called ML 01 vehicles. All of us must have witnessed how these arrogant vehicles flout traffic rules with impunity from time to time for they either overtake queuing vehicles against the rule or they park recklessly on the roadsides or in non-parking zones. Most of our bus and taxi drivers need to learn more about traffic discipline. I have personally seen taxi drivers stop in the middle of the road and chatting away with their friends without any sensitivity for the vehicles behind them. At other times, they suddenly halt the vehicles the moment they see a passenger knowing full well that such an act could cause an accident for the vehicle behind.

When it comes to religious practices in India, religiosity seems to get the better of precaution and civic sensibility. The manner in which the Hindu devotees flocked to the Kumbh mela in recent days with scant concern for Covid 19 protocols, will only worsen the situation. Considering the fact that many devotees come from various rural areas of the country, they could be potential super spreaders of the pandemic. In such religious functions personal and collective discipline seem to be altogether absent. Religions should learn to listen to sciences and we should not let our religiosity end up as blind faith.

Discipline of citizens is a sine qua non condition for the prosperity and progress of a nation. Discipline begins at home where parents have the responsibility of fostering in their children disciplined behaviour and lifestyle. Things like not littering public places, respecting public property, observing hygienic practices and observing rules and regulations, should be taught first at home and then in schools. Religions too have a role to play in fostering a disciplined way of life. The Christian religio-ethical principle of “cleanliness is next to godliness” has been largely responsible for inculcating clean and hygienic attitude and behaviour among Christians. When rules come with religious sanctions they are more scrupulously observed by people. So all religions in India should encourage their followers to live a disciplined life and in this manner we will be able to see our country move forward in every aspect of life.

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