The word ‘citizen’ once literally meant a person who lived in a city. But the term is now used for such a person who has full rights given by a State and, at the same time, who has to take some responsibilities too. A citizen should have the right to protection of his life and property, freedom of speech and religious faith. He should also have the right to exercise franchise to elect a government in a democratic country. On the other hand, he must have some duties to his fellowmen and to the State. The State claims something to us as we owe something to a State. So the essential qualities of a citizen are to be aware of both his rights and duties.
Within the State, a citizen has freedom of movement, freedom to carry on lawful business, and freedom of forming associations with others for political and cultural ends. In a democratic country, the basic right is that of equality of all citizens—equality in the eye of the law, equality in the exercise of franchise and equality in the enjoyment of fundamental rights. The right to oppose, to agitate and organise protest peacefully is also a fundamental right in a democracy. The right to hold a strike on justified public grievances, the right to voice a popular sentiment against a harsh measure of the government, are all recognised. But no State can allow a citizen to act in a way that jeopardises the very existence of the State.
However, in a progressive state, a citizen has the right to free education for his children, free medical help and pension in his old age. Provided a person acts rightly, he can claim the help and protection of his State even in a foreign country. A citizen is a member of a civilized society or a State. So he/she has to abide by some rules of society. His/her life is not only for self but also for society. Primarily, he/she must be loyal to his/her country or State. He/She must obey the rules of the State and not break them or go against them. It is the duty of a citizen to pay taxes and help to carry on law and order and its administration. As a worthy citizen, one should help the poor and the distressed and help for the uplift of other fellow citizens. He/She will not remain confined only in his/her private life, but he/she should share his/her responsibilities in public life too for social welfare. Thus he/she should serve the State to the best of his/her power even at the cost of his/her personal interests.
In case the existence of the State is threatened or endangered, a citizen has the duty of protecting the State by all kinds of services including military service or all possible help for that. The champions of liberty vehemently oppose any limitation on individual liberty. They do not understand that unrestrained liberty actually leads to anarchy. A citizen has some rights given by a State, and, at the same time, he has to take some responsibilities too.
Finally, we must say that rights go with duties. If he/she has some rights as a citizen, he/she must have some obligations too. Above all, it is his/ her duty to honour the rights of others, and not to encroach upon other’s freedom in any way. Absolute right-like absolute liberty-is an abstract idea. Every right or duty is counter-balanced and co-related. The eminent statesman Burke put the whole matter admirably when he said, “We remit some rights so that we may enjoy others.”