What is Citizens and Citizenship?Explained

We are all Bangladeshi citizens. As citizens we enjoy some rights and perform some duties. By possessing some qualities, we could be good citizens. Good citizens are assets of the state. We should learn about good citizenship. Concepts of citizen, means to acquire citizenship, dual citizenship, concepts and characteristics of good citizens, citizen rights and duties have been discussed in this article.

After studying this article, we would be able to-

• explain the concepts of citizen and citizenship; describe the means to acquire citizenship;

• explain dual citizenship;

• describe a good citizen's rights and duties;

• explain the relationships between a citizen's rights and duties;

• be enthusiastic to perform a citizen's responsibilities and duties.

Citizen and Citizenship

Concepts of citizen and citizenship originated in ancient Greece 2500 years ago. In ancient Greece, small city states existed, called city states. In those small city states those who directly participated in city state governance were called citizens. They had voting rights. But in the city states, women, foreigners and house-mates were not treated as citizens. In course of time, the concept of citizenship has undergone changes. At present, to be a citizen no discrimination is made between individuals.

We are the citizens of Bangladesh, because we are born in this country and are enjoying all kinds of state-given rights (social, political and economic) and carrying out our responsibilities and duties to the state. So, the person who lives permanently in a state and admits his/her allegiance to the state, enjoys state-given rights and performs duties to the state, is called a citizen. To some, citizen and citizenship are the same. But, they have different meanings. 'Citizen' is the identity of an individual. For example, our identity is that we are Bangladeshi citizens. As a citizen of the state, the status and respect one receives, is one's citizenship.

Ways to get citizenship

There are two ways to achieve citizenship:

a) by birth and

b) by approval.

a. Methods to achieve citizenship by birth: To get citizenship by birth two principles are followed, such as birth policy and the place of birth policy.

1. Birth policy: According to this policy, citizenship of the children is determined by their parents' citizenship. In this case, wherever the children are born, their citizenship is determined by their parents' status of citizenship. For example, a Bangladeshi couple have a child in the UK. Then he or she will be a Bangladeshi citizen as his or her parents are Bangladeshi citizens.

2. Place of birth policy: According to this policy, whichever country's citizens parents are, the citizenship of their children is determined by the country in which they are born. For example, if children of Bangladeshi parents are born in the USA, they would be US citizens. Here, to determine citizenship, the state is given the priority. According to this policy, if children of any parents are born on a ship or inside the embassy of another country, they would be citizens of that country which owns the ship or the embassy mentioned above. It can be noted here that most of the countries in the world follow the principle birth policy in granting citizenship. Bangladesh is one of them. On the contrary, the USA and Canada follow the principle of place of birth policy in granting citizenship.

b. Getting citizenship by approval: By fulfilling some conditions, citizens of one country can achieve citizenship in another by approval. Generally, the conditions that need to be fulfilled to get citizenship of another country are as follows:

1. to marry a citizen of that country;

2. to be employed in a government job;

3. to show honesty;

4. to know the language of that particular country;

5. to purchase assets of that country;

6. to live in that country for a long time;

7. to join the army.

These conditions may vary from country to country.

If a person fulfills one or more of such conditions, he is eligible to apply for citizenship. When his application is approved by the government, he becomes a citizen of that country. The citizens of many countries in the world including Bangladesh are enjoying citizenship by approval in such as the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia. In addition, citizenship is also granted on humanitarian ground. For example, if a person takes shelter in any other country due to persecution, that country may grant his/her citizenship upon his/her application for citizenship.

Dual Citizenship

When a person is simultaneously holding citizenship of two countries the phenomenon is called his/her dual citizenship. Generally, one person gets an opportunity to get citizenship in one country. As two principles relating to birth exist regarding the achievement of citizenship, in some cases it may result in dual citizenship.

For instance, Bangladesh follows birth principle to grant citizenship while the USA follows both birth and place of birth principles. So, when children of Bangladeshi parents are born in the USA, they become US citizens according to place of birth principle. Again, they become Bangladeshi citizens according to the birth principle. This is called dual citizenship. But after being an adult he or she has to become either a Bangladeshi or a USA citizen.

Good Citizens

All citizens in a state are not good citizens. Those who are intelligent among us, could solve problems with ease, could distinguish between good and bad and stay away from bad deeds and those who are self-controlled and could sacrifice petty interests to the cause of larger ones are called good citizens.

In the light of above discussion, we find three main qualities of good citizens:

1. intelligence; 2. conscience and 3. self-control.

1. Intelligence: Intelligence is one of the best qualities of a good citizen. Intelligent citizens can identify multifaceted problems of family, society and state and take right decisions to solve these problems. The success of a democratic state depends upon the intelligence of good citizens. Therefore, intelligent citizens are the best assets of the state. Every state should make their citizens intelligent by imparting proper education to them.

2. Conscience: Citizens of a state have to be conscientious. By dint of this quality, citizens can distinguish between justice and injustice, honesty and dishonesty and good and bad. Just as conscientious citizens on one hand enjoy state-given rights, so they perform duties and responsibilities properly to the state and stand by justice. For example, conscientious citizens remain loyal to the state, abide by laws, pay tax in due time, cast their votes for competent and honest persons in the elections.

3. Self-control: Good citizens should have self-control. In other words, keeping him/herself above all kinds of greed, he/she discharges all duties and responsibilities with honesty and dedication. To give up petty interests to the cause of greater social interests is self-control. Those among us having this quality can express their opinions freely. They are tolerant to other peoples' rights. In addition, every citizen must keep themselves above corruption, nepotism and partisan attitude. In this way democratic values emerge.

Citizen Rights

We get ideas about some rights from the pictures below. Besides these, there are some more rights the citizens are entitled to.

Rights to Education, Right to have a family, Voting Rights

Rights are some of the privileges recognized by society and state. By enjoying these rights, citizens could develop their personality. Without these rights, people cannot realize their personality. The main aim of rights is to ensure universal welfare of the individuals. Rights are important to nourish the mental, social and economic growth of citizens of the state. Sometimes we understand rights as doing whatever the individuals wish to do. But doing whatever one wants to do is not rights. Rights are given by the state for the betterment and development of all citizens. In the name of rights, we should not do anything harmful to others.

Classification of rights

There are mainly two kinds of rights:

1. Moral rights and 2. Legal rights

1. Moral rights: Moral rights come from people's conscience and social morality or justice. For example- the weak have the moral right to get assistance. This is not enacted by the state. As a result, it has no legal basis. In addition, if someone violates this right he/she cannot be punished. Moral rights vary from one society to another.

2. Legal rights: Legal rights are those recognized by laws of the state. Again, legal rights can be divided into social, political and economic rights.

a. Social rights: We enjoy some rights in the society to live in peace and happiness. These rights are called social rights. For example, right to protect life, freedom of movement and expression, right to have a family, right to education, right to equal treatment in the eye of law, right to property and freedom of religion.

b. Political rights: Right to vote, right to be elected and redressing of all complaints made by application are called political rights. Enjoying these rights, citizens indirectly get opportunities to run the state.

c. Economic rights: Rights given by the state to develop the standard of living are called economic rights. For example, right to work according to competence, right to receive proper wage, right to enjoy leisure and the right to labour union.

Law on Right to Information

Law on Right to Information is an epoch-making law to protect the fundamental rights of the people. Adopted in Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad, the President gave his consent to this law on 5 April 2009 (22 Chaitra 1415). Then the law was made public. Before this law came into effect, some information was kept secret. But now people could know such information and enjoy their rights. It will help establish institutional overseeing, making their work disciplined and truthful. To establish rule of the people, Law on Right to Information is necessary. So, all the citizens should know this law.

'Information' refers to any kind of memento, book, design, map, data, order, circulars, document, sample, letters, report, statement of account, project proposal, film, audio-video, drawings, any instrument made of electronic process, machine readable documents and physical structure and informative matter or xerox of it irrespective of their characteristics. These are related to the organization, structure and official activities of any authority. However, official note or xerox copy of official note is not included into this category.

Right to information means the right to receive information from any authority. Under this law, every citizen is entitled to receive information from any authority. Upon request from any citizen, the authority is bound to give information. In order to ensure the right to information, every authority must preserve a list of information along with the contents of information properly.

Censored information

According to the law on Right to information the citizens of Bangladesh have rights to know about the information of different institutions. But the authority is not bound to give some information. These are:

1. information posing threats to security, integrity and sovereignty of Bangladesh;

2. matters relating to foreign policy by which relations with foreign countries or international, regional organizations can be developed;

3. secret information received from the foreign governments;

4. any information that might harm third party's intellectual property;

5. any information that might harm any individual or organization;

6. any information that might increase crimes hampering the enforcement of existing laws;

7. any information that might hamper the judgement of criminals or endanger the security of the people;

8. any information that might encroach upon privacy of individuals;

9. any information that might threaten one's life or physical security

10. any secret information provided by any individual that helps law enforcing agencies;

11. information on any sub-judice matter and on which the court imposed restrictions or exposing the matter will be deemed as contempt of court;

12. any information about the matter under investigation which can hamper investigation if revealed;

13. any information that might hamper the process of investigation, influence the arrest and punishment of the criminals;

14. any information regarding compulsion of publishing anything within a definite time-limit;

15. Technical or scientific research outputs that need to be kept secret for strategic and commercial reasons;

16. any information relating to the purchase related activities before completing the purchase activities;

17. any information that might violate the special rights of Members of Parliament (MPs);

18. any secret information on any individual protected by laws;

19. any advanced information concerning exam question papers and marks given.

Process of receiving information

Any person may ask the concerned authority to provide information in writing or by sending an e-mail. In that request, the points that need to be included are:

1. Requester's name, address, fax and e-mail numbers if applicable,

2. Correct and clear statement of the information asked for;

3. to locate the information asked for, it is important to add other related information;

4. describe how the requester wants to get it. In other words, requester must mention how he/she wants to get information such as by a visit, receiving a xerox copy of a note, taking notes or by any other approved methods.

Methods to provide information

After receiving the request placed by a requester, the concerned officer will have to provide it in not more than 20 days. If the information asked for involves one or more than one units or authorities, in that case, information has to be provided in not more than 30 days. If the assigned authority fails to provide information within that stipulated time, he/she has to apprise the requester of the reasons for inability to give information within 10 working days after the date of the submission of application.

Duties of a citizen

As citizens have rights to the state, so they have duties. Without discharging duties, enjoying rights cannot be expected. By giving different rights to the citizens, states make citizens become loyal and responsible. Citizens' lives grow by state-given rights. In exchange, the duties of citizens are to be loyal to the state, to pay taxes on regular basis, to obey laws, to exercise their right to vote with honesty and to perform other state-given duties.

Classification of duties

Citizens perform responsibilities in order to enjoy rights. These responsibilities are called duties. Citizens' duties are divided into two categories: moral duties and legal duties.

a. Moral duties: Moral duties stem from people's conscience and social morality or justice. For example, to be educated, casting vote with honesty, serving the state and coming forward to assist world humanity. As these duties come from citizens' conscience and social morality and justice, these are called moral duties.

b. Legal duties: Duties sponsored by the state-laws are called legal duties. To be loyal to the state, law abidance and paying tax are legal duties. These duties are recognized by state-laws. Every citizen must obey legal duties. Failing to do so, one must be punished. Legal duties are inevitable for the welfare of the state and citizens. Some of the duties are discussed below.

1. Allegiance to the state: Allegiance to the state is expressed to protection of independence and sovereignty of the state, respect for the constitution and fundamental principles of the state. In other words, allegiance to the state means the sacrifice of life, if necessary, for the existence, integrity and development of the state.

2. Abiding by laws: Law protects our life, property and liberty. Law is equally applicable to all. In absence of law, social life becomes anarchic. Citizens' life without law cannot be imagined in the spheres of society and state. State enacts laws to ensure rights and freedom of the citizens. So it is the duty of citizens to abide by laws.

3. Pay tax: To operate the state, government needs resources. For this reason, government imposes direct and indirect tax on the citizens. Therefore, it is the duty of every citizen to pay tax regularly and properly.

Relations between rights and duties

Though rights and duties are two separate words, they have close mutual relationships. The relationships between these two concepts are described below:

First, to enjoy rights depends on the performance of duties. For example, voting is an important right of the citizens. It is the duty of a citizen to cast his/her vote. Rights and duties are correlated. So, it can be said that discharging duties lie in enjoying rights.

Second, one's rights refer to another person's duties. For example, I have the right to walk on the road, it means that I shall walk and let others do so. Again, when I shall walk on the path, others would let me do so. Thus, the relations between rights and duties are intimately related.

Third, we enjoy social, economic and political rights given by the state. In return, we have to perform duties. For example, to be allegiant to the state, abiding by laws, paying tax - all these are duties. By performing duties, we enjoy rights given by the state.

Fourth, as members of the society we enjoy the right to education. By using such education, we develop the society. To receive education is our right, but to apply it is our duty. In sum, we may say that rights and duties arise from social consciousness. One cannot take effect without the other. Thus, it can be said that rights are embedded in duties.

Can you answer the following by reading the article?

1. Which one of the rights is included in social rights?

a. right to enjoy property           b. voting rights             c. right to wage             d. right to be elected

2. Which one of the rights varies from society to society? a. social

a. social                                    b. political                    c. economic                  d. moral

3. To enjoy rights requires

i. rightly applying voting rights

ii. to assist government works

iii. to assist others to walk on the street.

Which one is correct?

a. i and ii                                  b. ii and iii                    c. i and iii                     d. i, ii and iii

Answer questions 4 and 5 after reading the following paragraph:

Mr. Hafiz has a match factory in Manikganj. He pays tax to the government on his income from his factory every year.

4. What is Mr. Hafiz's responsibility called?

a. moral rights                          b. legal rights                c. moral duties              d. legal duties

5. Which one of the following is related to Mr. Hafiz's responsibility stated above?

a. Economic prosperity of the state

b. Protection of independence of the state

c. Protection of citizens' social rights

d. Establishment of citizens political rights

Case Study:

1. In the A Union, 80% of the total population are literate. In an election of that Union, people elected the person X chairman as an honest and competent candidate. They chose him out of the candidates X and Y. After being elected, chairman preferred a competent applicant as a teacher in a school of his locality to his brother's son.

a. How many years ago did the concept of citizen originate in ancient Greece?

b. What is dual citizenship? Explain.

c. Which type of duties is noticed amongst the people in the Union A?

d. X is a good citizen. Justify the statement.


2. Mr. Pijush Chakravarty passed computer engineering and went to Canada. He learned Canadian language, he joined the government service in Canada and showed honesty in service. Upon his application, Canadian government granted his citizenship. On their way to Canada by plane from Bangladesh, his wife gave birth to a child named Rahw on board

a. On which date did the President give assent to the law on the Right to Information after the law was adopted earlier on?

b. What is understood by citizen rights? Explain.

c. Which country's citizen is Rahw? Explain.

d. Is Mr. Pijush Chakravarty only a citizen of Canada? Give reasons in favour of your answer.


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