What is Civil Society for? A control valve or an agent for the status quo

We have been hearing a lot of hooplah over the term civil society in India since the anti corruption movement picked up pace. According to a recent article penned  Centre for Policy Research Think Tank honcho Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express post on the civil society space (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/that-seventies-feeling/804154/) . He writes about impending new media regulations and the financial harassment norms for ngo’s which get funds from overseas. The civil society is composed of a myriad spectrum of actors made of of millions of small groups to behemoths like SEWA and Centre for Science and Environment. Of course moral entrepreneurs in ngo’s and civil society, peddle ideas as their products for the mass market.

Nelson Mandela was not democratically elected and he was the voice of the anti apartheid movement, Abu Amar aka Yasser Arafat was not democratically elected too, but he made palestine into an issue from a non issue post 1967. Anna Hazare, Mr. Kejriwal, Ms. Bedi and the Bhushans are not elected, but electoral democracy is a monetarily driven process, not a battle for ideas at the operational level, its a battle for power and control. The civil society is like any other estate of society, its either good and effective or ineffective and detrimental. The best of laws are drafted by thinktanks and policy formulations are done by profs at grad school research centers. Not every thing has to go through the proverbial people’s court, people have their ideas and since the platform of the web 2.0 have opened up like blogs like this one and ngo websites like avaaz, that catalyze mass movements like the Lok Pal Bill movement recently. It was India’s first digital democratic enterprise. For a vibrant civil society, economic accountability and transparency is fundamental, because they lobby for policies and the public has a right to know the drive behind the move. The Civil Society is the crucible for smoldering politics at its best, a wake up alarm for those in power to improve their ways. The Arab Spring  and the former soviet summer in 2005, was amplified by civil society actors. Lech Walesa was from Civil Society in Poland to made it to presidency in the early 1990’s. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch highlights excesses in countries which do not have democratic mechanisms to guard their own countrymen such as Burma and Sub Saharan Nations.

Civil Society is an effective lever for change, when traditional mechanism fail, its a safety valve in the processing plant called human society….


4 thoughts on “What is Civil Society for? A control valve or an agent for the status quo

  1. By questioning civil society the government in India makes a major faux pas. By their argument, even the National Advisory Council does not have a right to dictate terms, as except for Sonia Gandhi no member on its board is elected. These are just tactics to distract people – that’s all there is to it.

  2. Thanks a lot for your feedback Sirji! NAC has good ppl, and all good ppl cannot be elected! Thats an oxymoron! The government is making a serious error of judgement regarding the civil society

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