Civil Society vs. Civil Society
UPA–I ensured civil society participation and representation in policy advisory sphere by forming a national advisory council (NAC) when it came to power in 2004. Sonia Gandhi as the Chairperson of that NAC had members from civil society. Activists, NGOs as well as experts found their presence in that council.
|After 6 years of NAC formation, civil society feels that their views do not reach where it matters to policy making and being left out by the government. Lokpal bill drafting committee’s civil society members have got an upper hand at the moment than NAC civil society members in the media at the national level. Baba Ramdev too wanted to dictate his terms as well as others who are yet to make a showdown.
Civil society sector, consisting of movements, action groups, NGOs, think-tank institutes etc, is very large. Expertise and talents are immense. There are several unheard and unknown Anna Hazre’, Aruna Roys and Medha Patkers in every corner of this country. These silent Mahatmas doing their nishkama-karma without getting much noticed. They may not be so adept in modern PR and media outreach techniques unlike successful civil society entrpreeunurs.
UPA–II also did form a NAC with civil society getting some space in the national policy advisory level. But what was the criterion of incorporating civil society members into that body, though it seems symbolical as well do not have a direct role to play in policy making?
The NAC formation and civil society role in it was being appreciated. The UPA government was then seen as a government that supports civil society groups. It was being felt that politicians appreciating NGO role in nation building and social development. For the political circle, NGOs and activists are from grassroots and from the people more than themselves. They know issues and problems that people face and can suggest and implement remedies better than the government machinery.
Earlier days political parties and their cadres were there with the people to take up issues that affect general public life. As politicians got richer, they have botherations other than better roads, water scarcity and other many similar civic issues. Thus, when Co-Cola set up their factory in Plachimada, Kerala, and it caused environmental problems, people forgetting their political, caste and religious differences raised their voice. Or in such other hundreds of locations, when people were put between life and livelihood or between life and death, people reacted. Here civil society groups and leaders emerged.
After 6 years of NAC formation, civil society feels that their views do not reach where it matters to policy making and being left out by the government. Lokpal bill drafting committee’s civil society members have got an upper hand at the moment than NAC civil society members in the media at the national level. Baba Ramdev too wanted to dictate his terms as well as others who are yet to make a showdown.
If accepting the conditionalities on the basis of a head count, then Baba Ramdev would win over Anna Hazare or Aruna Roy. An anti-corruption law that deals with the legislators, bureaucrats should be drafted and finalized only with inputs from larger civil society. While Anna Hazare succeeded in ensuring some sort of civil society representation when Lok-Pal bill drafting committee was formed consisting of himself and others like Aravind Kejriwal and Justice Hegde, but it created a very un-healthy precedent. An impression has been created among the civil society leaders that a Satya-Graha and a media centric campaign being camped at Delhi could take them into some policy advisory councils. And in the days ahead, Delhi may witness more such campaigns.
Corruption is no doubt a serious issue. But the government too looks serious in dealing with corruption despite being in a coalition. They dealt strictly with those involved in some of the corruption cases. Process is on to bring black money back into the country, according to the government. For the people thus more than corruption and black money, issues for them are inflation, employment, housing and other such day to day survival issues. With corruption, black money and Anna Hazare in the forefront, issues that people are angry at are not at the centre stage.
With over 12 million NGOs and several thousands of single issue movements all over India, civil society sector is too large an entity with intellectuals, researchers, technocrats, artists and socials activists working together. All of them have their solutions to offer. They would all use different methods to reach out to the policy makers and governing circle. Satyagraha and fasting is just one among them. But, it seems that recent developments and demands regarding corruption has weakened Satyagraha-fasting as a tool that could be used in political struggles as the government may not take fast-unto death declarations and their demands seriously.
But the Congress led UPA government seems to have lost focus and courage in dealing with the issue of corruption. Moreover their panic has created an impression of a repeat of emergency days. Is action on Ramdev a prelude to the coming up big fall of UPA government? May be civil society leaders can sense public pulse better than politicians.