(Online Course) Contemporary Issues for IAS Mains 2012: Yojana Magazine - Role of NGOS in India

Yojana Magazine

Non Governmental Organizations - Role of NGOS in India

Q. What do you understand by Non Government Organisation or Civil Society Organisation?

Answer: In its most general usage, civil society refers to all voluntarily constituted social relations, institutions, and organizations that are not reducible to the administrative grasp of the state. NGOs are organisations within the civil society that work on the “not-for-profit” approach in the space which exists between the family (household), market and state. It is made up of several types of formal voluntary organisations, where people based on community, neighborhood, workplace and other connections form their association to participate in actions for their own collective interests or for larger social good. Those NGOs which are working at the global arena, across several countries are termed as international NGOs. Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in its concept papers on civil society and good governance has defined civil society as “an intermediate realm situated between state and household, populated by organized groups or associations, which are separate from the state, enjoy some autonomy in relations with the state, and are formed voluntarily by members of society to protect or extend their interests, values or identities”.

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Types of Civil Society Organisations

  1. Civil rights advocacy organizations: to promote human rights of specific social groups e.g. women, migrants, disabled, HIV, sex workers, Dalit people, tribal people, and the likes.

  2. Civil liberties advocacy organizations: to promote individual civil liberties and human rights of all citizens, rather than focusing on particular social group.

  3. Community based organizations, citizen’s groups, farmers’ cooperatives: to increase citizen’s participation on public policy issues so as to improve the quality of life in a particular community.

  4. Business and industry chambers of commerce: to promotion policies and practices on business.

  5. Labour unions: to promote the rights of employees and workers.

  6. International peace and human rights organizations: to promote peace and human rights.

  7. Media, communication organization: to produce, disseminate, or provide production facilities in one or more media forms; it includes television, printing and radio.

  8. National resources conservation and protection organizations: to promote conservation of natural resources, including land, water, energy, wildlife and plant resources, for public use.

  9. Private and public foundations: to promote development through grant-making and partnership.

  10. Also the Civil society includes - Political Parties; Religious Organizations; and Housing cooperatives, slum dwellers, resident welfare associations.

In India the state policies have significantly influenced the formation of NGOs and their activities. The government sponsored and aided programmes provided financial assistance to NGOs either as grants or asmatching grants to support the implementation of social development projects. In the Sixth Five Year Plan (1980-1985), the government identified new areas in which NGOs as new actors could participate in development. The Seventh Five Year Plan (1985-1990), envisioned a more active role for NGOs as primary actors in the efforts towards self-reliant communities. This was in tune with the participatory and empowerment ideologies, which was gaining currency in the developmental discourse at that time.

Government support and encouragement for NGOs continued in the Eighth Five-year plan, where a nation-wide network of NGOs was sought to be created. The Ninth Five-year plan proposed that NGOs should play a role in development on the public-private partnership model. Also, the agricultural development policies of the government and its implementation mechanisms provide scope and space for NGOs. A case in point is the watershed development program, which has led to the growth of NGOs working for rural development. This has also been acknowledged in the Tenth Five-year Plan Document. Such proactive state support to NGOs
has also brought in the element of reporting and regulations. This is being done through a series of legislative and administrative measures, which are often considered by NGO workers as affecting the performance and efficiency of NGOs. However, the Constitutional provision for right to association ensures that the NGOs enjoy adequate autonomy in terms of their management and governance. In the words of Prof. Amartya Sen, the relationship between the state and NGOs is one of “cooperative conflict”.

Further, the industrial policies have influenced the formation and relations between the businesses and NGOs. The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), a leading organisation, has been raising the issues of corporate social responsibility. The emphasis of industrial policies on the promotion and development of small, cottage and village industries has also lead to the formation of agencies such as the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Small Industries Associations and likes.

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