(Sample Material) Gist of IIPA Journal: Voluntary Associations and Development: The Indian Experience Bidyut Charkrabarty

(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA Journal

Topic: Voluntary Associations and Development: The Indian Experience Bidyut Charkrabarty

Democratic Process and Voluntary Agencies

Voluntary agencies are both an outcome and a facilitator of democratic process. A distinction is usually made between GONGO and non-GONGO. While the former is wholly government created and largely state-sponsored agency, the latter has its origin in people’s effort. Despite their controversial origin, both the GONGOs and ono-GONGOs are involved an activities which are not always strictly within the purview of the state. Operating in a variety of areas, particularly on the periphery of society, non-GONGOs take on issues and problems affecting the mass of people at the grassroots. The inability of the government to ‘deliver goods’ to all irrespective of class, case, creed or region is undoubtedly and important factor for the growth of a large number of non-GONGOs. Their growing importance in development in those areas where they are active clearly suggests a failure of the state-sponsored democratic process to strike roots. Kothari therefore argues that “It is this convergence of despair with the system of governance (largely apolitical) and faith in the democratic process (fundamentally political) that is increasingly making the poor draw upon their own resource (both) psychic and environmental) and their traditional institutional/organisational and socio-economic wherewithal".

There are two types of responses which we must take into account while assessing the role of voluntary agencies in development. One type of response, as shown above, is articulated in different forms of opposition vis-à-vis the state-directed development. Hence, the centre of gravity has shifted from the government nurtured institutions to various socio-political institutions which are located and flourish outside the areas of formal structure of governance. The other equally significant response is structured around concerns for reviving Panchyat units that have gradually declined due to indifference of these in power for obvious political consequences. In fact, the English Plan set-out the policy directions by proclaiming that:

It is necessary to make development a people’s movement. People’s initiatives and participation must become the key element in the whole process of development. A lot in the area of education (especially literacy), health, family planning, land improvement, efficient land use, minor irrigation, watershed management, recovery of waterlands, afforestation, animal husbandry, diaries, fisheries and sericulture, etc., can be achieved by creating people’s institutions accountable to the community.

In consonance with the above objective, the Seventy-Third Constitutional Amendment Act, 1993 is probably the most dramatic intervention in the political process of extend and strengthen the traditional Panchayati raj system of village self-government. Signaling the most fundamental shift of power since independence, the Panchayati Raj Institutions are intended to take charge of future development planning and its implementation. It is ‘a charge that cannot succeed without major capacitations of the development stakeholders now in charge’. The aim is to reduce the margin of political and administrative discretion and ‘to allow the decentralised institutions to gather strength on the basis of peoples involvement’. Revamping the Panchayat system of self-government requires ‘credible community-based institution’ that command local trust and local presence. This where the role of voluntary agencies assumes tremendous significance. The change in policy directions will remain on paper without the capacitating by voluntary agencies of those at the grassroots level. So voluntary agencies, especially the non-GONGO type perform two types functions: on the one hand, they play significant roles in translating the demands of the people at the grassroots in to specific policy directions for the state to consider; with their involvement in activities at the grassroots, they also sustain, on the other, the momentum, gained a s a result of a continuous interaction with the people. What is evident is that he voluntary agencies have now become a significant influence in development planning and its realization due to both radical changes at the grassroots and also the failure of the state to reach out to those for whom the welfare Scheme are recommended.

Concluding Observations

The discussion clearly reveals the growing importance of voluntary agencies in India’s socio-economic development. Their contribution is significant in identifying the limititations of state-centred development that tends to ignore India’s diversity as a socio-economic unit due probably to uncritical faith in the Soviet-type centralized planning. Not only do the voluntary agencies assist the state in realign its developmental goals, they also contribute to planning and its implementation by devising new ways which are meaningful and appropriate to those at the receiving end. This suggests a clear shift in the governmental attitude towards the voluntary agencies and vice-versa. That both the state and voluntary agencies draw upon each other while discharging heir respective responsibilities is a break with the past. The relationship was structured around the patron-client network where the state as the provider of funds always set the parameter not only for performance requirements but also for structural and spending patterns to achieve the goal. It is now evident that a large number of voluntary agencies declined the state assistance primarily because of the imposed conditionalities. Many of the projects-both state-led and those, devised by the voluntary agencies-did not take-of because neither the state nor those involved in the voluntary sector came forward presumably due to mutual distrust.

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