Democracy, Civil Society and Governance
Publication Year: 2019
Civil society is often expected to rise above historical and contemporary socio-economic forces such as the neoliberal economic policy and undertake the transformation of a stratified society to an egalitarian society conducive to democracy. Democracy, Civil Society and Governance is an endeavour to critically examine such expectations. The book focuses on the interplay of democracy, civil society and public policy implementation, and addresses the role of civil society in terms of the changing nature of the economy and the condition of the working class. It highlights the reinforcement of hegemonic value systems by the contemporary mainstream civil society as well as the role of the pro-poor civil society in supporting and mobilizing the disadvantaged for their rights and justice. The book also critically evaluates government ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Civil Society: Historical Background
- Chapter 2: Civil Society Organizations and Social Activists
- Chapter 3: Civil Society and Education: Reproducing Hegemony and Inequality
- Chapter 4: Self-employed Workers and Their Empowerment
- Chapter 5: Legal Recourse and Collective Struggles of the Subalterns
- Chapter 6: Social Movements of the Non-poor
- Chapter 7: Narmada Dam: Development and Displacement
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Copyright © Ghanshyam Shah, 2019
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First published in 2019 by
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Shah, Ghanshyam, author.
Title: Democracy, civil society and governance/Ghanshyam Shah.
Description: Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd,  | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2018046263 | ISBN 9789353281793 (print (pb)) | ISBN 9789353281809 (e pub 2.0) | ISBN 9789353281816 (e book)
Subjects: LCSH: Civil society—India. | Democracy—India. | Representative government and representation—India. | Social structure—India. | Economic development—Social aspects—India. | Poor—Political activity—India.
Classification: LCC JQ281.S48 2018 | DDC 300.954—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018046263
ISBN: 978-93-532-8179-3 (HB)
SAGE Team: Abhijit Baroi, Vandana Gupta, Shobana Paul and Nishant Dhawan
Published by Vivek Mehra for SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd and typeset in 10.5/13 pt Berkeley by Zaza Eunice, Hosur, Tamil Nadu, India.
Aarav, Aashna and Shama
List of Illustrations[Page ix]Figures
- I.1 Society, State and Civil Society: Interrelationship 16
- 3.1 Enrolment by Social Groups at Different Levels of Education in Gujarat (2014) 83
- 3.2 Gender Parity Index 2011–2012 (Gujarat and India) 85
- 3.3 Net Attendance Ratio at Different Levels by Household Income 86
- 3.4 Decadal Growth of Educational Institutions in Gujarat and India 88
- 3.5 Enrolment by Management of Institutions at Different Levels (2011) 97[Page x]
List of Abbreviations[Page xi]
All India Survey on Higher Education
Agricultural Labour Association
Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation
Antyodaya Mahila Sangh
Anand Niketan Ashram
Action Research in Community Health and Education
Ahmedabad Study Action Group
Annual Status of Education Report
Ahmedabad Women's Action Group
Bharatiya Janata Party
Behavioural Science Centre
Bhil Seva Mandal
Comptroller and Auditor General
Central Board of Secondary Education
Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist)
coastal regulation zone
Centre for Social Justice
civil society organization
Centre for Social Studies
Chhatra Sangharsh Vahini
Committee on the Status of Women in India
Development Alternatives Information Network[Page xii]
Department for International Development
Dalit Harijan Samaj
Drought Prone Areas Programme
District Primary Education Programme
District Rural Development Agency
Environment Impact Assessment
Ekalavya Model Residential Schools
Environmental Protection Act
environmental public hearing
Foreign Contribution Regulation Act
foreign direct investment
first investigation report
Free Legal Aid
Friends of Women's World Banking
gross enrolment ratio
Government of Gujarat
Government of India
Gender Parity Index
Grievance Redressal Authority
Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board
Gujarati Sahitya Parishad
Gramya Vikas Trust
hegemonic civil society
Halpati Seva Sangh
Indian Administrative Service
Indian Council of Social Science Research
Indo-Dutch Programme on Alternatives in Development
Indian Institute of Management
The Indian Institute for Paralegal Studies
International Labour Organization
infant mortality rate
Indian Social Action Forum
Institute for Studies in Industrial Development[Page xiii]
Integrated Wasteland Development Scheme
Jamin Hakk Rakshan Samiti
Kinara Bachao Samiti
Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya
Legal Aid and Human Right Centre
Lok Adhikar Manch
Lok Adhikar Sangh
million cubic feet
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
Ministry of Human Resource Development
mother mortality rate
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development
National Legal Services Authority
National Alliance of People's Movements
net school attendance ratio
National Alliance of Street Vendors, India
Narmada Bachao Andolan
Narmada Control Authority
National Council of Educational Research and Training
National Curriculum Framework
Narmada Dharangrast Samiti
National Educational Policy
National Food Security Act
The Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies
National Institute of Design
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd
National Policy on Education[Page xiv]
Narmada Planning Group
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
National Rural Livelihood Mission
National Sample Survey
National Sample Survey Office
National University of Educational Planning and Administration
Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal
Other Backward Class
Policy Development Initiative
public interest litigation
Pushtimargiya Vaishnav Parishad
Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti
Public Union of Civil Liberty
Rehabilitation and Resettlement
Reserve Bank of India
radical civil society
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
Rajpipla Social Service Society
Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education
Right to Information
social action litigation
Secondary Education Commission
Centre for Action and Knowledge
Self Employed Women's Association
special economic zone
Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana
Special Investment Region[Page xv]
Servants of India Society
Surat Municipal Corporation
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
Secondary School Certificate
Sardar Sarovar Project
Sadguru Water and Development Foundation
SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre
Shramik Vikas Sansthan
Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Textile Labour Association
Times of India
University Education Commission
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Vishwa Hindu Parishad
Vedchhi Intensive Area Scheme
Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram
Vadodara Khetmajur Sangathan
Women's World Banking[Page xvi]
While teaching public health at Jawaharlal Nehru University, I got interested to explore the concepts of civil society and governance, and their relevance in understanding the political process. In fact, I owe my interest in the theoretical and operational aspects of governance to I. P. Desai, who used to tell me in the 1970s that mere ideas are not enough; what is important is to find out ways and means by evolving strategies and methodologies in a given socio-economic milieu so that ideas can be actualized. (At that time, the concept ‘governance’ was not in our vocabulary.) In the 1990s, I was grappling with these twin notions not only in the context of public health but also with the larger concern with democratic transformation under an onslaught of the neoliberal economy projected as a fait accompli. This political economy depoliticizes society and also breeds the social Darwinism mindset.
To problematize the concept of civil society in the Indian context, I began to reflect on my association with the Lokayan project of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi, which provided me with an opportunity to have a dialogue with social activists and observe the work of NGOs in different parts of the country. Though I agree with Rajni Kothari that the State has given up the task for social transformation to build a humane egalitarian society, I, however, did not share his romantic formulation of decentralization and civil society, wishing away the prevailing socio-economic power structure as an alternative of the State for social transformation. Granting that the present political parties do not have an ideology to combat neoliberal economy, and they are primarily interested in capturing [Page xviii]political power and not in social transformation as envisaged in Indian Constitution, how realistic it is to expect civil society to transform the State and Society? Can civil society be above historical and the contemporary socio-economic forces? In a stratified society, how can civil society become democratic and accountable to the people? The present study is an endeavour to explore these questions.
During my stay at NIAS (the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies), I began to get acquainted with the literature on civil society. To get an empirical picture, I undertook a field study on ‘civil society and the poor’, sponsored by IDPAD (Indo-Dutch Programme on Alternatives in Development) during 2005–2007. The material presented in this monograph on a profile of NGOs and activists, microfinance, watershed management, legal aid and public interest litigation was collected during that project. I then carried out a study on urban governance with Navdeep Mathur between 2008 and 2010. The project was sponsored by Ford Foundation. Later, during my tenure as National Fellow, ICSSR (Indian Council of Social Science Research), I reworked on these two themes and the historical aspect of civil society. I wrote a manuscript, ‘Democracy, Civil Society and Governance’, and submitted it to ICSSR in 2015. The present book is a revised version of this work.
I am grateful to NIAS for providing me with a very congenial, Indian-ashram type of free atmosphere, which gave me time to reflect on my thinking. I thank IDPAD and Ford Foundation for their support, enabling me to carry out my fieldwork. I sincerely thank ICSSR for awarding me a National Fellowship and the Centre for Social Studies, Surat, for offering me an affiliation during the tenure of the fellowship. Without their support, I would not have been able to prepare this book. I especially thank Pravin J. Patel, Chairperson, Centre for Social Studies (CSS), for his moral support, and Satyakam Joshi, Kiran Desai, Vimal Trivedi, Seema Shukla, Ashok Pawar, Harish Jariwala and Ashish Nigam for their help in facilitating this study. I also thank Varsha Bhagat Ganguly, Kiran Nanavati, Persis Ginwalla and Jignesh Mewani, who provided valuable help as co-researchers in the fieldwork during the course of different studies. I also thank SAGE editorial team for careful copyediting of the manuscript.[Page xix]
While carrying out a study with Navdeep on urban governance, and in the subsequent years, I always gained from his input in my understanding of civil society and governance. For several years, Jan Breman and I have shared our field observations and concerns on the contemporary situations around the world. He has also read the draft of this study and offered valuable comments. Suhas Palshikar, Rajeev Bhargava, Neera Chandhoke and Sudha Pai were kind enough to read some chapters and offer their valuable comments. I thank all of them.
I have been toying with the subject for many years and have incurred the debt of several scholars and social activists who shared with me their insight, ideas and observations. They include the late Rajni Kothari and Anil Bhatt, Dhirubhai Sheth, Sukhadeo Thorat, Indira Hirway, Rita and Abhijit Kothari, and Harsh Mander. I have always been benefited in my understanding of the complex grassroots situation and common sense of people from the late Bhagirath Shah and Babubhai Desai as well as from Martin Macwan, Achyut Yagnik, Anil Patel, Girish Patel, Rajni Dave, Sarup Dhruv, Hiren Gandhi, Prakash Shah, Rohit Prajapati and several other activist friends. I thank all of them.
While writing this study, I frequently faced a dilemma whether I should write this monograph or not. My wife Kalpana, as always, shared my confusion and predicaments. Every morning at teatime, we used to discuss one argument or another, or part of the chapters. Without her support, I would not have been able to complete this work.[Page xx]
A core concern of civil society as well as of the State is the common good with universalistic values. Theoretically, they are complementary to each other to attain the objectives enshrined in the Indian Constitution to build an egalitarian social order embedded with liberty and fraternity. While enlarging its circumference by involving subalterns on equal footing, civil society democratizes itself in its functioning. It also inculcates democratic egalitarian values in different sections of society in everyday life. Simultaneously, it also builds pressure on the State for formulating policies to translate rights into reality and to deepen democracy with people's participation in decision-making. In the process, civil society also intermittently participates in governance at different levels to make it more participatory and transparent.
The modern civil society in India is the legacy of the Western education system and governance. The first generation of Western-educated elite adhering to their lifeworld initiated public discourse on rationality, and the relationship between society and man, science and religion, State and citizenship, etc. They formed public associations for discourse related to the common good and also undertook activities for spreading formal education and ‘modern’ values, and reforming social customs and structure. The space of modern civil society then was primarily occupied by the upper strata of society traditionally engaged in trade, business and knowledge production. In South India, rural peasant castes (non-dwij) entered civil society by the turn of the 19th century and contested the hegemony of the upper castes. But this was not the case in Gujarat. The scale of civil society in Gujarat [Page 203]gradually enlarged by the early 20th century with the expansion of higher education coupled with the emergence of urban industrial centres. The freedom movement accelerated the process with the entry of a small section of peasant castes and Muslims. It grew at a faster rate with the growth in economy and education in post-Independence India. The expansion, however, has so far remained largely horizontal than vertical in terms of social composition of upper caste and middle castes. It has gradually taken a backward step by alienating Muslims from its circumference. Over the past six decades, a few activists and organizations belonging to Adivasis, OBCs and Dalit communities have entered civil society, particularly its RCS segment. They are not fully integrated because of their different approach and priorities of activities. Though these activists are organically rooted in the milieu of their communities, as most of them are educated and have attained a middle class status, they get more interested in the issue of identity than in the economic marginalization and exploitation of the vast majority of their communities. Women activists and their organizations for gender equality also have a visible presence.
At a normative level, CSOs and social activists are committed to a democratic political system for the common good. They also affirm democratic principles in the decision-making and functioning of the CSOs to which they are associated. Except for a few, these organizations have been formed within the administrative-political structure. Since they are formed by one or a few individuals and are registered under the government's Trust or Societies Act, membership of these organizations is limited. In many organizations, the founder-trustees enjoy tenure for life. They also fear that open membership would endanger the working of their organizations. More often than not, the working of these organizations is confined to a small number of activists. And the relationship between the head executive and the grassroots activists is more of employee–employer relationship rather than of the comrades. This is also partly because the former has a responsibility to raise and manage funds, whereas the latter joins the organization at a later stage as an employee. This delimits its democratic spirit and hampers its sustainability for a long-term struggle against the dominant forces and the State. Most of these organizations are not mass-based, except at the time when they get involved in [Page 204]social movements. However, there are quite a few organizations, often offshoots of social movements, that are voluntary in the true sense of the term. They are not registered under the government rules; hence, they enjoy more freedom in their functioning than other registered organizations.
All of them at the normative level are in favour of a democratic political system and constitutional values; their commitment to their maintenance and advancement is not strong. Most of the HCS often declare themselves as apolitical and avoid taking a position on contentious political issues. The intelligentsia and activists, though often talk about freedom of expression, are susceptible of getting co-opted by the State and dominant classes. At the same time, a few of the social activists and organizations of HCS, championing for a neoliberal economy, stand for bourgeois democracy. And whenever the political authority and/ or sectarian groups sabotage established democratic procedures and norms impinging on basic individual freedom, some of them register their protest. On the other hand, activists of RCS invariably get perturbed when the State and dominant castes violate or ignore adherence to the core democratic components. They openly express their opinion, protest and even confront the State, as many did during the Emergency. They continue to do so, though they are not large in number. They are under State surveillance and are subject to harassment.
Civil society as a whole is concerned and actively involved in philanthropic work, in providing relief to all in the eventuality of natural and human-made disasters such as earthquakes, floods, fires and ethnic conflicts. Many of the social activists were involved in the rehabilitation of the earthquake victims between 2001 and 2004 in Gujarat. They did impressive work, though it was not free from their caste and communal bias. In fact, the work with ‘noble’ purpose had reinforced social hierarchy and divisions in new resettlement habitats (Simpson 2015). Their social bias against the minority community and/or fear of the State and majority community kept many away from the relief and rehabilitation work for the victims of the 2002 communal carnage. And many of them had been lukewarm in the resettlement and rehabilitation work of the people affected by the Narmada Project, not only of MP and Maharashtra but also of Gujarat tribals.[Page 205]
Civil society reproduces hegemony and the way of life of dominant upper castes. The hegemonic values, however, are not monolithic and one-dimensional. Dominant caste values are embedded within the hierarchical caste system in which all social groups are conceived of as having an organic and holy relationship. During the freedom movement, these values were reiterated. There is more of an element of compassion than of empathy in their work among the have-nots. They have a paternalistic mindset. A sense of guilt is often inculcated among the deprived people, that they themselves were responsible for their plight: their lifestyle, lack of education and ‘ignorance’. At the same time, market and capitalist states in the last five decades invoke competition, profit, achievement, merit, etc. which also work in favour of the hegemonic classes. The conflicting nature of social hierarchical and modern market values coexists with tension and generates their new dynamics. Both these value systems are reinforced by formal and informal education and public discourse as well as by interpersonal relationship in public spheres. The subaltern communities with their own experiences and aspirations often contest hierarchical norms, assert and reinvent their cultural autonomy, and confront and rebel against dominance. They strive for equality and dignity. A large segment of the RCS activists is not free from these hegemonic values because of their social orientation of being from the upper strata. These activists have imbibed hegemonic values without self-reflection. The received values have been treated by them as ‘normal’ universal. Because of their preoccupation with economic and political issues, they have not questioned the received cultural norms. For instance, formal education in West Bengal ruled by a Left government over three decades continues to reproduce bhadralok hegemonic values. Timothy Scrase observed in 1993 that although the ideological position of the West Bengal government was radically different from the regimes of other states' governments,
[I]n practice it can be seen that reflections of ideological bias exist within specific social and cultural institutions (like education) and so serve to legitimate power of the ruling class. In this way, political hegemony is maintained in West Bengal and a corresponding cultural hegemony is preserved in the social and cultural institution. (Cited in Chakravarti 2009, xi)
[Page 206]Over and above, though the present formal education system raises aspirations among the subalterns as the only way to break shackles of poverty and injustice, it perpetuates their exclusion. of the education system, occasionally expresses resentment against the way in which the education system functions. Most of the social activists either do not know how to improve it, and/or they find a way for the children of their upper and middle class to get a ‘better quality’ education. A change in the education system is not on the agenda of CS. A tiny section of RCS has been campaigning since the early 1970s for a common school as recommended by the first Education Commission for good quality education for everyone. But its voice is increasingly getting mute within civil society itself. Ironically, social activists of the subalterns, though protesting against exclusion in education institutions, are not actively supporting the movement for common schooling. Granting the importance of education, a large section of RCS finds that the piecemeal changes in the education system would not work. These activists and organizations frequently protest against privatization of education. Social activists and organizations, particularly women, subaltern communities and radicals, irrespective of the social background, are in the forefront in interrogating these values. They also raise their voice against the contents of school curricula and textbooks which reinforce hegemonic values. A few isolated literati, including playwrights, poets, social organization and activists, make conscious efforts to evolve counter-cultural values, symbols and forms in the course of social movements.
Equality, dignity and social justice are the stated goals of several RCS as well as HCS organizations. They are critical of globalization and liberalization, and are perturbed by the ever-widening inequality in society. There is almost a consensus amongst these social activists that poverty, unemployment and the absence of social security are interwoven into the one major problem that the vast majority of the people in Gujarat face. A sizable section of RCS believes that the whole structure of the economy is anti-poor, based on exploitation and injustice. Consensus prevails among them, including most of the HRC activists, regarding the necessity of State intervention to provide social security to the poor. They believe that people cannot be left to the market alone. Empowerment and capacity building of vulnerable [Page 207]sections of society are often mentioned in their project planning. In practice, these notions are limited to raising the household income. Social transformation is not on the agenda of the HCS organizations. Security and rights of religious minorities—particularly Muslims and Christians—are not their concern. In fact, several of them share a majoritarian outlook with a sectarian ideology. They have a specific, tangible goal for their target groups. With the paternalistic approach, they undertake welfare programmes for the betterment of the poor.
On the other hand, social transformation towards a secular egalitarian social order is on the agenda of the RCS activists and organizations. They are worried about their inadequacy to counter the widespread majoritarian tendency in the social fabric with State connivance. They are concerned with the emancipation of women, Dalit, Adivasis and all the toiling masses. They often invoke their agenda for the annihilation of caste, patriarchy, capitalism, majoritarian culture, moral degeneration, etc. Women's organizations aim at fighting for women's rights and achieving an equal status in society. Organizations that focus on the Dalits also strive for equality and social justice. Some women and Dalit organizations have gradually expanded their notion of equality for all, and they join hands with all the oppressed and marginalized groups for equality. At the same time, many of them hardly reflect critically on the political economy of the State and its relationship with culture in general, and patriarchy and contemporary caste conflict in particular.
With the financial support from international organizations such as the WB, UNDP, DFID (Department for International Development, UK) and other funding organizations, a large number of NGOs have entered in the civil society arena for ‘development’ work and for good governance. They believe that professional expertise and participation of stakeholders with accountability and transparency in governance is the royal path for development. Besides support from the international funding agencies, some NGOs collaborate with the union or the state governments in the form of PPP. They work at different levels and segments, including infrastructure such as roads and transport, water management, solid waste management, skill development, vocational training, agro-business, credit, sanitation, health, education, shelter, [Page 208]etc. The parameters of ‘good governance’ have been actualized in a few cases where the stakeholders are from the rich and middle class. Participation of poor stakeholders and accountability of the government have remained on paper. More importantly, PPP has sidelined political leaders and has legitimized the depoliticization process (Ghosh et al. 2009). These NGOs do assist the poor to add some income and to sustain life so that cheap labour remains available to the propertied classes. Not only that, they make the poor feel guilty if they are unable to develop their skills and capacity to meet the needs of the market. Thus, large segments of the pro-poor civil society engaged in welfare programmes unwittingly socialize the poor to the market, ‘by promoting the acquisition of certain behavioural patterns and decision-making preferences and by supporting the functional social networks needed for markets to operate smoothly’ (James Busumtwisam 2002). As these activists and their organizations, including of RCS, carry out the welfare programmes unreflectively, despite their dislike of capitalism, they inadvertently promote a capitalist culture and legitimize the neoliberal economic system.
However, the organizations with a rights-based perspective use these programmes to develop consciousness among the poor for their rights as citizens. They develop local leadership among the deprived communities who develop the confidence to negotiate with political leaders and bureaucrats for their rights. These grassroots activists encourage and lead collective actions of local residents and in some instances have successfully obtained basic services such as drinking water and shelter, and prevented eviction from their settlement by the authority (Desai 1995; Mitlin 2001; Van Eera 2008). Such success stories boost the morale of the poor for collective actions to get amenities. Such struggles do contribute to developing a consciousness for citizen's rights.
With sustained efforts of radical social activists, the notion of' ‘right’ is not merely confined to universal franchise but is extended to social and economic aspects. Article 21, Right to Life, has been legally accepted as ‘the procedural magna carta protective of life and liberty’. On several SALs, the Supreme Court has interpreted that the right to life includes the right to live with dignity, right to livelihood, [Page 209]right to health and so on. With continuous struggles of the people at the grassroots, public discourse at various levels, lobbying with policymakers and legal battles in the courts, the colonial policy of land acquisition has been replaced with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The Act has provisions to provide fair compensation to those whose land is taken away, bring transparency to the process of acquisition of land to set up factories or buildings and infrastructural projects, and assure rehabilitation of those affected. In the case of the SSP, the State has been forced to enact a relatively better rehabilitation policy, promising land to all PAFs and other infrastructure. Simultaneously, thanks to environment movements in India and abroad, the Environment Protection Act came into existence in 1986. Later, in 1994, the EIA became mandatory, and in 1997, public hearing was recognized as an essential element in the EIA. This involves public consultation and participation. Though these provisions have several limitations, and the powerful dominant forces have the capacity to sabotage people's rights, nonetheless, they provide a legal right to social activists, compelling the State to negotiate with people. With intensive sustained mobilization of people coupled with political consciousness, social movements can halt anti-people projects. In fact, a few people's struggles such as Mithi Virdi, Umargaon, Poshina and Mahuva in Gujarat; POSCO in Odisha; Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal; etc., have compelled the State and industrial tycoons to withdraw their plans. Such struggles and legal provisions have opened up opportunities for democratizing the decision-making process.
The Indian Constitution directs the State to protect citizens' rights and to take welfare measures for their well-being. In the period before economic liberalization, the State proactively enacted several legislations towards that objective. The Minimum Wage Act is one of those legislations, which was passed in 1948. In the late 1960s and 1970s, a number of legislations such as equal remuneration, the abolition of bonded labour, interstate migrant labour regulation, contract labour regulation, etc., found a place in the statute book. In recent years, with a sustained campaign of RCS in mobilization of public opinion, the court's intervention and advocacy with policymakers, some important pro-poor legislations, such as the National Rural [Page 210]Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), 2005, renamed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in 2009, the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the RTE Act, 2009; and the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013, have been enacted. But in the past and the present, implementation of these legislations has been lackadaisical. At the ground level, the State machinery in collusion with the dominant classes remains indifferent in the implementation of the law. Most of the HCS organizations consider that monitoring the implementation of these laws is beyond their brief. They do not wish to confront the State machinery and dominant classes who flout the law. RCS organizations, though often actively take up the issues related to wages, food security, land, etc., are numerically small and weak in human and financial resources to withstand for long against the local power structure. They could make some impact wherever they have a local network and mobilization of the people.
The poor people are increasingly becoming conscious of their rights and are asserting themselves to attain those rights. Sometimes, they collectively launch a struggle to get justice. But these are fragmented and do not have the wherewithal to sustain their confrontation with the dominant classes. The organizations of the deprived communities dominated by the middle class are more preoccupied with issues of identity than with the wretched condition of their brethren. Nevertheless, grassroots struggles of the oppressed people resisting and confronting the State and the dominant classes for their rights to protect natural resources, land, wages, etc., and also against atrocities and injustice, are frequent and innumerable. Their forms and nature vary. They are isolated and are missing a larger political perspective that relates their issues with the political economy of the land. Hence, their strength to sustain these struggles is limited. Some RCS organizations do play a role in co-ordinating and sustaining these struggles. Their involvement in the people's struggles helps them to identify them with the oppressed and to become more reflective in their understanding of social reality.
RCS activists are relatively well articulated than HCS on public issues. These organizations and activists are actively engaged in raising [Page 211]their voice on the issues related to violation of public morality, injustice to poor, freedom of expression, etc., by the State and the political class, irrespective of party and dominant strata. They write articles in media providing facts and analysis, collectively submit petitions and give memoranda to authorities demanding an inquiry into incidents, organize public discussions, stage demonstrations, etc. In some cases, they file PILs to the court for justice. These activities influence public opinion. Though the presence of RCS organizations is quite visible and the State is often compelled to take cognizance of their demands, their capacity of mass mobilization so far is limited. In terms of space, RCS is on the periphery of the CS. But with unfolding contradictions of the neoliberal economy, the circumference of RCS organizations in civil society is expanding. A few of the socially sensitive activists and groups of HCS are coming closer to RCS.
Different segments of RCS have different ideological positions on the nature of power relations in society, the character of State and political class, political economy in general and neoliberal economy in particular. Their premise on Indian culture and tradition and their strategies for transformation vary. But, more often than not, they work in alliance with each other on most of the issues related to inequality and deprivation, violation of human rights, shrinking democratic space, etc. All of them increasingly realize the limitations of their ideological framework in comprehending changing social realities. But either because of their constant engagement in the field and/or because of their lack of aptitude and/or arrogance about their ideology, many of them are not inclined to engage in a reflective analysis of their own experiences and to unlearn their pet theories. This is a major stumbling block to meet the increasing challenges of rising sectarian forces and the neoliberal political economy which is in crisis. It is a time for different organizations of RCS to critically interrogate their ideological framework, and evaluate their own trajectory of struggles to locate their achievements and failures. Simultaneously, there is a need felt among many activists to interrogate hegemonic cultural values and perspectives, and to evolve a counter-culture around the principles of justice and equality.
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