Q. What are the functions of Civil Society as a Social Capital in a Democracy like India?



Governance has three levels — internal systems and procedures; cutting edge systems and procedures; and check-and-balance systems

At level (a), civil society can influence policy and project formulation through membership of committees, submission of memoranda directly or through elected representatives, and interactive rule-making in the implementation of policies, projects and schemes affecting citizens. The maximum day-to-day interaction between the government and the citizens takes place and the popular image of governance is formed at level (b). Interactions of civil society with level (c), infrequent but important, will be more of an exposure of irregularities rather than steps for improvement in the quality of governance.

Functional contribution

Civil society’s functional contribution to good governance could be:

  • Watchdog — against violation of human rights and governing deficiencies.
  • Advocate — of the weaker sections’ point of view.
  • Agitator — on behalf of aggrieved citizens.
  • Educator — of citizens on their rights, entitlements and responsibilities and the government about the pulse of the people.
  • Service provider — to areas and people not reached by official efforts or as government’s agent.
  • Mobiliser — of public opinion for or against a programme or policy.

Civil society acts through ‘social capital’— the capacity of people to act together willingly in their common long-term interest. Social capital is strong in a homogeneous, egalitarian society.

Individuals cannot take on the huge political-bureaucratic machine that the government is, nor can the entire civil society act on behalf of every citizen. Civil society, therefore, has to operate through compact, focused organisations based on strong social capital.

Efforts to improve the quality of governance will fail if the quality and calibre of the political executive is unsatisfactory. Civil society needs to note the deterioration in the quality, integrity and commitment of the elected representatives and the criminalisation of politics. Voter education, electoral reforms and periodical highlighting of the performance (or non-performance ) of elected representatives are high priority items in civil society’s agenda.



News by date

Browse by month

IAS buzz monthly pdf