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We, the people

An introduction by Swarna Rajagopalan

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A fine balance

Only an equipoise between state, market and civil society can produce a 'good society', writes TK Oommen

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Putting civil society in its place

Over the last 25 years, civil society has come to be seen as the counterpoint to non-performing governments, indifferent political parties, and hierarchical bureaucracies. But crucial issues related to democracy and livelihoods are the responsibility of the state, not civil society, writes Neera Chandhoke

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Civil society as a moral moment

A strong civil society is welcome. But an overdeveloped civil society has a tendency to mimic the state, leading to the possibility of authoritarianism, writes Samir Kumar Das 

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Re-imagining civil society

South Asia has witnessed unprecedented changes in the last two decades, including globalisation and the shrinking role of states. How should civil society respond to these changes? Amitabh Behar has some suggestions

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'What civil society said 25 years ago has become law today'

By Rashme Sehgal

Civil society has managed to push through far-reaching legislations on dowry, domestic violence, sex ratios and other issues related to women, says women’s rights activist Kamla Bhasin. But, however progressive, legislation alone cannot be expected to change patriarchal mindsets

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A disturbing disconnect

Mohalla committees and occasional workshops for the police and communities do work to promote communal harmony. But why haven't the Hindu-Muslim ties among ordinary people, ties that have survived the worst riots, been harnessed, asks Jyoti Punwani. Is there such a total disconnect between what is called ‘civil society’ and the people it seeks to represent?

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The spirit of seva

Spiritual activists, as opposed to NGOs, understand that the biggest contribution to changing the world is self-change, says Suma Varughese

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'Civil society is only geared to the needs of the elite'

By Rashme Sehgal

Democratic processes in our country are being dismantled, feels Dunu Roy, who has been working with the issues of displacement, urban habitat, and pollution for the last four decades. Citizens are being replaced by coteries of bureaucrats and the technocrats who run CSOs

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A quiet coup?

Following globalisation, states have been reduced to handmaidens of the investor class, says Aseem Shrivastava. Interceding between the state/corporations and the public are layers of NGOs, many of which are converting the million mutinies of contemporary India into harmless ‘partnerships’ with corporations or state

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The CSR charade

There is nothing in the make-up of the corporation that imposes an obligation on it to behave responsibly or in the public interest, says Nityanand Jayaraman. So civil society actors who may be appealing to the corporate conscience may be barking up a non-existent tree

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Partners in sustainability

Yashashree Gurjar says that corporations are realising that growing in isolation is just not viable any more because it will lead to shrinking markets and talent pools available in future

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'Civil society is a cacophony, not an orchestra'

By Rashme Sehgal

Sitting around and talking with cola or automobile companies won’t work, says Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment, explaining why CSE always takes an adversarial position with big business

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Society and state

A multiplicity of civic associations of involved citizens is critical to the functioning of a modern state, both to support and contain it so that it serves and does not alienate its citizens, writes Rudolf C Heredia. The state must be under the command of society, and not the other way around

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From vote to voice

Across India, civil society has been mobilising and empowering India’s aam-aadmi to question their government. This new accountability agenda marks the beginning of a process to deepen democracy in India, says Yamini Aiyar

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Media and civil society

Do the media and civil society complement each other? Pamela Philipose explores this proposition through a series of conversations with A K Shiva Kumar, Syeda Hameed, Tarun Tejpal, Sevanti Ninan, and Lysa John

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Politics for people

By Rashme Sehgal

Socio-political activist Aruna Roy explains why development workers in NGOs are quite the opposite of people’s movements, which are the real harbingers of change in India, working to create more democratic spaces in the country

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The politics of social transformation in India

Gandhiji, Vinoba Bhave and J P Narayan knew the importance of balancing political transformation with social transformation. Rajesh Tandon outlines the efforts of PRIA to get the people to be more than voters, more than beneficiaries and become citizens who participate in governance

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How to engage with the political class

In the recent general elections, CSOs mobilised citizens to vote. Now that the elections are over, there should be sustained efforts to watch the performance of the government and advocate for policy changes and proper implementation of programmes on the ground, say Tonusree Basu and CV Madhukar

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Pawns in conflict zones

In conflict areas such as Manipur, civil society is transformed into an extension of the conflict zone, with each conflicting party setting up its own 'civil society' proxies -- including student wings, women’s wings and civil rights campaigns. Pradip Phanjoubam reports

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Civil society and the production of (in)security

Civil society must hold the security sector accountable. It must show a sustained interest in security issues and support informed public debate on them, writes Swarna Rajagopalan

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How civil society has changed the world

Eleven million people across the world marching against the war in Iraq; thousands protesting in Seattle against unjust WTO policies… There is little doubt today about the impact of civil society on polities and societies, writes John Samuel

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Good governance in our own backyards

Accountability and transparency are vital in every sphere of public life. But most of all in the voluntary sector. In 2004, Credibility Alliance was formed for self-regulation in civil society organisations in the areas of governance, transparency and accountability. Vijay Nadkarni reports

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The dog that did not bark

Societies are held together not only by coercion (state) or money (markets), but also by intermediate professional groups of lawyers, doctors etc. The big mystery of Indian civil society discourse is that it focuses on the professionalisation of voluntary associations, not on the professions themselves, says Pratap Bhanu Mehta 

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Under pressure

As recognition of their significance grows, CSOs have found themselves under pressure to enhance their accountability, measure and report their impact in corporate terms, compensate for all manner of failures of market and state, and face unprecedented threats to their freedom, writes Ingrid Srinath

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Planned obsolescence

Civil society actors must believe that they could find nothing more fulfilling than to become inconsequential, says Anmol Vellani

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