Utpal Deka

1.0       Introduction

The domain of civil society and its constituents indeed have significant role to play towards social transformation and changes in society. Civil society could be seen as a network of associations that promote social capital and initiate schemes for upliftment. A vibrant civil society becomes a prerequisite to a healthy society and could be seen as vigilant against state oppression. Civil society is generally recognized as an assemblage of actions and associations independent of the state and the market in which citizens can organize themselves to pursue purposes important to them. Unlike the state based citizenship, civil society membership is enshrined with voluntarism and is characterized by individuals and group interest regarding the common ideas, needs or causes to promote collective interest. Civil society organizations therefore could be seen such social forces which provide much needed inputs to the non-state actors. AnitaiEtizioni argues that international non-governmental organization (INGOs), transnational informal networks and social movements are said to provide governance without government- that is to perform the kind of jobs government used to by drawing on other forms of organization, especially transnational voluntary associations.

Several of arguments put forward to understand civil society, it is widely perceived that the sphere of civil society resides outsides the state and the corporate world and want to establish itself and offering a creative space for the people to persistently engage in the pursuit of social transformation and collective wellbeing. The civil society sector interacts with the state and maintains a distinct identity from it. Civil society is an intermediary force offering wide space for its constituents (i.e., NGOs, INGOs) to engage with the decision- making authorities in whatever form they could and put pressures on the system to keep it on track.

The civil society organizations are synonymously known as Non-Governmental organizations, voluntary organizations, and voluntary development organizations etc. The service orientation of civil society organizations make it distinct from the government and the corporate sector. Regarding the nature of civil society organizations Beteille argued that civil society refers to those meaningful social arrangements (institutions) which are found in all human societies though only some institution contribute for the welfare of civil society. These mediating institutions are different from those based on kinship, caste, language and religion. These are open and secular in nature. In another view, Oomen offers that in heterogeneous and hierarchical societies such as India; organized groups and communities should also be recognized as legitimate inhabitants of civil society.

The outstanding civil society organizations to a great extent ensures an effective government system, an effective service delivery system, a vocal protagonist of international norms and general wellbeing of common masses. The people centric development approach is the major approach of civil society organization for the understanding and engagement of common issues. It has all-round affiliations of organizations and regarding its role and activities civil society organization regarding their identity and strategy can be divided as radical (mobilization of the masses), confrontational (protest through rallies and sloganeering) and collaborative (cooperation with government agencies on issues). Various scholars are unambiguous regarding the potentiality of civil society organizations as a force for development and social transformation, regarding this Lester M. Salamon observes that A striking upsurge is underway around the globe in organized voluntary activity and the creation of private, non-profit or non-governmental organizations. Andre Beteille argues that the voluntary action, voluntary movement and voluntary associations have brought about a new lease of hope and also brought about a new of hope and also concerns for creation of viable civil society.

2.0 Review Literatures

Medieval Indian historymainly deals with the medieval Indian kingdoms namely the Maratha, Mughals and the southern states. The administration and citizen centric institutions of various kingdoms during that period are discussed in this work. The structure and the influence of the Mughal civil society namely the Mughal nobility, military institutions had a powerful influence over the day to day administration of the royalty. Various fresh systems had been introduced during the Mughal time and this method created different interest groups to influence the kingdom. The Author looks the other Indian Kingdoms from the religious angle and gives a religious interpretation of administration and institutions of that time. In addition to that the author has analyzed the village community of India with a view to give an understanding of the community lifestyle and institutions of medieval India.

Medieval India: Essays in Medieval Indian history and cultureis an edited work of many articles divided into four headings. This work finds out relationship between the kings with the intellectual, religious bodies and business organizations pertaining to the state. The relations of India with the other Asian countries like Iran, Persian are discussed from the angle of civil society and military cooperation. The different pattern of civil society in various times of Indian history and different dynasties are observed in this work. The socio-cultural system of post-Mughal era society came under the observations of the authors.

The Penguin History of Early Indiais a worth historical work done by famous historian RomilaThapar covering from the origin to 1300 A.D. This work extensively covers the religion, polity, contemporary society, community orientation, and different kingdoms and so on. The Author critically observed the colonial construct of Indian history and happenings like the wars, polity and religion. The Author looks the economic affairs and resource distribution from different class angle and made a region wise analysis of ancient India. The rich empire of early India has various urban civilizations with concentration of land, business and resources which later accelerate the rise of mercantile economy in the country. The excavations of many areas from early India like the Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro provide the evidence of rich culture of urban people with high standard of life. The same situation had not been proved regarding the rural areas as they were not the equal receiver of services and stakeholder of state processes.

State and Civil Society Explorations in political Theory consists of seven chapters. The work deals with the various theoretical understanding and diverse agendas of state and civil society and its nature starting from the ancient Greek society to modern well-equipped democracies. The task to conceptualizing civil society is extremely difficult, theorist differ on the question of which aspect is primary and definitive and which is secondary and contingent. The author further added that state cannot be adequately analyzed without reference to civil society, however the distinction between civil and political society is yet unclear; both Hobbes and Locke used the words civil and political interchangeably. The both civil and political society has ensured civility, freedom, security of person and property. Civil society has to act as an intermediary between the particularistic loyalties of society, the individual and the state. The idea of civil society becomes strong when the members of society show a commitment to freedom and equality, to participation, to democracy and to mutual recognition of rights.

Does Civil Society Matter? Governance in Contemporary India is an edited book of ten chapters authored by eminent experts in this particular field of civil society. The first section of this book deals with the contemporary theoretical and conceptual debate, the second section covering the various cases taken place in the arena of civil society. The authors asserted that civil society is not as autonomous as it is assumed; civil society does not plan its action independently of the state. The various instruments and function of the state have captured the attention of civil society interventions. In this context it must be asserted that the mainstream politics in India has usually side away from supporting civil society initiatives.

3.0 Evolution of Civil Society Organizations

Since the early age of Indian subcontinent, it has been the surviving place of many societies and organizations ranging from simple organizations to more complex organizations. The major categorization of early aged Indian societies can be divided into hunters, pastoralists, peasants, townsmen and fighters. These major categories were living in different ecological part in India and they have minimal organization to promote and protect their class interest. At that period of time states had legal rights over the population and resources and the state was sovereign in governing and exercising power through a hierarchy of administration. States were consist of rural and town areas, towns were the major place where major concentration of populations and organizations were seen and they used the town areas as linkages of specialized production and its exchange.

The villages of Mughal Empire had produce goods on both the individual and community level. For the production and selling of agricultural goods and services, community organizations serve in a corporate capacity. The zamindars and the wealthy peasants have their own organization to promote their business and market interest. The villages were the primary organizations which had provided different services including the educational institution, goldsmith, Carpenter, Artisans etc. The self sufficiency of the village organizations make the village community together in serious situations like the natural calamity drought and food shortage.

In the western part of India the civil society had developed under the royal favor. The Maratha kingdom was one of the major kingdoms which hold the independent identities through its strong determination. The Maratha confederacy, which came into being through the Maratha war of independence in the times of Rajaram, grew stronger under the Shahuji owing to the ingenious efforts of the first two Peshwas, ceding the Maratha Empire to its farthest limits. In the Maratha confederacy the eight ministers and the king consists the office of the Peshwa. During the Shivaji’s time it had performed as the major intellectual and military organization within the Empire. Along with the Eight-Ministers (Asta-Pradhans) the Peshwas took to crucial decision in war fare and future of the Maratha Empire.

In the last of the 19th century the Indian National Congress was formed to unite the Indian educated middle class and lobbying in the government to make positive changes in Indian society and politics. The formation of congress and its popularity had opened the national freedom struggle of India as well as strengthening the civil society organizations in the country. The Indian citizen in a large number engaged with the Congress due to its nationalistic ideology and movements against the British colonialism. The Muslim League was formed in the first decade of 20th century to look after the Muslim affairs and bring educational development and political awareness among the Indian Muslims. The Muslim League later advocated for the separate state of Pakistan under the two nations Theory. The formation of Communist Party of India was regarded as another civil society organization working for the peasant­-worker welfare. The CPI want to established the communist norms in the upbringing of the peasants and Labors and had been actively initiated many labor movements in many parts of the country. It had spread communist ideology of welfare and equality among the Indian citizen and attracted many of them to join the struggle.

The developments of trade unions in the 20th country India is regarded as the major changes took place in the country. The welfare of the workers and look into the disputes among the workers and the factory owners were the major work field of such Unions. The development of domestic industries in India and the rise of capitalism had been instrumental in the rise of trade unions in colonial India. In this regard we can mention the name of Indian Trade Union Congress as an influential trade union and a major mobilizer of workers for the development of the condition of the industry worker and peasants.

4.0 Conclusion

The civil society organizations in India have the different orientation and approach regarding the solution of different problems.  In present context it is possible that some organizations are working in a same sectors but have different work culture and networks to each other, It happens due to the liberal democratic  ideas which accommodate diverse understanding and settlement of problems through various ways. In India over the last three decades civil society influence the government’s policy making and execution in a large extent. These organizations are successful in such policy debate and social discourse and establishing new norms for the fulfillment of various goals.

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About the author: Originally hailing from Guwahati Utpal Deka did his Graduation and Masters in Political Science from B. Borooah College and Gauhati University respectively. Presently he is doing his Research in Assam University, Silchar. Moreover the author has been working as academic counselor in KKHSOU and IGNOU. His main interest is in regional politics of India, South-East Asia and civil society.

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