Civil Society Organisations – NGOs

In a democratic society, it is the state that has the ultimate responsibility for ushering development to its citizens. In India, through the progressive interpretation of the Constitution and its laws and policies, the scope of development has been significantly broadened to include not just economic progress for citizens, but also promotion of social justice, gender equity, inclusion, citizen’s awareness, empowerment and improved quality of life. To achieve this holistic vision of development, the state requires the constructive and collaborative engagement of the civil society in its various developmental activities and programs.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as the operational arm of the civil society therefore have an important role in the development processes.

Non Governmental Organisations(NGOs)

NGOs are legally constituted organizations, operate independently from the government and are generally considered to be “non-state, non-profit oriented groups who pursue purposes of public interest”.

The primary objective of NGOs is to provide social justice, development and human rights.

NGOs are generally funded totally or partly by governments and they maintain their non-governmental status by excluding government representatives from membership in the organization.

Interaction and relationship between the Indian state and NGOs

In India the state policies have significantly influenced the formation of NGOs and their activities. The government sponsored and aided programmes provided financial assistance to NGOs either as grants or as matching grants to support the implementation of social development projects.

Benefits of India from NGOs

India has a long history of civil society based on the concepts of “daana” means giving and “seva” means service. Voluntary organizations were active in cultural promotion, education, health, and natural disaster relief as early as the medieval period.

During the second half of the 19th century, nationalist consciousness spread across India and self-help emerged as the primary focus of socio-political movements. The early examples of such attempts are Friend-in-Need Society (1858), Prathana Samaj (1864), Satya Shodhan Samaj (1873), Arya Samaj (1875), the National Council for Women in India (1875), the Indian National Conference (1887) etc.

The Society’s Registration Act (SRA) was approved in 1860 to confirm the legal status of the growing body of non-governmental organizations.

  1. The NGOs focus on the search for alternatives to development thinking and practice
  2. It creates an atmosphere of participatory research, community capacity building and creation of demonstrable models.
  3. Many NGOs have worked hard to include children with disability in schools, end caste- based stigma and discrimination, prevent child labour and promote gender equality resulting in women receiving equal wages for the same work compared to men.
  4. During natural calamities they have played an active role in relief and rehabilitation efforts, in particular, providing psycho-social care and support to the disaster affected children, women and men.
  5. NGOs have been instrumental in the formation and capacity building of farmers and producers’ cooperatives and women’s self- help groups.
  6. NGOs have implemented the Jeevan Dhara programme for creation of wells for safe drinking water; promoted community toilets for total sanitation, and supported the public health programs on immunisation and for eliminating tuberculosis and malaria.
  7. NGOs have significantly influenced the development of laws and policies on several important social and developmental issues such as the right to information, juvenile justice, ending corporal punishment in schools, anti-trafficking, forests and environment, wildlife conservation, women, elderly people, people with disability, rehabilitation and resettlement of development induced displaced people to name a few.
  8. NGOs can and should play the “game changer” to pro-poor development through leadership on participatory research, community empowerment and search for development alternatives.
  9. Further, the industrial policies have influenced the formation and relations between the businesses and NGOs.
  10. The emphasis of industrial policies on the promotion and development of small, cottage and village industries has also lead to the formation of agencies such as the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Small Industries Associations and likes


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