Civil Society

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The role of Indian civil society: ensuring State accountability
The roots of an Indian autonomous civil society is not to be found in the contemporary rise of a modern state but foremost in the ancient and medieval history of the country. Cast “panchayats”, village “panchayats”, or traders guilds all illustrates forms of local institutions that had long been untouched by the vicissitudes of the political spheres and remained autonomous from state control. Indian society had been characterised in pre-colonial times by a form of “insularity” that thus ensured an certain independence from state power but also resulted in a stagnation and an impossible unity of the population. However, the modern definition of an Indian civil society has to confront the radical transformation of the State and its consequences on the role of the non-state actors.
The transition to independence was accompanied with the rise of a welfare state, extending state powers into areas that had been previously left to civil society. This “intrusion” of the State and its monopoly on new spheres as education, health or security resulted in a form of state monopoly in almost all public goods, giving to the state the role of first employer of organized workers in the country. The generalisation of taxes, the ownership of public utilities transformed the state into an arbiter between individuals. But this rise of a welfare state pointed out in the same time its dysfunctions and its failures.
Corruption and nepotism put into question the legitimacy of the state power and give a pejorative connotations to the word “politics”. Distribution of licenses, subsidies for the poor, control of the crime order are said to be “the plaything of state functionaries” that have lifetime security. The huge amount of discretionary fund received by the Members of Parliament and Members of Legislatives Assembly to implement economic development programs in their constituencies illustrates this generalisation of the

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