Civil society need to play role in strengthening of institutions


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Reforms in institutions and role of civil society


In the wake of the second wave of Covid, our failure as a country to hold our government accountable is evident. Civil society perhaps also needs to re-examine its role.

What constitutes civil society

  • India’s civil society has many actors:
  • Grassroots organisations that connect to the last mile and provide essential services.
  • Think tanks and academic institutions that churn out new policy ideas and generate evidence.
  • Advocacy organisations that amplify and build support for causes.
  • Large impact funds and philanthropists who decide how these organisations get funded.

Challenges faced by civil society

  • Government have significantly curtailed the kind of activities that civil society actors can engage in.
  • Philanthropists and donor organisations often find themselves unable to support initiatives that strengthen India’s democracy and its accountability mechanisms, for fear of retribution.
  • By ignoring the politics around policy and focussing disproportionately on technocratic solutions, civil society has also missed the wood for the trees.

How civil society can play role in reforms of democratic institutions

  • In the absence of a strong push from civil society, our democratic institutions have no intrinsic incentive to reform.
  • There is a need to re-examine parliamentary rules that are heavily tilted in favour of the sitting government, strengthen the judiciary, bolster federalism and the independent media, while creating transparency in decision making within the executive.
  • Civil society has an important and irreplaceable role to play here.
  • Civil society organisations too need to broaden their agenda to include issues that strengthen India’s institutions while collaborating to present a strong unified voice that demands more transparency and accountability in all areas and levels of policymaking.
  • This involves taking more fights to the courts on transgressions by the government, building public opinion about expectations from a well-functioning democracy and creating tools and fora that help citizens engage with policymaking more readily.


To not see the strengthening of institutions and the deepening of checks and balances as important areas of work is our collective failure, one we must address immediately.

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