Palash bansal

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Published on February 27, 2014

Author: socialscribblers



This article has been written for Techkriti Blog for a Cause Contest.
The topic was:
Pick up a Non-Governmental-Organisation working for a particular social cause. Write about its objectives, its progress so far and what are its plans for the future.

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Strengthening the roots of a grass blade We have been taught in our school textbooks, that one of the greatest strengths of India is a democratic political structure. A culture where the government is of the people, by the people and for the people. A system where ‘the People of India’ are the ultimate sovereign. The vision of this ideology held by our constitution makers, was to smoothen the process of meeting the aspirations of the people. But over the years somehow, not always intentionally, a big void is formed between those aspirations and the actuality. A vacuum, between the state and its subjects. It is precisely in this empty space, where the non-constitutional and non-statutory pillars have risen to prominence, to compensate for the job that the promised trio of legislature, executive and judiciary were not able to cater to. One such pillar in contemporary Indian social fabric is that of peoples’ organizations.

Let’s first visualize the need for such organizations in our society. At first sight, India looks extraordinarily diverse. It was hard to predict at independence that India as a single nation will ever be able to last long, let alone amidst the chaos that democracy is bound to create. But though these predictions stand defeated, the journey has had many hiccups and can in no justifiable way be called smooth. Instead of lauding at the success of sustaining democracy, what is desperately needed today is to bridge the gap between the society and the state, to make the ideals of inclusive governance and growth into a reality. What we see in the form of legislation and laws today are kneejerk, centralized and generalized policy prescriptions for large and diverse areas. The delivery mechanisms are abysmally illogical and complex. There is vertical and not horizontal accountability, which is to say that if a bureaucrat is successful in pleasing his boss, he considers his job well done. There are leakages in the system, which are not always attributable to an oversimplified problem of corruption. The extremely alluring phenomenon of economic growth is simultaneously making the life of those at the bottom of economic ladder unimaginatively miserable (visualize resettlement and rehabilitation problems for instance). Ignorance on the part of an average citizen

leaves him/her devoid of his/her lawful right. The growing dissatisfaction of various groups of people is pretty evident from widespread agitations and violent sometimes secessionist) movements. It is here where the peoples’ organizations step in. The job of these organizations is two-fold. The first job is to serve as conscience builders of the government. They tell the government where it is going wrong. They highlight the loopholes of a policy, ways to effectively implement it, and bring about more transparency and accountability in people-state interactions. We often hear of pressure groups- the bodies, which bring in enough political voice that can influence the way government makes decisions. There are sufficient examples, which prove that if unchecked, legislations can be very mean towards a normal citizen. One can think of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), older Land Acquisition Act, Section 66a of IT act, to name a few. Putting pressure keeps such arbitrary actions of the government in check. There are various ways by which pressure is put - publishing article, protests, holding conferences, meetings with government officials, informing people, creating public opinion etc.

The second and equally important job that these organizations do, is mobilizing the people. No matter what the various business magazines tell us, we are still a poor country. The rural population of India still surpasses the urban by a great margin. And, relying on the rosy picture portrayed to the middle class that every villager of India has a mobile phone these days is like believing in Santa Claus! The fact is that majority of the people in India even today live a very fragile life. In these circumstances, it is also true that these people are the prime targets of various political parties to use-and-throw for their electoral benefits. The ignorance of normal citizens to the prevailing system of governance often renders them incapable of utilizing the various provisions that are set up for their assistance. Their ignorance get targeted and thus it comes down to peoples organizations to help them shed off this veil and make them aware of their rights, give them a voice, make them demand it, mobilize them, and when they have become potent enough to live a life of dignity and freedom, set them free to reach new heights. One such organization is Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) based in Rajasthan. It works for the empowerment of laborers and farmers. This organization has become pretty famous due to its active involvement in passing of two potentially revolutionary pieces of legislation in India namely RTI and MGNREGA. Whereas RTI is Magna Carta of

transparency in the country, MGNREGA has worked wonders to improve not only the lives of the people but also the entire image of the villages where it is effectively implemented. This organization works on the broad framework described above and deals with various aspects of the public life, ranging from filing complaints and ensuring delivery of public services, to a broad base women empowerment campaigns and ensuring justice to the molested women and children. They were instrumental in making the Rajasthan government pass the Right to Hearing Act, which has made grievance-redressal very convenient. The present area of work in the organization is on Right to Food, but alongside the organization deals with any problem related to governance which people bring to its notice. People working in such organizations are educated and wellinformed people who have left their high paying jobs and have come to make some real positive change in the society. I see a lot of scope of social activism in this country where the extent and complexity of problems are mind-boggling and policy making extremely centralized. It is these organizations and groups that will help pave the road joining the people to their elected representatives, which had been destroyed long back. -Palash Bansal

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