Role of Civil Society & NGO Notes for UPSC

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Role of Civil Society in Developmental Process

  • “3rd sector” (After Govt & commerce) in Dev process— Influences Policy-makers & businesses
  • Democracy & civil society are twins, integrally related to each other.
  • India has a long history of civil society based on the concepts of “daana” means giving and “seva” means service.
  • In Gandhian values of volunteerism, During INM—VOs like handloom weavers co-op
  • Crucial role in G.G— Act as interface b/t Govt & governed—
    • Creation of “Social Capital” + Ownership through engagement– “Jan Bhagidari”
    • Watchdog—against violation of HRs & governing deficiencies
    • Advocate (PGs)—Of weaker sections, MKSS (RTI)
    • Agitator — on behalf of aggrieved citizens.
    • Educator — of citizens on their rights, entitlements & R/S & Govt about the pulse of people.
    • Service provider — to areas & people not reached by Govt
    • Mobiliser — of public opinion
    • Social audits, RTI etc
  • Civil Society Window (2004)—To enable people to engage with Planning Commission and offer the benefit of their field experiences.
  • Constructive & collaborative engagement with civil society is imperitive for for  Inclusive, equitable & sustainable Dev & making Dev a “Jan Andolan”

National Policy on Voluntory sector 2007

  • Objectives–
    1. To encourage, enable & empower an independent & effective voluntary sector by creating an Enabling Env
    2. Creating an enabling Env for VOs  + Enable them to mobilize necessary financial resources
    3. Est Rel b/w Govt & Voluntary Sector on basis of Principles of mutual trust & respect and with shared R/S.
  • Issues–
    1. Most of policies envisaged r not implemented.  Ex–National accreditation agency for NGOs has not been formed 

Role of NGos in Development


  • Non-profit groups which pursue purposes of public interest & works independently of Govt
  • To Supplement Dev efforts of Govt—> Welfare state (DPSPs) —> S-E Democracy

Importance of NGOs in Governance

  • Collaborative, Participatory & Effective Gov + Holistic Dev & Inclusive Dev Process + Making Dev a “Jan andolan”
  • Good Gov + Vibrant Democracy—
    • ↑ Govt’s A/C— Act as ‘watchdog’ or third party ‘auditor’– By RTI, Social Audit etc
    • ↑ QoS delivery at local level
    • Vibrant civil society + Building Community Participation
    • Formation & capacity building of cooperatives & women’s SHGs 
    • Acting as a Social Mediator:
  • Role in Disaster Mgt– DMA 2005 calls for community based, participatory approach to DM.
    • GOONJ— provides relief during Rahat floods in WB, Assam and Bihar
    • During COVID-19— Akshaya Patra Foundation, Kashtakari Panchayat—Raised fund to support workers in Pune

Role of NGOs in Policy formulation & Implementation

  • Policy Formation–
    • UNDP— NGOs have a sig role to augment Resources, connect with public & oversee meaningful policy implementation.
    • BRM Committee— They have effective role in implementing Community Dev schemes
    • Influenced Govt to bring— EPA 1986, RTI, ICDS, MNREGA, JJ act, FRA 2006
    • Their ground research, expertise, Data & reports provides Policy insights—
      1. IPCC report— influences C.C policies.
      2. ASER report—Edu policies
  • Policy Implementation–Provides committed expertise, Ground experience,
    • ↑ Reach & penetration to untouched sections— Better conveying Govt message– Due to their proximity to masses
      1. UP– Helped in eradicating hesitancy on polio vaccine (seen as planned sterilization) 
      2. Reaching out to tribal people
      3. Helping migrants in Covid-19
    • Vital in areas like— LGBT rights, Mental health, Menstruation etc– More awareness req–
      1. Shraddha foundation (MH)– For mentally challenged
      2. Ammada Trust’s “#Giveher5” campaign to provide sanitary napkins, Sacchi saheli
      3. Saathi, NAZ– For LGBT
    • Social influence & Persuasion— NGOs role in ‘Darwaza band’ campaign, BBBP
    • Partner in implementation of Govt schmes
      1. Akshaya Patra Foundation to implement MDM
      2. Piramal Foundation for ADP
    • Behavioural change–
      1. Lepra society (for leprosy patients), Snehalaya (for HIV infected) 
      2. HelpAge India— Awareness on elderly care + campaigns for child’s R/S to take care of parents.  
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Role of NGOs in S-E Development

↑ Performance on Dev indicators & SDGs—↑ reach of Govt policies

  • Education—Pratham (ASER), K.C. Mahindra Edu Trust ( Promote higher edu) 
  • Health— Public Health Foundation of India, Udaan welfare foundation—Help destitute—Cancer chemotherapy center.
    • Paryas Society (NGO)— started ‘Asptal – Sansad Mobile Swasthya Seva’ initiative to pro­vide free PHC in the remotest locations of Hamirpur constituency in HP.
  • Women—Sewa, Sathin, Eklavya, Disha
  • Env Protection—Greenpeace, WWF, TERI, Vanashakti NGO.
      • Awareness campaigns, Plantation drives, promoting eco sustainable practices 
  • Protection & promotion of HRs
    • Amnesty Intl
    • Naz foundation—LGBT rights
    • Women empowerment– Azad Foundation, Sewa, Sathin, Eklavya, Disha e
    • Chetna, CRY & BBA—Child rights—works for street & working children
    • Akshaya trust—To restore human dignity  Rehab, food & care to street destitute
    • NavsarjanProtect Dalit rights
    • Samata– Protection of tribal rights

Issues & Challenges

  • Non-A/C, Non-T/P & Undemocratic functioning—
    • CBI report— <10% NGOs file annual financial statements
    • Misappropriation of funds & Corruption
    • Lack of T/P–> Doubt on ‘Genuineness’ of their non-profit spirit–> Aversion in donating funds
  • Security Concerns ass with NGOs 
    • Org crime & Terror funding— NGO IRF accused of diverting funds for terrorism & radicalization.
    • Conduits for Tax evasion & ML
    • Foreign-funded NGOs tries to propagate foreign propaganda— Obstructionist activism— Stall Dev projects— Green Peace in Kudankulam Protest 
    • Create Hurdle in internal security— AFSPA opposed by Amnesty intl for HRs concerns.
    • Thwats Democracy— manipulate election  
  • Undermining Development Activities
    • IB Report– NGO activism  reduces India’s GDP by 2-3% per year.
  • Over-regulations—
    • In 2018 cancelled licenses of nearly 20,000 NGOs receiving foreign funds under FCRA.  
  • Difficulties to get funds
  • Cultural hurdles–Often seen as encroaching on culture. Ex– Protest Ban of Jallikattu after a PIL by PETA 

Way Forward

  • S. Vijay Kumar committee–
    • “Light regulation” of NGOs— Need for a separate law for VOs    
    • Need for a nodal body to oversee the various interfaces b/w NGOs & Govt  
    • Modernise Registration procedures to facilitate seamless operation of IT Act & FCRA
  • 2nd ARC & NPoVS 2007— Est a National Accreditation Council— to devise an accreditation system for VOs obtaining funds from Govt. 
  • Improving governance– Having a Board for governing NGO + Capacity building of staff 

FCRA 2010


  • Regulate acceptance & utilization of foreign funds or hospitality + Prohibit their use for any activities detrimental to NI. 

Recent actions 

  • Govt suspends FCRA clearance of 4 christian Groups 
  • Cancelled license of NGOs like—Sabrang Trust, Lawyer’s collective, Compassion Intl.
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FCRA Amendment Bill 2020—  

  • Extended Prohibition to accept foreign contrib to P.S along with earlier—election candidates, judges, Govt servants, MP/MLAs etc
  • Prohibits transfer of foreign funds to any other person (2010 act— can be transferred to person registered under FCRA)
  • Aadhar of all office bearers mandatory for Registration or its renewal
  • Now max 20% funds can be used for Adm purposes (2010 Act—50%) 
  • Govt may conduct an inquiry before renewing the certificate
  • Foreign funds must be received only in an A/C designated by bank as “FCRA A/C” in notified branches of SBI, New Delhi.
  • Mandatory renew of licence every 5 yr—↑ Govt’s discretion

Criticisms of FCRA 

  • Chilling effect on
    • Freedom of free speech—Allowing only some political groups to receive foreign donations & disallowing others
    • Freedom of ass under Art 19(1)(a) & 19(1)(c)  
  • May be used to target polit­ical opponents & religious minorities.
  • As a tool to curb legitimate dissent —FCRA used as a tool of repression
  • Sec 5 gives Union “unchecked & unbridled powers” to declare an org as of political nature & deny it access to foreign funds—Misused

Why amendment?

  • To enhance T/P & A/C in receipt & utili­sation of foreign contri + facilitating “genuine” NGOs which are working for wel­fare of society.
  • Cut adm ex­penses to ensure that NGOs not use donations for personal use & to prevent siphoning of funds


  • SC— A balance has to be drawn b/w the objectives of legislation & rights of VOs to have access to foreign funds.

Role of SHGs in Development


  • A ‘self-governed, peer controlled voluntory Ass of people with similar S-E background who aspire to improve their living stds & address their common problems’
  • Origin—ROSCA (Rotating savingd & Credit Ass)—> Gained momentum after 1992 (SHG Bank Linkage Project)

Importance of SHGs

  • Poverty alleviation & Rural Dev —
    • Financial inclusion– Facilitates access to credit & Micro Finance to poors + SHGs members act as “Banking Correspondent” (Bank sakhi prog)
    • Provide Livelihood  (By vocational training, skill dev)– Improved living standards
    • Promotes savings & investments
    • Promotes Entrepreneurship—self-employment through setting of micro-enterprise
  • Awareness generation + Efficacy in implementation of Govt schemes
    • Social Audits
  • Many +ve externalities
    • ↑ literacy, Nutrition– Operates PDS shops (MH)
    • ↑ Maternal & Chilld health– By implementing ICDS & MDM
    • Better health care, family planning
    • Voice to marginalized—Social justice + Inclusive growth.
  • Social Justice & Women empowerment–
    • Financial independence through self-employment
    • Encourages entrepreneurship
    • Financial independence— ↑ Literacy rates, nutritional status– ↑ their self esteem
    • Inculcates leadership skill—participate actively in gram sabha & elections
    • SHGs bonds women into a collective force–> Act as PGs—Prohibition of liquor in Bihar bcz of pressure from women SHGs.
  • Facilitate–
    • Democratic Deepening & Grassroot empowerment ( Act as PGs at Village level)
    • Creation of Social capital 
    • Combating Social ill— Close liquor shops
    • Imbibing spirit of Self Help, Democracy, Social Solidarity & social cohesiveness
  • Role of SHGs during COVID-19
    • MoRD— 132 lakh+ masks were produced by 14.5 k SHGs
    • Women SHG members (Bank Sakhis)— provided doorstep banking services— pensions etc
    • Kudumbashree—Dispelling fake news + disseminating authentic information through WhatsApp groups + Delivered free ration + Running kitchens around  state
    • Prerna SHG (UP)—communicated on social distancing by street art & wall paintings.
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Case studies

  • Kudumbashree (Kerala)—Skill training & poverty eradication of women
  • Sorath Mahila Vikas Mandali (Gir region) fighting social taboos by helping widows
  • TN used SHGs to inculcate sanitation habits among people under SBM
  • Haryana used for increasing sex ratio & BBBP
  • SHGs like SEWA, Lizzat papad promotes entreprenurial culture among women.
  • TANWA ( TN Women in Agri) by TN govt

Govt steps

  • NABARD efforts–
    • SHG-Bank Linkage Prog—For providing micro-finance / Collateral-free loans to SHGs.
    • By providing grant for training, capacity building, skill upgradation. 
    • “Women SHGs Development Fund” (NABARD) with a corpus of 500 cr 
    • e-shakti initiative– for Digitisation of SHGs
  • Rashtriya Mahila Kosh—acts as a facilitating agency & provides loans to NGO-MFIs
  • Budget 2019-20
    • Women SHG interest subvention prog to be expanded to all districts
    • Women SHG having a Jan dhan a/c to be allowed a overdraft of ₹5000.
  • NRLM, DAY –NRLM— To promote self-employment in rural areas through formation & skilling of SHGs.
  • Recent Announcement–
    • To create 75 lakh SHGs by 2022
    • 2x collateral free loans to WSHGs from 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.

Challenges for SHGs

  • Socio-cultural hurdles—  
    • Embedded Patriarchy, Caste Rigidities
    • Illiteracy— Information asymmetry  
    • Lack of financial literacy—Creates Mgt & Governance issues
  • Lack of proper training regarding production tech, quality, packing, etc—No competitive adv.
  • Problems related to Raw Materials, Marketing—Bcz of
    • Lack of linkages with marketing agencies
    • Inadequate sales promotion
    • Issues of quality & Tough Competition
  • 2nd ARC
    • Most of their activities are still based on primitive skills related mostly to primary sector enterprises—Poor value addition—No substantial increase in the income of group members
    • SHG has led to definite social empowerment of poors but economic gains rnot adequate to bring a qualitative change in their life.  

Way forward

  • Est separate SHG monitoring cell in every state
  • Awareness camps about schemes of assistance available to SHSGs 
  • Invest in digital-financial literacy & Entrepreneurship Dev 
  • With increasing Urban poors—Need to develop & strengthen SHG network in urban areas.
  • 2nd ARC—SHGs needs to be extended to urban & peri-urban areas

SHGs are imperative for economic revival & reconstruction in post covid order