Society, Social Accountability and Governance
Dr. Thakur V. Hari Prasad
live in an uncertain world though science and technology have
achieved more control over the forces of the nature.
We live in a Society that does not work and often
appears to be meaningless and empty and seems to be heading
towards disasters. We claim that a lot of development has
But we have to look at this process from a different
angle, and whether our developmental process have led to less
of uncertainty and insecurity are more of this. Are we correct
in claiming - that this is true development? Do our
developmental process Political, Social or Economic, more of
inequality is less? We know fully well that ‘development’
is uneven and unequal, dividing the world as a whole, and
societies and even communities within it, into haves and
have-nots. This, surely creates greater uncertainty and will
result in greater insecurity. The uncertainty is more obvious
for the have-nots, for there is not even certainty of life
itself across the country for them.
Thousands of people die of hunger.
The uncertainties born-out of uneven and unequal
development are less obvious for the haves. Until recently the
haves could avoid the uncertainties of inequality by locking
their doors, avoiding unsafe environments, shutting of their
gaze from what they do not wish to see, and withdraw their
hands and hearts from things they regard as of not their
What is our view of a ‘good society’?
To what extent does such a society exist today?
In a good society what are the roles played by the
citizens, State institutions and other sectors?
What would enable citizens to play their roles more
effectively in the development of such a society in the
It is generally found that in spite of the great
diversity of cultures and the States in which they live, there
should be a strong civil society. A strong state and a strong
society are complimentary and not contradictory. These are
complements, not opposites. A strong state meanings - a
facilitating listening and empowering State as well as a
A deep democratic culture is one that is ‘not merely
a matter of ballot boxes on election days. But more and more
of civilian participation. Participatory democracy is
characterized by inclusive Governance rather than exclusive
Such a view is, in marked contrast to what has been the
conventional political and economic wisdom of recent decades.
Two features of this stand out,
one is that the State public / Governmental sector over
the past decades has shrunk in terms of size and
responsibility, partly by choice and partly because of global
factors including forces that
have forced it to shrink and cede power.
So where have the powers and responsibilities of state
In part, to global powers and forces.
But globally, the powers have been ceded to the second
major actor or sector in society - the market.
Indeed the State’s policies towards the market have
been active and indeed proactive, to encourage and enable the
market focus. Many sound patronizing, unlike doing whatever is
expected of them and the less fortunate do not have a choice.
The State has on the whole - reluctant, but there are
exceptions, to cede to civil society responsibilities and the
required power, compared to its more positive and proactive
policies towards increasing the role and powers of the market
and the private sector. The State has tended to be less
responsive towards the civil society. ‘Benign neglect’
seems to be the most appropriate term to describe the policies
that characterize even the best scenario of Governmental
policy towards the civil society. There are scenarios where
the Government adopts policies that are unhelpful or even
hostile to the civil society.
So when the citizens say they want a strong State and
strong civil society they are saying that they want the State
to be more positive and proactive in its policies towards
civil society. They want the State to view and treat civil
society as a partner.
Citizens want the State to empower civil society, to
value it positively, to enable and facilitate citizens and the
actions they take for the civil, common good.
It also means that citizens are asking the State to go
beyond ‘benign neglect’, not just encouragement support
but facilitate and civil behaviour and action, and also
discourage uncivil action and behaviour.
In short, citizens are saying that they are by no means
certain that the ‘conventional wisdom’ model of societal
functioning is the one that works.
There is a very great challenge here. A strong civil
society is the essential bedrock of a society that works; so
too is a healthy and vibrant democracy a similar essential
The civil society in the new millennium is active and
while they value and want democracy, they feel that at present
it is not as vibrant as it should be.
In terms of their participation they want it to be much
more than putting pieces of paper in ballot boxes every few
years on election days. It thereby indicates that there is a
greater need for a more active role for citizens not as mere
voters or beneficiaries, but as empowered
partners in social, economic and political development.
Citizens and their collective endeavours constitute the
basic fabric of any society.
Individually and together, citizens have always acted
voluntarily to improve their communities and societies.
These actions make up what is frequently referred to as
‘civil society’ working for common good.
There are two points that follow from this. Firstly,
those organisations called voluntary, Non-Governmental
Organizations are only one part of the civil society.
There are many other constituents that make the civil
society, from small, informal groups and endeavours often
called community participative / based organisations or
efforts, to large, mater and various sectors of society, such
as the media, professional bodies and associations, academia,
faith groups, trade unions, etc.
However, unfortunately this also implies - that
individual and collective action taken by people are not
always necessarily ‘civil’ in its form and purpose.
It can be uncivil or in other words detrimental to the
Civil actions make up ‘civil society’. Such actions
of the society, they help create are the basis on which
democracy, pluralism, respect for human rights, good
Governance and the cohesiveness of society rest.
A strong civil society is the bottom line of a society
that works. A good society is characterized by having strong
Government and strong civil society.
Responsibility should go along with corporate social
accountability and social ethics.
In view of this, it should be ensured that
participation and responsibility in a sound civil society,
should percolate down to the non-corporate sections of the
The Corporate sector is characterized by
competitiveness and individualistic orientation.
While these are necessary for the civil society, both
these should operate within the ambit of civil and social
accountability and social responsiveness.
We must help disabled persons with individual and
collective capacities, and the knowledge, skills and abilities
to take on the enlarged roles, we enable them to plan ensure
that this will function as active members of a participatory
These requests are not just directed at the State, they
are directed at the institutions and organizations including
those professions that comprise civil society as well as
corporations and organizations operating in the market.
The culture and values of the market is competitive,
its values are individualistic. Both are needed in the individual and societal psyche but
there is a need to go beyond this. Disadvantaged need to be
enabled to compete survive and prosper, working together and
for the common good of the society with true love, respect and
the acknowledgment of them is imperative for a civil society.
Cooperative participation and social welfare are both the
means and the ends of democratic society.