The term, ‘Civil Society’ comprises non-¬governmental private organizations, associations and institutions, including groups—essentially economic, social, cultural, moral and other such associations. It works outside the state structure and belongs to the realm of autonomous associations and groups formed by individuals in their capacity as private citizens. Civil society performs important duties of checks and balances in democracies. It strives to influence the government and hold it accountable vis-à-vis individual rights. Its activities include, among other things, health, environment and economic rights.
In India, the civil society has been quite vibrant and has been fighting human rights violations like the rampant human trafficking, and sexual exploitation of children and women, thanks to the powerful legal tool in the form of Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which has become an important instrument of social change.
There have been other notable successes too.
For example, the Scheduled Tribes were deprived of several of their natural rights for a long time. The civil rights movements, like Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan, compelled the government to enact the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. This protects the land rights of India’s tribal population throughout the country. On the political front, the tribals of Jharkhand region in Bihar and of Bastar region in Madhya Pradesh have succeeded in compelling the central government to agree to form separate states.
Although, by its very nature, the civil society must play an adversarial role vis-à-vis the state, it is in fact more of a conscience keeper of the nation.
A student preparing for the civil services must be aware of the civil society and its role in the growth of the country. Gurmarg Educare, a premier IAS coaching institute of Chandigarh, leads the way in providing competent and well informed competitors.