Dialogue  January-March, 2011, Volume 12 No. 3


Astha Bharati News

J.N. Roy

Astha Bharati organised a workshop on the "Role of Civil Society in Governance and Social Reconstruction in the North-East on Dec 8, 2010 at the India International Centre, New Delhi. This was in continuation of an earlier workshop in Guwahati on Sept 3&4, 2010 on the same subject. (reported in Dialogue Vol. 12:1), to concretise and firm up the ideas generated earlier by a smaller group and select group. The workshop in Delhi was attended by 15 persons who represented a cross-section of expertise from NE and other parts of the country. The workshop was conducted by Dr. Jayanta Madhab, President, Astha Bharati. Participants included Shri P.D. Rai MP, Pratyush Sinha, ex-CVC, R.S. Pandey IAS (Retd.), Interlocutor for Nagaland, P.C. Haldar IPS (Retd.) Interlocutor for Assam, Prakash Singh IPS (Retd.), Ms. Patricia Mukhim, editor, Shillong Times and a prominent social activist, Shri Toki Blah IAS (Retd.) Meghalaya, Shri T.N. Mannen IAS (Retd.) Nagaland, S.P. Talukdar IPS (Retd.) former member NSAB, Dr. Gulshan Sachdeva JNU, Dr. Sunil Kaul, a prominent a civil society activist from Assam, A.S. Arthur ex-civil servant from Manipur, Bimal Pramanik an academic from Kolkata, J.N. Roy, Treasurer and Dr. B.B. Kumar, Secretary, Astha Bharati.
        There was a consensus that corruption which is endemic and all pervasive is the root cause of mis-governance in the country and is not only peculiar to the NE. It was felt that unless this menace is addressed effectively all the developmental statistics will become delusional and sap the moral fibre of society and country. It was in this context that the role of civil society in enhancing the governance and delivery system which mainly affects the poor and marginalised, was discussed.
            Following were the highlights of the deliberations:

(1) Civil society (CS) has a definite role in improving governance. However, though active in various spheres, it is still an amorphous entity and needs to be structured, particularly at the lower levels, to be effective.
(2) C.S. should do some capacity building, and flag concrete steps to improve governance.
(3) Greater interaction with political and administrative apparatus by CS is essential.
(4) There is need for an apex body of CS to keep direction and focus.
(5) C.S. should endeavour to act as the voice and conscience of the poor and marginalised and not be deterred by lack of response from the authorities.
(6) Improvements in delivery system, use of technology, speedy and deterrent punishment by simplifying the procedures of delivery system was suggested for minimising mis-governance and misconduct.
(7) It was felt that mere legal and procedural measures will not be enough. There is need to recreate the societal and traditional values from school level itself in which civil society can play an important role.
(8) It was also felt that there are enough people in all walks of life whose services can be harnessed by the CS to pressurise govt. to improve matters.
(9) There was also a need to be discerning in public discourse to support honest and effective politicians and civil servants. C.S. should not indulge only in negative criticism painting everything in black. C.S. should also emphasise the positive and in poverty alleviation play the role of a stake-holder and not of a patron.
(10) Several participants emphasized the importance of Communitisation of delivery system at the cutting edge level by making the actual stake-holders responsible for running it. It has been successfully experimented in Nagaland.
(11) The most emphasised point was that the C.S. should not feel discouraged by lack of response but keep the pressure by continuous activities, by way of petitions, delegations, demonstrations, extensive use of RTI, recourse to legal actions and publications. Demonstrative actions are more fruitful than mere article writings.
(12) It was also decided to forward the recommendations to the govt. and circulate it widely among academics, NGO’s, civil society entities and other interested groups.


                        Participants of the workshop (from l. to r.) : Bimal Pramanik,
                                                                                B.B. Kumar, Toki Blah, T.N. Mannen, A.S. Arthur, J.N. Roy, P.C. Haldar, Patricia Mukhim,                                             Pratyush Sinha, R.S. Pandey, Jayanta Madhab, Prakash Singh, Sunil Kaul, Gulshan Sachdeva.


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

                                               Astha Bharati