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NGOs and Corporates Aiding In Governance | Legacy IAS

Context:

It is well known that the collaborative effort of markets and the Government leads to development of a country. We also know that engaging with communities and non-state informal institutions is as important as working with the Government machinery.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Management of Social Sector/Services, Transparency and Accountability in Governance)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Role of NGOs in Indian Democracy
  2. Benefits of having non-state actors engaging with communities
  3. About Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  4. How is the CSR law helping?
  5. Conclusion

Role of NGOs in Indian Democracy

  • NGOs endeavour to plug gaps in the government’s programmes and reach out to sections of people often left untouched by state projects. For example, providing aid to migrant workers in Covid-19 crisis.
  • They are engaged in diverse activities, relating to human and labour rights, gender issues, healthcare, environment, education, legal aid, and even research.
  • Community-level outfits and self-help groups are critical for bringing any change in the ground – and in the past, such grass roots organisations have been enabled by collaborations with bigger NGOs and research agencies that have access to foreign funding.
  • There are also many political NGOs that mobilise public opinion against government’s policies and actions.
  • A key pillar of democratic governance is citizens’ power to question the state. NGOs and voluntary groups/organisations have played a significant role in building capacities of citizens to hold governments accountable.
  • They also mobilize and organize the poor to demand quality service and impose a community system to accountability on the performance of grassroots government functionaries.
  • Many civil society initiatives have contributed to some of the path-breaking laws in the country, including the Environmental Protection Act-1986, Right to Education Act-2009, Forests Rights Act-2006 and Right to Information Act-2005.
  • The social inter-mediation is an intervention of different levels of society by various agents to change social and behavioural attitudes within the prevailing social environment for achieving desired results of change in society.
  • It is common knowledge that the District Collector calls on vetted NGOs/CSOs to implement various schemes during the normal course of the day or to step in at short notice when calamities strike. NGOs and CSOs sometimes do the heavy lift and ensure that schemes reach the last person even in the face of disaster. When non-state actors take a large load off the state’s shoulder, the state can focus more on governance.

Benefits of having non-state actors engaging with communities

  • Non-state actors, because of their depth of engagement with communities, bring patient capital to corporate board rooms and help the state, too, by engaging in welfare activities.
  • Corporate houses, when implementing their CSR activities, and governments, when executing their flagship projects, especially in the years preceding elections, are aggressive in their targets. But that doesn’t necessarily work in the development sector where change happens at a glacial pace. It is the non-state actors, who know the lay of the land, who bridge the gap between people and firms/state.

About Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

  • The term “Corporate Social Responsibility” in general can be referred to as a corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare.
  • Section 135 of the Companies Act mandates corporates who are beyond a certain level of profits and turnover to pay at least 2% of their net profits before tax to the development space.
  • India is the first country in the world to mandate CSR spending along with a framework to identify potential CSR activities.
  • The indicative activities, which can be undertaken by a company under CSR, have been specified under Schedule VII of the Act. The activities include:
    • Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty,
    • Promotion of education, gender equality and empowering women,
    • Combating Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and other diseases,
    • Ensuring environmental sustainability;
    • Contribution to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund or any other fund set up by the Central Government for socio-economic development and relief and funds for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, other backward classes, minorities and women etc.

How is the CSR law helping?

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) grants, which wouldn’t necessarily have flowed had it not been for the CSR law, have assumed importance to provide the much-needed sustenance to NGOs and CSOs as key players in non-state governance.
  • This law gives corporates the necessary impetus to collaborate with non-state actors like Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
  • This strengthening of citizenry-private partnerships is a major component of development activities and this is a classic case of state-driven governance mechanism promoting collaboration among non-state actors.

Conclusion

  • The tension between the tenets of liberty and equality is balanced by fraternity provided by the empathetic NGOs and CSOs in the journey towards a development state.
  • The CSR law has made the corporate world not only clean its own mess but has also created a legal framework for corporates to work with NGOs and CSOs.
  • NGOs and CSOs in India, irrespective of the open hostility of the current dispensation, will play a major role in mobilising citizen action to right various wrongs. They can help contribute to better polity as well as better governance.
  • Most importantly, they have the legitimacy to operate not just as actors who must ride into the sunset after their job is done but to be as integral cogs in the wheel of good governance.

-Source: The Hindu

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