Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee



What can civil society do for good governance?

This question has often been asked. The answer is: lots. As Individual and as part of a community. Through heart and head. Through emotion and intellect. As part of the civil society one should have empathy towards our people. There has to a kind of bridging not mere bonding. There has to be a sense of oneness and a sense of justice.

Civil society, which is responsible and responsive-must try to understand how development can happen. It must look for what is needed, and not what is wanted. And it must help the under privileged to stand on their feet.

Here are 9 points on what can civil society do:

  1. Limit and control the power of the state: Civil society actors should watch how state officials use their powers.  They should raise public concern about any abuse of power.  They should lobby for access to information, including freedom of information laws, and rules and institutions to control corruption.
  2. Expose the corrupt conduct of public officials: To expose the corrupt conduct of public officials and lobby for good governance reforms.  Even where anti-corruption laws and bodies exist, they cannot function effectively without the active support and participation of civil society.
  3. Promote political participation: NGOs can do this by educating people about their rights and obligations as democratic citizens, and encouraging them to listen to election campaigns and vote in elections.  NGOs can also help develop citizens’ skills to work with one another to solve common problems, to debate public issues, and express their views.
  4. Develop the other values of democratic life: Civil society organizations can help to develop the other values of democratic life:  tolerance, moderation, compromise, and respect for opposing points of view. Without this deeper culture of accommodation, democracy cannot be stable.  These values cannot simply be taught; they must also be experienced through practice.
  5. Lobby for the needs and concerns: Civil society is an arena for the expression of diverse interests, and one role for civil society organizations is to lobby for the needs and concerns of their members, as women, students, farmers, environmentalists, trade unionists, lawyers, doctors, and so on.
  6. Provide new forms of interest and solidarity: Civil society can strengthen democracy is to provide new forms of interest and solidarity that cut across old forms of tribal, linguistic, religious, and other identity ties.
  7. Inform the public about important public issues: Civil society can help to inform the public about important public issues.  This is not only the role of the mass media, but of NGOs which can provide forums for debating public policies and disseminating information about issues before parliament that affect the interests of different groups, or of society at large.
  8. Mediate and help to resolve conflict: Civil society organizations can play an important role in mediating and helping to resolve conflict.
  9. Monitor the conduct of elections: This requires a broad coalition of organizations, unconnected to political parties or candidates


However, please note that civil society is not in tension with the state.  Because civil society is independent of the state doesn’t mean that it must always criticize and oppose the state.  In fact, by making the state at all levels more accountable, responsive, inclusive, effective—and hence more legitimate—a vigorous civil society strengthens citizens’ respect for the state and promotes their positive engagement with it.

A democratic state cannot be stable…unless it is effective and legitimate, with the respect and support of its citizens.  Civil society is a check, a monitor, but also a vital partner in the quest for this kind of positive relationship between the democratic state and its citizens.

Wink and Hoodwink

For the last couple of days, media of the whole nation are reporting, talking, discussing, dissecting only two things: a wink and a hoodwink.

Eighteen years old pretty Malayalam girl Priya winks and raises her eyebrows and the whole media go crazy. Forty-eight year old half bald Gujju Nirav Modi hoodwinks the nations and departs with the loot. Media again go crazy.

We, the common people thus are hemmed between a wink and a hoodwink.

Tailpiece: Nirav Modi

As I asked my friend Nabaghana to return the money he had borrowed from me, he said,
Jao pehle us Arav se paise leke aao, phir mujh garibse Lena.

Tailpiece 2 : Nirav Modi

Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi are starting an ashram south of London.


It is called “The Art of Leaving”.


The author is a journalist turned media academician. He lives in Central Odisha town Dhenkanal. He also writes fiction.  English translation of his Odia novel Yamraj Number 5003 has just been published. [email protected]