Accepted Paper:

State and civil society in India: anthropological reflections on the role of NGOs in nation-building  

Author:

Chitra Kadam (University of Delhi)

Paper Short Abstract:

The paper deliberates on the rise of the NGO movement in India, focussing on how NGOs tend to bridge the gap between Government and civil society. It also reflects on the role NGOs play in nation-building by strengthening civil society for increased political participation as well as by building the capacity of government at the local level.

Paper long abstract:

The study of relationship between state, civil society and NGOs has been of great theoretical concern to anthropologists and development practitioners. India has witnessed a marked surge in the development of NGO movement. While initially NGOs were engaged with welfare, charity, relief, health, education; in mid-1970s issue-based NGOs came up that were oriented towards human rights, women’s rights, child labor, ecology, etc. NGO movement was further augmented when civil society gradually entered the political space where issues like good governance, partnerships, accountability, etc. were reinforced. The focus of NGOs shifted more towards greater political participation in decision-making and policy analysis. Their struggle took further shape when demands for the basic rights for poor led to the expansion of employment guarantee schemes, mid-day meal in schools and Freedom of Information Act 2002. Therefore, NGOs have been able to intervene in policy-making by converting their demands into specific policies. Concisely, civil society in India has expanded political participation by intervening in the domain on policy making and implementation.

The present paper deliberates on the rise of NGO movement in India and the various phases it has been through. It discusses how NGOs focus on the importance of good governance, partnership, greater governmental efficiency and accountability. The paper reflects on the how NGOs tend to bridge the gap between Government and civil society. It also seeks to understand the role NGOs play in nation-building by strengthening the civil society for increased political participation as well as building the capacity of government at the local level. With more and more anthropologists joining the NGO profession, the policy and intervention strategies became more and more informed by ethnographic richness and insight. The paper traces few such interfaces and examines the implications using a critical perspective.

Panel P131
Fifty years of anthropological associations: reflections on anthropologies and nations (IAA/JASCA joint panel)