The Future Of India’s Civil Society Organisations

The Future Of India’s Civil Society Organisations


  • Most governments no longer pay attention to civil society organisations (CSO) or movements, either in the pre-legislative stage or in the redress of lacunae in the implementation of government schemes, as a result of the BJP government’s systematic suffocation of civil society over the last nine years. Given that advocacy is essentially dead, civil society’s potential to influence public policy and discourse has significantly diminished. 
  • To advance in the current political environment, civil society must work with other progressive stakeholders.

Points to Ponder:

  • Over the past nine years, the BJP government in India has actively stifled civil society, leading to a lack of government attention to CSOs or movements in the formulation or execution of policies.
  • Due to government crackdowns and resource access limitations, advocacy is almost dead, and civil society’s capacity to influence public discourse and policy has significantly decreased.
  • The BJP government has redefined vikas (development) as the promotion of huge projects rather than the welfare of citizens, and it has demonised civil society as anti-national and detrimental to India’s development trajectory.
  • By situating organisations from the Sangh Parivar and creating a “New Civil Society for New India,” the BJP is leading a structural adjustment of India’s civil society landscape.
  • Government favouritism and corporate social responsibility monies are mostly given to sangh institutions, which changes India’s civil society landscape and sidesteps other CSOs/movements.
  • CSOs and movements continue to use outmoded strategies like protests, essays and papers, talks at think tanks, conferences, and symposiums, and petitions and open letters that fail to pressure governments into making meaningful changes or sway the thinking and behaviour of BJP governments.
  • Progressive CSOs are unable to transform hearts and minds and influence mass consciousness because they do not successfully integrate socio-cultural values with welfare/constructive activities or appeals to safeguard constitutional values.
  • Local communities use progressive CSOs and movements to their advantage while philosophically aligning with the BJP, which wears down important activists.
  • Due to institutional and budgetary limitations, the civil society is losing responsible young people, and without ongoing support, it will be unable to influence public discourse or have a noticeable effect on the country as a whole.
  • The end result is that civil society won’t be able to challenge the status quo, raise the voices of the most marginalised, improve laws and policies through constructive criticism, or advance the common good.
  • The future of India’s progressive civil society may lie in the integration of young activists into political parties, which would institutionalise morality within the parties and enable them to take a multi-layered, systematic approach to difficult problems.
  • A systemic strategy to tackling these challenges could balance ethical/human rights concerns with direct exposure to challenging subjects that could negatively damage parties’ electoral prospects. At the moment, many parties actively avoid such matters.

Way forward

  • Finance: It might be difficult for CSOs to find reliable finance to support their operations. CSOs can solve this by diversifying their financing sources, such as by requesting funds from a number of donors, looking into business collaborations, or creating social entrepreneurship models.
  • Building capacity is important because CSOs frequently lack the tools, personnel, and expertise necessary to carry out their missions successfully. CSOs can take action by funding staff and volunteer capacity-building initiatives like project management, fundraising, and advocacy training.
  • Engagement with stakeholders, such as governmental organisations, other CSOs, and members of the community, may be difficult for CSOs. CSOs can prioritise stakeholder participation in their initiatives and create communication plans to encourage discussion and cooperation to meet this.
  • Influencing policy: CSOs may have difficulties in influencing policy change and campaigning for their causes. CSOs can create coalitions with other CSOs and stakeholders to raise their voices, develop advocacy strategies that are supported by evidence, and address this issue.
  • Risks to security: CSOs may experience security risks as a result of their employment in difficult environments or their advocacy of contentious causes. To solve this, CSOs can make security and risk management a top priority in their operations, including creating protocols for employee safety and enlisting the assistance of security professionals and other organisations.
  • Operational difficulties: CSOs could experience difficulties managing partnerships, managing volunteers, and managing the administrative workload. CSOs can handle this by creating effective operational systems and procedures, such as implementing technological solutions to automate administrative duties, creating volunteer management systems, and forming alliances with organisations that share their goals and values.