Retributions | The Government Doesn’t Approve of Civil Society Interventions…

…Except when it does

Much has been said by senior ministers and super ministers on the “civil society’s” —it self a curious term—demand for a strengthened Lokpal bill. Little of what has been said has been charitable. However, much of this criticism is valid as an elected government cannot be expected to outsource the constitutional obligation of drafting laws to an amorphous group of self-styled warriors. However, it is curious to note how much the government of India and the Congress party has encouraged its own brand of civil society—conceivably more pliable than Mr. Hazare and Baba Ramdev.

Take the National Advisory Council (NAC) for example. None of its members save its chairperson, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, are elected. Yet from the National Rural Employement Guarantee Act (NREGA) to the proposed law to combat communal riots, its imprimatur on some of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government most important and far-reaching policy decisions can be clearly seen. Not only that in case of conflicts between the government and NAC, this unelected cabal of civil society activists have invariably triumphed. The government’s abdication on the proposed food guarantee bill is just the latest instance,

The bill, which will give the poor the right to subsidised foodgrain entitlements, has accepted “most” suggestions of the National Advisory Council (NAC) and deviations, if any, are “minor”, said K.V. Thomas, the minister of state holding independent charge of food, consumer affairs and public distribution.

Two key recommendations of the NAC — coverage of above poverty line households and lifelong applicability — that did not find favour with the government appear to have found space in the draft. [link]

It is not clear why Mr. Digvijaya Singh’s eminently sensible suggestion that [the] “task of finalizing the draft of the Bill could not be left to a few members of civil society” is not applicable to the NAC. ” It is the Congress party which has provided “civil society” members with a virtual veto on important government decisions.

So why are they complaining now?