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Essay and Composition on Civil Society in Bangladesh
Introduction: Now-a-days the idea of civil society is being discussed with much serious importance attached to it. It is being accepted as truth that democracy is the most suitable form of government at present. So, if democracy is to be attained in a real sense, then the conspicuous and effective presence of a strong and dynamic civil society is imperative. Bangladesh is not an exception to this. But unfortunately, civil society in Bangladesh is not so strong to protect and where the rights of the citizen and make the government more and more oriented to the people and democracy. However, the civil society in our society and country is taking root gradually with gradual movement of the nation toward democratic governance and politics from early 1990s.
Concept of Civil Society: Civil society or civic space occupies the middle ground between government and the private sector. In this domain, we are ‘public’ beings and share with government a sense of publicity and a regard for the general good and common purpose; but unlike a monopoly on legitimate coercion. Rather we work here voluntarily and in this sense inhabit a private realm devoted to the cooperative pursuit of public goods. So, civil society is voluntary and constituted by freely associated individuals and groups, but unlike private sector, it aims at common ground and consensual modes of action. Civil society is public without being coercive, voluntary without being privatized. It other words, civil society is the domain of citizens a mediating domain between private markets and big government.
According to Larry Diamond, ‘Civil society is an intermediary entity, standing between the private sphere and the state. Thus it excludes individual and family life, inward looking group activity, the profit making enterprise of individual business firms and political efforts to take control of the state.’ So, the general features of the civil society involves the following:
1. Civil Society emphasizes on the public ends rather than the private.
2. Winning formal power of the state is not the objective of civil society, Rather it expects concessions, benefits, policy changes, relief, redress or accountability from the state. Those civic organizations and civic movements which want to change the nature of the state can be considered as the part of civil society if producing public welfare instead of capturing power is the part of their activities. Thus, peaceful movements for democratic transition typically spring from civil society.
3. Civil society concentrates much more or pluralism and diversity.
4. Another feature of civil society is impartiality which means that no group in civil society seeks to represent the whole of a persons or a community’s interest. Rather different groups represent different interest.
Functions of Civil Society: In the modern state and society specially in democratic one, civil society play numerous roles, such as-
First, civil society provide the basis for the limitation of state power, hence for the control of the state by society, and hence for democratic political institutions as the most effective means of exercising that control.
Second, mobilization of civil society can reveal the abuses prevailing in undemocratic societies and weaken the legitimacy of these regimes. In the last two decades civil society played an important role in many democratic transitions.
Third, civil society is inevitably essential for containing the power of the democratic government, protecting power abuses and violation of laws and subjecting the government to public security Basically, civil society is more essential for consolidating and maintaining a democratic set up rather than initating it. Civil society can be crucial in creating to, moderation and willingness to compromise and a respect for opposing viewpoints.
Fourth, living outside realm of political parties civil society can render services like articulation of interests, aggregation and representation for the sake of democracy. Civil society can create access to power for women and for racial and ethnic minorities.
Fifth, civil society by creating a sustainable and organized pressure from the grassroots level can help the development of political and social equalities and if it is possible, the quality, responsiveness and legitimacy of democracy deepened.
Sixth, civil society can play a vital role in recruiting and training of new political leadership. Civil organization and groups can create ground for democratic teaching and learning through organizing seminars, debates, publications etc.
After all, within national states, both government and private sector can be humbled a little by a growing civil society. Citizens inhabiting a vibrant civil society worry less about elections and leaders and term limits and scandals. They simultaneously free themselves from the free markets that otherwise imprison them in a commercial mentality that leaves no room for community or, for spirit.
Civil Society in Bangladesh: Civil society in Bangladesh is still weak Democratic institutions are still in their formative stage. Even the civil society today is largely divided along the political lineage. This has severely affected the growth of the civil society. Ideological division among the civil society members is another characteristic of our civil society. They are divided into many ideological blocks as left and right. Such political lineage, ideological division and less commitment to democracy and development restrains the smooth functioning of civil society and hence it’s role in protecting the rights and liberties of the citizens remained low.
However, sporadic civic actions take place against the prejudicial acts of the government and the hegemonies stratum. They are not many in number but perhaps they are increasing slowly and gradually. Some civic actions are cited below which are indicative of the nature, stage and strength of the civil society in the country.
a. Protest Against Violence: Violence is one of the socio-political scenarios of our society. As more and more cases of violence are reported in the media, cross-sections of the people tend to act more in favor of the victims. In recent years, some incidents of violence were adequately reported in the press which drew mass attention and fuelled public wrath against the criminals. Particularly Rima murder, Yasmeen murder by policemen Beema killing in Chittagong, Rubel murder under police custody etc. are the cases that brought citizen groups in the street to protest against criminals.
b. Human Rights Journalism: The press, specially the print media has evolved as a powerful tool of the civil society. Correspondents try to report incidents of human right violation occurring in remote villages, sometimes taking risk of their life. Particular mention may be made about reports on violence against vulnerable groups including women and the minorities, corruption of a section of public servants and political leaders, misappropriation of public resources etc. Press reports are increasingly used as lobby, campaign and action of advocacy groups and human rights organizations.
c. Environmental protection: Concern for conservation of environment of bio-diversity is a recent phenomenon. Although there are many corporate actions mainly initiated by the donors, the spontaneous popular initiative has been very few. Notable among these was the campaign against proposed telling of trees for construction purposes at Osmani Udyan in 1999.
Besides, movement against graft and pollution of Buriganga and other adjoining rivers of the capital also deserve mention.
d. Election monitoring: Violation of election rules and code of conduct are now increasingly observed both in local government and national level elections. Before 2007, the Election Commission in our country was too weak to assert it’s management and monitoring role in order to ensure free election. In this backdrop, monitoring of elections has become on agenda from many civic groups since the parliamentary election of 1991.
e. Police Direction: A strong civil society can help the state and government significantly by giving right directions to make socio-economic and political policies and decisions rightly. In Bangladesh, the think tanks are not well organized and well-equipped to provide govt. with meaningful policy directions.
However, the organization like Center for Policy Dialogue, Mohila Samity etc. are playing minimal role in this regard.
f. Development Activities: As a development partner, civil society in Bangladesh is playing a pivotal role. More specifically speaking, NGOs, who are considered as a part of the civil society, are functional in the field of poverty alleviation, employment generation and socio-cultural development.
However, some scholars disagree on the view to consider NGOs as a part of civil society.
Conclusion: The political and party affiliation of civic groups, organizations and persons has created some controversies regarding their role in the development of the nations. Besides it created division in the civil society which in turn weakened them against government and international conspirators. Some civil society members today on running after bread and butter instead of working for the nation. Sometimes the political groups restrain the uninterrupted functioning of civil society groups through violent actions against them.
However, if the civil society plays it part from a uncontroversial stand, the political forces, especially the government must take them into consideration, otherwise, they would not be able to work for the people.