Institute for Social and Economic Change

Working Paper: 283

Civil Society and Policy Advocacy in India


V Anil Kumar



Can civil society speak truth to power in Indian democracy? In times when civil society is making headlines every day, this working paper considers some questions regarding the process through which civil society does policy advocacy. Defining civil society as medium and large NGOs, this paper raises some serious questions: When does civil society matter? Can civil society influence public policy? If so, how does it do it? When does it fail? What are the areas in which it can influence policy? What are the areas in which it fails to make any impact? This paper suggests that in attempting to advocate policies to the state i.e., in attempting to speak truth to power, civil society—even when defined as NGOs—does a quintessential political act of engaging the state.

Working Papers