Sunday, May 28, 2023

The legal status, powers & functions of CSOs

A Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) is an organization of non-profit, non-government, non-political, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international levels and it works differently from the public sectors like the government, and the private sectors, made up of business, corporation, and other for profit ventures. The characteristic of a CSO shall be independent of Government control in its operations and management with its aims, objectives and purposes to achieve sustainable human development on a voluntary non-profit basis. CSOs are to respect the values, rights and freedom set out in the Constitution and makes a decision without patronage, favouritism or political influence with its aims at the highest ethical standard particularly of honesty and integrity. CSO plays multiple roles. They are an important source of information for citizens and government. They monitor government policies and actions and hold government accountable. They engage in advocacy and offer alternative policies for government, the private sector and other institutions. They deliver services especially to the poor and undeserved. They defend citizen rights and work to change and uphold social norms and behaviours. They hold institutions to account and promotes transparency, raising awareness of societal issues; delivering services to meet education, health, food and security needs, bringing expert knowledge and experience to shape policy and strategy; giving power to the marginalized; and encouraging citizen engagement. Civil Society is the space in which social movements are organized to represent diverse and sometimes contradictory social interests. In this way, it acts as an arena where different interest compete, compromise, and find solutions before legislation or arbitration becomes necessary. Civil Society Organizations(CSOs) play a significant role in the social, economic and democratic development of the Asia and Pacific region. They manage billions of dollars in development funds that they raise themselves, or with which they have been entrusted by government, foundations, individual benefactors, companies, and inter-government organizations. CSO-led campaigns have stimulated international agreements and national commitments to address climate change, corruption, debt, genocide, HIV/AIDS, landmines, and the inequitable outcomes of globalization. CSOs are prominent advocates for increased development aid and for lowering trade barriers faced by exports from developing countries to wealthy nations.
In the context of Nagaland there are too many CSOs such as Tribal Hohos or public organizations, union/federation/association/organization of various student/youth/women, and various other associations/organizations/unions/councils from state level to district/sub-divisions/area/ colony goes down to village levels besides various factions and political parties.
The common people are fed up of few such self vested interest Groups (CSOs) mushrooming in every nook and corner in Nagaland. The big Question(?) is whether these CSOs in Nagaland are functioning in its true sense of character with its aims at the highest ethical standard particularly of honesty and integrity ‘OR’ was it they remains as a mouth piece of government and politicians to benefit themselves with contract works or businesses for their own interests to acquire wealth or build political career, or misguide the general public promoting tribalism and divisions, promoting corruptions, holding certain responsibility for self benefits or forming certain CSO to raise funds by way of doing all illegality. However, in Nagaland too many CSOs are not at all require but the need of the hour is a strong trusted CSO who would makes a decision without patronage, favouritism or political influence with its aims at the highest ethical standard of honesty and integrity to over-come or eradicate corruption, abuse of power, misappropriation of public funds, etc, which are seriously ruined the society.
Trust deficit, backdoor appointments, Corruption, etc, are the main problems in Nagaland. In Nagaland anything is possible with the corrupt government/politicians where a defeated candidate with NDPP ticket during the last/recent Nagaland State General Legislative Assembly Election was appointed as Upa-Lokayukta and now holding the charge of Lokayukta till date even after a lapse of one year in total violations of the provisions of Nagaland Lokayukta Act along with the removal of the Nagaland Lokayukta with the intervention of the Supreme Court directing the Lokayukta to assign all the pending matters before him to the Upa-Lokayukta. Lokayukta is a great check on corruption specifically public servants which includes the chief minister, dy. chief minister, ministers, advisors, legislators, the Vice-Chancellor of Universities, commissioners, secretaries, directors which clearly confine to the higher- ups of the state government departments. In Nagaland the corrupt practices includes abuse of power, nepotism, bribery, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, etc and also a very peculiar corrupt practices such as; in the name of Party Fund and higher office and down below deducts certain percentage in a form of commission from developmental project fund, appointing several non-government employees to the rank of commissioners, secretaries/joint secretaries/PRO/Media officer/assistant, etc., including appointing several non-legislator to hold cabinet rank as advisors and advisor ranking minister of state which seriously affects the state exchequer, backdoor appointment, misuse of public funds and properties, drawing monthly salaries without attending offices, fund-raise by way of asking donation, organizations/associations including different groups of churches council often raised fund by way of selling packed food such as moudi, chicken roast or mixed, fruit, vegetable, etc./buffet ticket/lottery ticket/calendar, etc. at an exorbitant rate and several cases of looking for donors or donations with high expectations from rich people/legislators with various reasons according to different seasons, drawing the full amount of project fund without completing the work, no NIT/Open Tender in bigger projects, etc. Another serious corrupt practices was every year the CAG report tabled before the session of NLA detects hundreds crore of rupees been misappropriated by several departments but no action is being taken in the court of PAC which consisted of legislators. Several Organizations/associations/unions including the church groups does several fund-raise which amounts to harassment and day-light robbery and to cite one incident where the charge of Rs.10000/-(Rupees Ten thousand) Admit One for a Wrestling Meet managed by certain department of churches council and now the common people are fed up of too much of “Fund-Raise” in the name of jubilees/missionary projects/conferences/seminar, etc.
Members (including political party worker) or chairman are politically appointed into various state commissions including Nagaland Public Service Commission and slowly losing the credibility and sanctity of the Commission. The Govt. of Nagaland keeps on spending huge amount of money from public funds in buying government vehicles where legislators/HODs are excessively using those vehicles and many government employees who are entitled are also using those government registered vehicles and the misuse of public property don’t end there but certain person who remains close to the boss of the state highest office simply allows friend to use those ones of the government registered vehicle in good condition for personal use and that is also ‘INNOVA’ meant for VIP and even a minister took away a brand new JCB bought by government department for his own personal use and there are also so many cases of misused of government registered trucks for personal use including carrying building materials for the construction of those higher-ups private buildings including misuse of man power especially in uniform departments, etc, every year hundreds of crore of deficit is adding to state budget deficit, etc,. Several back door appointees are now holding HODs in several state departments. Recently the Madras High Court asked the state government to stop regularizing back door appointment in government jobs stating regularizing backdoor entry in public services violates the fundamental rights of those inspiring for public employment especially rural and semi-urban citizens and ordered the State Government to immediately stop back door appointment in public services in order to ensure that equal opportunity is provided to all eligible candidates through open competitive process.
In order to eradicate all these illegalities the Right to Information Act(RTI) 2005 would be one powerful tool as “Information is Power”. However, awareness is still lacking where village council’s resolutions are binding/restricting the citizens not to apply any RTI application to any public authority without the permission of village councils and even few RTI applicants were fined which are totally in contrary to the provisions of the Right to Information Act. And even the government department takes advantage of village council’s resolutions especially in MGNREGA funds and this is happening due to huge involvement of corruption by the public servants and village leaders especially VDB Secretary where crores of money are been misappropriated which are meant for village infrastructural development. Some village council chairman are also president of certain political parties at village level, etc, which is in contrary to the Village Councils Act and instead of promoting clean election they do otherwise. Civil Society is a process that enables groups to implement progress that impact the larger society. The CSOs are to remain a watch dog on all these illegal activities in the state. A relevant quotation given by Ayn Rand – “When you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed”.
However, the fact is that ‘Naga society is doomed’ where an active participation of CSOs are to be function in its true sense of character to rescue the society from its situation as ‘doomed’ and do away with the big difference of the ‘have’ and the ‘have not’ where the few rich group of citizens are becoming richer and the common people are becoming poorer. The Civil Society Actors(CSAs) are active in trying to resolve problems and address issues that are important to society, such as; (a) combating poverty, corruption and economic inequality, (b) promoting the rule of law and accountability, (c) advocating for transparency of government budgets, (d) promoting the environment, (e) combating any forms of discrimination, (f)supporting crime prevention, (g) promoting corporate social responsibility and accountability, (h) promoting the rights of indigenous peoples, (i) combating hate speech, (j) advancing ‘Social Justice’ and ‘Consumer Protection’, etc.
The script is a speech delivered by advocate Kezhokhoto Savi, Asst. Professor Kohima Law College & President Nagaland Voluntary Consumers’ Organisation (NVCO) as speaker during a two-day seminar on “Issues confronting the State of Nagaland”, organized by Nagaland Law Students’ Federation (NLSF) on the topic “The legal status, powers and functions of Civil Society

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