Govt accepts legitimate role of civil society

New Delhi: As Anna Hazare has threatened yet another agitation, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid today said government accepts the legitimate role of civil society, but there should be clear cut rules of disagreement and engagement in dealing with each other.

"As far as we (government) are concerned, we have no hesitation and no reservation in accepting that there is an exceptionally legitimate role for civil society in a democracy. It may be discomforting for us time to time…they may be questioning our motives …it makes democracy more stronger and increases its outreach," he said. But at the same time, Khurshid maintained that there is disagreement on every issue in the country as it is part of democracy.

"Dissent is essential to good democracy. But in every democracy, there are rules for resolving disagreement and the rule for taking into account and factoring in dissent and providing for dissent and then turning dissent into a synthesis," he said at the India Today conclave here. Threatening to launch a "big protest" for a strong Lokpal bill, On Friday Anna Hazare had said the government will have to go if it does not bring a strong anti-corruption law.

Social activist Binayak Sen, who was one of the speakers at the session `people vs the establishment round table: Is citizen activism the only way to cleanse India`, said the Food Security Bill -being considered by a Parliamentary panel – takes the country "several steps backward from where we have already reached".

"Instead of improving the situation, the Food Security Bill takes us back," he said while referring to a reported remark of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar that government cannot take responsibility of feeding every mouth in case of a famine. He also spoke against large dams, especially in the northeast and said they are not good for the ecology. Former Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi said in her country the old power structure was under "challenge" even as the role of the media and the civil society was increasing.

She also said the "Imran Khan phenomenon" reflects the growing expectation of the "larger, more assertive urban middle class which wants a bigger political voice and it wants a more efficient, transparent and responsive state." She gave various examples where videos shown on TV channels resulted in punishment of the guilty and appreciated the role played by the judiciary in Pakistan. CPM leader Brinda Karat said people have a right to be on streets and added that clean politics and transparent citizen activism can work wonders. Without the mix of two, she feared, the endeavour would be "limited" in nature.