The Public Affairs Centre is twenty years old. Through its chequered life, the Centre has striven to give voice to citizen experience and aspiration through the medium of Citizen Report Cards and other social accountability tools. These efforts have been instrumental in engaging governments and policy makers with thought leaders, communities of action, and researchers to improve the fabric of governance in India and elsewhere. Social accountability of governance processes is now an established idiom in several branches of government and it has proved to enrich and vitalise policy design, and improve programme expression.
The challenge ahead for the Public Affairs Centre and similar organisations now is to build upon this foundation of social capital that has been generated within the echelons of government and in the corridors of power. This needs to be done with a specific focus in mind. The vast majority of India’s citizens continue to live in poverty and squalor. While an encouraging proportion of this population is now initiating its move towards a dignified life, a significant group remains sequestered at the very bottom, hapless and outside the radar of governance and governments. Pointing the sensitivities of citizen groups and government towards these ignored and marginalised groups becomes the major concern of all organisations working towards social equity and harmony, and I hope that PAC will move in this direction soon.
This reorientation of efforts will require alliances with all thinking communities and organisations in the country, as the scale of this effort is large and often daunting. The knowledge of several practitioners and researchers, combined with the experience of administrators and governors of change processes, needs to be welded into a fresh formulation of the social wisdom that will bring lasting change to centuries-old patterns of oppression and inequity. I do hope that the Public Affairs Centre will take its place in the forefront of institutions working towards creating a new India that values equality and dignity along with material growth.
Justice (Retd.) M. N. Venkatachaliah