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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 36  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 91-92

Civil society and volunteerism in the COVID-19 pandemic

Director, Clinic Brain Neuropsychiatric Institute and Research Center, Kolkata, West Bengal, India; Vice President cum President Elect- Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS); Vice President- SAARC Federation of Psychiatriasts; Vice President cum President Elect- Indian Association for Geriatric Mental Health (IAGMH); Editor- Indian Association of Private Psychiatry (IAPP), India

Date of Submission28-Jul-2020
Date of Acceptance29-Jul-2020
Date of Web Publication02-Oct-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Gautam Saha
19/C Pioneer Park, P.O. Barasat, Dist: North 24, Parganas - 700 124, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijsp.ijsp_242_20

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How to cite this article:
Saha G. Civil society and volunteerism in the COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2020;36, Suppl S1:91-2

How to cite this URL:
Saha G. Civil society and volunteerism in the COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Feb 6];36, Suppl S1:91-2. Available from: https://www.indjsp.org/text.asp?2020/36/5/91/297144

”Civil Society” is defined according to the “Collins Dictionary” as 1. An organization founded to promote the interests of local communities 2. The element such as freedom of speech and an independent judiciary that make up a democratic society.[1] It can be understood and sometimes referred to as “third sector” of society distinct from government, business and finance and consists of a wide array of organizations including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor unions, community groups, religious groups, etc. They are considered vital for democracy as they built social capital, trust, and shared values, which helps in holding the society together, brings cohesion, and facilitates interconnectedness of society and interests within it. Apart from their various functions (including protective function, function of participation, function of control, function of relief, and function of democratization), the main function is to influence the government and business to make policies aligned to their objectives, which are pro-people. They rely on voluntarism, which is the doctrine that the will is a fundamental or dominant factor in the individual or the universe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to the Civil Society in India, as discussed by Khandelwal in this issue,[2] in which he has highlighted the response of Governments and also the role of civil society in overcoming the challenges.[2] The various challenges faced were-the plight of migrant labors, the elderly leaving alone, supply of the medication to the people, and supply of essential commodities, including sanitizers and masks. On April 6, NITI Aayog, the think-tank of the Union government, reached out to >92,000 NGOs, industry associations and international organizations seeking their assistance in delivering services to the needy through cross-sectoral collaborations.[3]

It is heartening to say that the challenges have been taken up and boosted by civil societies to deliver services like-organizing free kitchens and health camps. Innovative ways have been developed to help senior citizens by global positioning system (GPS) tracking and provide them food, medication, and transport for hospitalization. The specialized societies like Diabetes Association provided Insulin to the necessitous members of the community when it was in short supply. It is beyond doubt that infrastructure and dedication are required to reach the people who do not have a formal address, ration card, voter card, or other means of identity, which makes them invisible and keeps them out of reach of the benefits provided by the government. The civic society has risen to the challenge and facilitates people to receive the help provided by agencies. They have provided direct help, as well as help in filling up the forms required to receive different benefits.

There are various heartwarming stories of people helping others in need at an individual level also. We all should try to help the underprivileged, deprived, and needful people in our vicinity and surroundings. Hence, we, as an organization called as “Angels for the Angels,” moved by the plight of impoverished, destitute, and broken people around us, took up the challenge of sending cooked meals on a daily basis to around 200 people living on platforms and roads. The response of people has been so encouraging and a large number of people have come out and joined hands to help others despite their own difficulties, to strengthen and fortify the will to escalate the services to reach more and more people in need.

Nevertheless, there are two things which need attention. First-help to the same group of beneficiaries through different sources and some marginalized group not getting any help; for this, we need better coordination between the governmental and NGO sector. Second (and most important)-method of giving help; we have to remember that we are not giving alms to a beggar, but we are providing help to fellow citizens who are in this predicament due to this pandemic. Hence, a patronizing attitude should not be present, and clicking selfies and photos with beneficiaries and posting them on social media websites leaves a bad taste. We need to remember that this is a blessing to do good for others and must be done with sensitivity and taking care of the dignity of the recipients. Overall, the civil society in India has shown a will and resolves to be present for people in every disaster, whether it is a terrorist attack in Mumbai, a natural disaster, or now during a Pandemic!

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Available from: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 27].  Back to cited text no. 1
Khandelwal SK. Debating the process, impact and handling of social and health determinants of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2020:36 (Suppl);S64-S83.  Back to cited text no. 2
Available from: https://yourstory.com/2020/04/coronavirus- niti-aayog-ceo-writes-ngos-assistance. [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 27].  Back to cited text no. 3


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