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Civil Society is an independent magazine published from New Delhi. It was launched in September 2003 to tell stories of change from across the chaotic landscape of post-reforms India. A newly growing economy has winners and losers — as journalists we wanted to tell the stories of those who were making it and as well as those who were getting left behind. In the past 15 years, Civil Society has come to be known for its refreshing style of covering people, events and trends. We are credited with redefining mainstream concerns in the Indian media. Civil Society's reportage has brought to national attention individuals and groups who play leadership roles and drive change but get overlooked. We have shown that there is an India that exists beyond prime time. This has been possible because we moved out of big media jobs to create a small and efficient enterprise through which journalists could look for stories where it may not be fashionable to look for them. A democracy thrives on credible information. Small media entities, freed up from the demands of big capital, allow journalists to innovate and explore new frontiers. A large and complex country like India needs more alternative voices. Started with just Rs 4 lakhs (about $6,000) of personal savings, one small car and a single computer, Civil Society has shown that it is possible for professional journalists with skills and clear values to build influential enterprises in the media.
The running of a small media enterprise comes with many challenges but the journalistic satisfaction in bringing out our magazine every month is compensation in fair measure. It feels good to be able to do the stories we do and reach a growing number of appreciative readers. It is work we enjoy and doubly so because of its relevance in a complex emerging economy trying to balance growth with equity. In 2003, when we started our venture, we were sure we were on to something exciting. India was in transition in multiple ways. We wanted to tell these stories of change. Instead of focusing on problems, we decided to go in search of solutions. With this as context, we went much beyond NGOs and activists to check out those entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, engineers and industrialists who were committing themselves to making a difference and closing the gaps in society. In our journeys across India in 16 years we have come across thousands of changemakers about whom we have written in our magazine. We bring many of them together in this anniversary issue in what we have called The Mega Civil Society Hall of Fame. We also have a special section on cities. What do we do about them as they attract an ever-increasing number of people? We have seven perceptive pieces on governance, healthcare, technology, migration, finance, waste and infrastructure. Cities are of great interest to us and we report on them through the year under these same heads. Our interview with Harivansh, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, explores several areas of concern relating to the spending of local area funds by members of Parliament. In Delhi, in the neighbourhood of Rajokri, a pond has been revived to serve as a component of a low-cost, natural sewage treatment facility. It is an example of the inventiveness that needs to be shown in the managing of our cities. Other cities should look closely at this example of cleaning up a congested area with a low investment.