Observations on NGO

  • 30/03/2017


  •                                                                     Gopa Babu’s Letter
  • Gopabandhu Chaudhuri in 50s of the last century had expressed similar apprehension which Rajni Kothari expressed in late nineties.He opposed Anna Saheb Sahsrabudhey’s proposal of getting constructive work done in Bhoodan villages by the paid employees. Anna Saheb Sahsrabudhey was then Secretary, Sarva Seva Sangh. Why Gopabandhu was opposing was quite graphically captured by his biographer Gopinath Mohanty when he writes, “Gopa Babu was thinking: if the constructive work is done by obtaining funds from out side of local resources, will people be inclined to become self-reliant? Rather they will learn to be dependent on others. Further, money may become the sole consideration. Greed may overwhelm the workers and may generate indiscipline and violence. The moral foundation may crumble….when funds flow, can the workers remain steadfast in their views and maintain their sincerity? The primary objective is to create healthy society on the foundation of the consciousness that collective responsibility generate. Non-violence will be hallmark of of such society and exploitation will be absent there. If fund comes from outside, will this objective any more attract people?
  •                                                        Funded Voluntarism
  • “This new constellation of ‘voluntary’ effort, encompassing funding agencies and international NGOs, units within government bureaucracies and the Planning Commission meant to assist national and local NGOs, provides a completely new model of both joining in and containing, coopting and corrupting the large mass of genuine, grass roots based activist efforts. Whether this NGO model of voluntarism will further accentuate the great divides between the haves and the have-nots, or ameliorate the condition of the latter, is still an open question”-Rajni Kothari (The Future of Voluntarism in Social Change Through Voluntary Action, ed. Dantewala et.al, Sage, New Delhi, 1998, p.186)
  •                                           Observations by Rajni Kothari
  • I assure you/ I shall make their stay comfortable. (Birendra Nayak in Bhinna Drishti 1993)
  • All the doors of my large mansion are lying open.
  • I welcome you/ come with all your companions/ hunger, alcoholism,illiteracy and disease.
  • Devour every one except me,/I will alone left to serve.
  • Pray, you grow/ I will get fat grant
  • Oh! Poverty/I worship you,/Beg you to stay/Or else, I will lose my job
  • A Poem:
  • “If they (NGOs) think bringing in western money and intellectual know how is so harmful,they ought to start their campaign by refusing to apply for or accept grants for their political work from various donor agencies. How can we trust the economic advise and wisdom on how to run the Indian economy, to these NGOs whose own small organizations are dependent on foreign aid whose livelihood comes from encashing India’s poverty abroad, peddling the misery of the Indian people and gathering crumbs on their behalf.”-Madhu Kishwar (Times of India 24.8.1996)
  •                                                               Observation by Madhu Kishwar
  • “The current World Bank President –a Banker has come and gone after brief encounter with NGOs. And so they are NGOs-Non Gazetted Officers with minds like Babus, selfish to the core and so careful to say the right thing…..They live entirely off foreign money with no independent source and that is why it is so important to be hypocrites and grovel in front of the World Bank President….They do not believe that laws of the country apply to them. They are accountable to no one….The World Bank successfully divided the groups while the President was here. Those inside had to send their to be allowed in –no self respecting voluntary worker should have agreed to this humiliation. But do we have any self respect left? Many of those inside, when it suited them, have been outspoken champions against big dams and the policies of World Bank. What on earth were they doing sitting inside when they should have been showing solidarity by going with one voice against the World Bank? Its hidden agendas, bread and butter issues, maintaining life styles, wanting foreign money, wanting to be on the right side of every one and be invited as consultant to the World Bank…….”-Bunker Roy in Scum in the Voluntary Sector (Asian age 12.11.1996)
  •                                                          Observation by Bunker Roy
  • Gopa Babu’s conviction about the ill effect of outside funding finds expression in the letter that he wrote to his favorite acolyte Biswanath Patnaik on September1, 1956. He wrote, “ Now in Koraput, to undertake the construction work with funds from outside has become so widespread that no self-reliant effect is in sight. I have begun to believe that unless attempts are made to select workers who have faith in the philosophy of self reliance, Bhoodan Work will not be any different. Further, you must be observing how the allurement of the fund has destroyed our work at the State level.”
  •                                            Self-respect is a function of Self-reliance
  • Gopa Babu feared funding as enemy of self- reliance.
  • Bunker Roy suggests funding as killer of self -respect.
  • Self –respect is a function of Self -reliance .
  •                                                              Nomenclature NGO  
  • The phrase non-governmental organization came into use with the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 with provisions in Article 71 of Chapter 10 of the United Nations Charter for a consultative role for organizations that neither are governments nor member states. The definition of international NGO (INGO) is first given in resolution 288 (X) of ECOSOC on February 27, 1950: it is defined as ‘any international organisation that is not founded by an international treaty’.It is around this time that the World Bank(1944), IMF (1945)and GATT (General Agreement on Tariff and Trade(1947) later WTO (since 1995)) came into being.
  •                                                                         NGO In India
  • This term that gained currency in India since mid 60s of the last century.
  • The mid 60s of the last century was a very crucial time both at national and international level. India was hit by severe drought and famine(e.g. Kalahandi); students uprising at different places in India; in Hindi heartland it was pro-Hindi movement, in South it was anti Hindi movement, in Odisha it turned into anti government movement. In international arena left radical students are agitating against their respective governments. It was during this period that foreign NGOs entered ostensibly ‘to work in the voluntary sector for organizing relief and rehabilitation work necessitated by the drought and famine. Foreign funds started flowing ‘thus changing radically the character of the voluntary sector in the country’.                                                                Pre NGO India
  • Gandhiji’s legacy of constructive work, which was village centric and based on the principles of ‘voluntariness and sharing, cooperation, mutual aid, decentralization, non-violence, self-reliance, self-help, and moral action’ continued to influence voluntary action in the initial years of post independence. Sarvodaya Samaj, Sarva Seva Sangh were established to fulfill the unfinished task of Gandhiji’s constructive work. Big names like Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Jaya Prakash Narayan, Thakkar Bapa, Gopabandhu Chaudhuri got themselves associated with such organizations
  • In 1951 and 1952, Vinoba Bhave started Bhoodan and Gramdan movements of which Bhoodan movement was started Pochampalli in Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. He was appealing to the landlords to donate their surplus lands for distribution amongst the landless people.
  • It was the time when the left ideology based movement in Telangana region was at its best and landless peasants were fighting against the landlords and asserting their rights.
  •                Bhoodan Movement vs. Struggle for land distribution
  • Vinobha Bhave is credited for building ‘a powerful voluntary movement, which had shown a way for peaceful transformation of rural society’ while leftists see Bhoodan movement as a sinister attempt to prevent a radical transformation of the agrarian society.
  • It is quite interesting that when Communists saw voluntarism in Bhoodan Movement as a strategy to prevent radical transformation of society according to their ideology, rabid anti communist Gopabandhu Chaudhuri was also critical of such voluntarism as it was paid voluntarism having virus to weaken the philosophy of self reliance.
  •                   Institutions to promote voluntarism
  • In 1958, began Association for Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development (AVARD) ‘as a consortium of voluntary agencies, coordinating voluntary efforts in rural developments in the country’ .
  • Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) in 1953, with ‘primary objective of promotion of voluntary organizations in social welfare and development’. In fact the year 1953 is looked upon as the ‘turning point in the history of voluntary efforts’. It was then that government funding to voluntary organizations through Grant-In-Aid began.
  • Intensive Agricultural Development Programme (IADP) and Intensive Agricultural Area Programme (IAAP) were respectively introduced in 1961 and 1964 to provide benefits to ‘small and marginal farmers, sharecroppers, landless labourers, artisans etc.’
  •                 A Question and Plausible Answers
  • It is a historical fact that after independence the ‘social welfare and developmental responsibilities which were main responsibilities of pre-independent voluntary sector were shifted to the government sector’
  • Q. Why did government promote voluntary sector when government itself had assumed the responsibilities of social welfare and development of the weaker section?
  • A1. The government did not like to lose the benefit of the experience of those freedom fighters and social workers who did not like to be a part of the government but preferred to continue to work among the people.
  • A2. These workers being primarily Gandhian their VOs could act as bulwark against the spread of left ideology among youth and people belonging to weaker section.
  •                             NSS and Naxalism
  • In 1969 government introduces National Service Scheme (NSS) ‘to provide impetus to voluntarism with young students to work on voluntary basis for the development of the weaker sections of the society.’
  • In 1969 Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)(CPI (ML)) was established consequent upon Naxalbari Movement. Naxalism had begun attracting to its fold the students and the prestigious institutions like Presidency College, Kolkata, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, Jadavpur University were becoming centers of Naxal activities.
  • NSS, however, mothered many later day leaders of NGO sector. Professor Radhamohan who was a known face in the NSS activities in Colleges, Sri Jagadananda, who was once Assistant Co-ordinator, NSS, Utkal University, are some of the worthy names in the NGO sector in Odisha.
  • Close to introduction of NSS, the Nehru Yuvak Kendras were established to offer the rural youth the opportunity to participate in community development..
  •                                           Growth of foreign funded NGOs
  • The 1980s and 1990s witnessed an extraordinary proliferation of foreign-funded NGOs in India: according to the Home Ministry, by the year 2000 nearly 20,000 organisations were registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, though only 13,800 of them submitted their accounts to the government as required.1 Total foreign funds received by these organisations rose from Rs 3,403 crore in 1998-99 to Rs 3,925 crore in 1999-2000 to Rs 4,535 crore (about $993 million) in 2000-01.2 (Source Aspects of India’s Economy, no.35 September 2003)
  • By 2006-07 the number of NGOs registered under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) 1976 was 33,937. In 2005-06, the registered NGOs received foreign funding to the tune of Rs 7877.57 crore. In 2006-07, this amount stood at Rs.12,289.63 crore. About 56% increase.
  •                                             World Bank, Government and NGOs
  • Under the guidance of the IMF and World Bank, successive Indian governments slashed their expenditure on rural development (including expenditure on agriculture, rural development, special areas programme, irrigation and flood control, village industry, energy and transport; the figures are for Centre and states combined) from 14.5 per cent of GDP in 1985-90 to 5.9 per cent in 2000-01.5 Rural employment growth is now flat; per capita foodgrains consumption has fallen dramatically to levels lower than the 1939-44 famine; the situation is calamitous. Were expenditure by Centre and states on rural development to have remained at the same percentage of GDP as in 1985-90, it would not have been Rs 124,000 crore in 2000-01, but Rs 305,000 crore, or more than two and a half times the actual amount.
  • In comparison with this giant spending gap, the sums being spent by NGOs in India are trivial. But, by their presence, the notion is conveyed all round that private organisations are stepping in to fill the gap left by the State. This is doubly useful to the rulers. The political propaganda of ‘privatisation’ is bolstered; and, as said before, people are unable to demand anything as their right. In effect, NGO activities help the State to whittle down even the existing meagre social claims that people have on the social product.
  • (source: WSF Mumbai 2004 and the NGO phenomenon in India in Aspects of India’s Economy, no.35, Sept.2003)
  •                                                                 Funding to Indian NGOs
  • While the government will begin studying the finances of the sector in the second phase of the survey, estimates from within the sector suggest that NGOs, or NPIs, raise anywhere between Rs 40,000 crore and Rs 80,000 crore in funding annually.
  • The government has been the biggest donor — Rs18,000 crore was set aside for the social sector in the XI Plan — followed by foreign contributors (according to the latest figures available, around Rs 9,700 crore was raised in 2007-08). Around Rs 1,600-2,000 crore was donated to established religious bodies such as the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. Individual donors are emerging as the biggest and most lucrative source of funds. According to an internal study by a leading foreign NGO headquartered in the UK, donations by individuals are expected to have grown from around Rs 2,200 crore in 2005 to Rs 8,100 crore by a conservative estimate, and to around Rs 21,000 crore by more liberal estimates.(Source: Reported by Archana Shukla in Indian Express July 7, 2010)
  •                                                            Donors on increase
  • The increase in the number of donors has coincided with a sharp increase in the number of new NGOs in the past decade. According to the government study, there were only 1.44 lakh-registered societies till 1970. In the following three decades, the number rose to 1.79 lakh, 5.52 lakh, and 11.22 lakh. The maximum increase in the number of registrations happened after 2000.
  • India has possibly the largest number of active non-government, not-for-profit organizations in the world. A recent study commissioned by the government put the number of such entities, accounted for till 2009, at 3.3 million. That is one NGO for less than 400 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres in India.
  • (Source: Reported by Archana Shukla in Indian Express July 7, 2010)
  •                                            NGOs and People’s Movement
    • “NGOs bureaucratise people’s movements. Traditionally, people’s movements are self-reliant: they have to raise their own resources, and are led by representatives from among the people. These representatives, to one extent or another, thus have to be accountable to the people. By contrast, NGO-led movements, while claiming to represent the people, are led by officers of the NGOs, who are paid by funding agencies to carry on activity. Naturally, they are not accountable to the people, nor can they be removed by them; so they are also free to act without regard for people’s opinions. On the other hand, NGOs are accountable to their funders, and cannot afford to stray beyond certain bounds. Minus foreign and government funding, the entire NGO sector in India would collapse in a day. ” (source: WSF Mumbai 2004 and the NGO phenomenon in India in Aspects of India’s Economy, no.35, Sept.2003)
    •                                                               NGOs as Diffusers
    • “An NGO was a far more convenient vehicle for simultaneously defusing mobilisation for the rights of forest dwellers and opening up the forests to the Corporate Sector over the lands that had so far been people’s commons.”

      “This is straightforward colonisation of people’s resources in which Corporate State, with an NGO alliance becomes the new Zamindar. It is this dual role of NGOs as deffusers of social movements and catalysts and transmitters of new phase of capitalist growth initiated from North, based on ‘internal colonisation’ and ‘privatisation’ of community resources that were hither to left alone (including by the British) that provides the true context of the pivotal role of NGOs and the voluntary sector in the Seventh Plan”.(source: NGOs.the State and World Capitalism by Rajni Kothari, EPW, Dec.13,1986,pp2177-2182)“Thus ever since the early seventies Andhra Pradesh, a state with a strong tradition of revolutionary movements, has witnessed a massive proliferation of NGOs, and is indeed among the states receiving the maximum foreign NGO funds today”. (source: WSF Mumbai 2004 and the NGO phenomenon in India in Aspects of India’s Economy, no.35, Sept.2003)

    •                             NGOs as facilitators of corporate expansion

      “It is these NGOs that can provide new commercial openings that will fit into the government’s liberalisation plans.For the government there is no difference between the switch from the public to private sector and the switch from the state bureaucracy to the voluntary sector.For it, the voluntary sector is is a part of private sector with the added advantages that it could also invoke the rhetoric of ‘environment’, ‘people’s participation’ and ‘voluntarism’.xxxx Direct corporate take over of commons and public lands, for example, would invite instant and organised resistance from the poor who survive on commons.xxxx The NGO front allows a new corporate expansion without any one noticing it and quite a few welcoming it, given a highly manipulated use of popular symbols and slogans.”- Rajni Kothari in NGOs,the State and World Capitalism, EPW,(Dec 13, 1986),pp.2177-2182

    •                                           NGOs as Business Partners
    • Business Partners For Development was ‘a project based initiative created by the World Bank in 1998 and funded in part by the DFID’. It ‘aimed to study, support and promote strategic examples of tri-sector partnering’. The BPD website defines these as ‘the private sector, civil society and government working together to put communities at the center of development, and deliver real and sustainable benefits for all’.-Felix Padel and Samarendra Das in Out of This Earth

      Utkal Rural Development Society (URDS) in Kashipur was recognized by the World Bank as BPD

                                                    NGOs are not non-governmental

“In reality, non-governmental organisations are not non-governmental. They receive funds from overseas governments or work as private subcontractors for local governments. Frequently they openly collaborate with government agencies at home or overseas…….More importantly, their programs are not accountable to the local people but to overseas donors. In that sense NGOs undermine democracy by taking social programs out of the hands of local people and their elected officials to create dependence on non-elected, overseas officials and their locally anointed officials”-James Petras in Imperialism and NGOs in Latin America, Monthly Review (Dec. 1997) pp10-27“The NGO ideology of ‘private voluntaristic activity’ undermines the sense of ‘public’:the idea that the government has an obligation to look after its citizens….Against this notion of public responsibility, the NGOs foster the ideas of private responsibility for social problems and the importance of private resources to solve these problems” James Petras in Imperialism and NGOs in Latin America, Monthly Review (Dec. 1997) pp10-27

                                                         NGOs as Micro Credit Peddlers

It seems that during mid 90s the World Bank realised long run significance of micro credit in finance capital’s global operation. In 1995, the Bank opened new window on micro credit. In 1996 World Bank’s recommendations regarding NGO and micro credit in Bangladesh are noteworthy here. Recommendations categorically stated: “Integrate NGOs with commercial finance markets by: a) developing an appropriate regulatory framework for the financial operations of the NGO sector; (b) encouraging large NGOs to establish themselves as banks; (c) encouraging ‘wholesaling’ of credit to established NGOs; and (d) using smaller NGOs as brokers to mobilize self-help savings groups.” In 1997 first international micro credit summit was held in Washington. In the conference, World Bank, USAID, UNDP and Citibank among others declared about their special fund for micro credit. In the last decade, not only Grameen Bank model started spreading in other countries, mainstream Banks also have started introducing micro credit in its operation. The second micro credit summit held this year assembled many big corporates together. Monsanto, Citigroup were among the sponsor

                                                               Micro Credit mirage

Studies reveal that only 5 per cent of the borrowers showed improvement of their situation with the help of micro credit, those have other sources of income as well. The best investment area is found to further engaged in credit business with higher interest rate. The second best is the service sector, like small shops, rickshaw-van or retailing. I found 50 per cent of the borrower who could not improve but could retain the position but by taking loans from multiple sources. About 45 per cent could not do it at all, their position deteriorated. Many of them could not bear the burden and fled or on the way to leave the village with many liabilities on the head. If anybody looks for micro credit defaulters it is possible to find many of them amongst urban poor migrated from villages. –Anu Mohammed in

                                                            Micro Credit mirage

Other studies also have found similar scenario. In the findings of a resurvey of 17 villages under Poverty study of 62 villages a decade ago, Hossain Zillur reported that, only 19 per cent respondents informed that their conditions had improved, out of which only 5 per cent gave credit for this improvement to NGO intervention, 24 per cent informed that their situation has deteriorated while no change was observed in 58 per cent cases.

                                                                  NGOs and Media

For many NGOs, it is increasingly important to be present at World Social Forums and at national and international fora such as the World Bank or various UN ‘world summits’. Not   only   because   this   might   provide   an   opportunity   to   influence   policy   but, since social forums and world summits are intensively covered by the media, pre sence gives visibility and enhances the possibilities for future participation. This strengthens their position in the above-mentioned NGO competition.

                                                              NGOs and Civil Society

Civil Society is a broader term which includes NGOs along with many other institutions.But NGOs are the most effective constituent of the Civil Society because of their strong financial base and ubiquitous presence.“They are often seen – and see themselves – as watchdogs, keeping   an   eye   on   governments   and   public   institutions.   NGOs,   thus,   act   as spokesmen for civil society, if they are not actually equated with it.” (Source: Look Who’s Talking! Second Thoughts about NGOs representing Civil Society by Hans Holmén and Magnus Jirström in Journal of Asian and African Studies, 2009, vol.44(4): 429-448)Not surprisingly the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Team Anna led Civil Society did not have NGOs under the ambit of Lokpal.The government Lokpal Bill, however, proposes all the NGOs receiving public donations or foreign funds in excess of Rs.10 lakhs to come under the ambit of Lokpal.

                                                                                 NGOs Shall Stay

National Governments want NGO to outsource their welfare responsibility towards its citizens and also to contain dissent against the establishment. International Funding Agencies and their patrons want NGO as through them the neocolonialism can be maintained. The neo-liberal, market driven economy finds a great collaborator in the institution of NGO. Civil Society protects NGO.We have no escape. Rightly it is said that “We   live   in   the   age   of   NGOs” (Source: Look Who’s Talking! Second Thoughts about NGOs representing Civil Society by Hans Holmén and Magnus Jirström in Journal of Asian and African Studies, 2009, vol.44(4): 429-448).We have to stay with NGOs as we stay with the LPG regime but not without pointing out their follies and foibles. Let people decide how long they can put up in such environment.

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