Saturday, September 19, 2015

NGOs and India- The current situation

How often have we wondered, cribbed and commented adversely at the reach - or rather the lack of it - of public and private sector institutions’ in far flung areas which are tough to locate even on Google maps. The problem with many of us is that we choose to ignore the situation in hand after some cribbing and serious mulling over sessions, while some others choose to take matters in their hand and do something about it.  The NGO (non-governmental organizations) community is one such community. They can often surprise us by not only their presence in these places but also facilitation of development. Location is but one aspect. More often than not, it’s the different sectors where they operate in, that can literally leave us flummoxed. Want to know how are they doing their bit for the society? Read the article and find out. 

What are NGOs and what do they basically do?

NGOs are a very important component of the Civil Society.  A Civil society usually encompasses all organisations and associations that exist outside the state.  They have vision and goals which differ significantly from that of a for-profit organization, and hence more oriented towards societal welfare. Their priority would be to work with marginalized and backward communities. A whole lot of them work independently from governmental interference and are technically non-profit. If they do make profit, it would be circulated back into the system for developmental work and not distributed amongst employees or amongst the board of governors.  

The current stats

There are close to 3 million NGOs in India, majority of them operating in the rural sectors. Their contribution towards employment and the GDP have been increasing gradually with every subsequent year. About a third of the NGOs are registered under at least one of the mandatory acts like the Societies Registration Act, Companies Act, and Public trust of the respective states of location. For an NGO to be considered eligible for donations by any other organization or governmental bodies there have to be accreditations from the erstwhile Planning Commission (now known as NITI Ayog), from Credibility Alliance, and should be registered with the online site called Many NGOs receive funding from foreign contributors under the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act), but unfortunately due to ambiguity in the source and utilization of funds, the government has recently put approximately 30,000 NGOS under scanner.

How does an NGO aid in the development of our society?

NGOs with the prime motive of working for societal development operate at the grassroots level to uplift the downtrodden and to provide opportunities to those seeking them. In fact, the NGO community is responsible for an approximate contribution of Rs. 50,000 crore per annum to the country by way of salaries, rental payments, operating expenses, etc.. This sector has been employing about 30 lakhs workers and, an equal number work pro bono.

An NGO needs to choose its sphere of sectorial development, be it the social sector, healthcare sector, environment preservation, education, etc. The different micro areas of operation include: Education of poor children, Remedial education of government school students, Adult education, Women welfare, Housing & shelters, Culture & recreation, Religious propagations, Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation, Autism care etc.. There are also some NGOs that are advocacy NGOs which fight for human rights like the Human Rights Law Network, fight against corruption like the Anti-Corruption Council of India, or even run campaigns like anti-tobacco, no-honking, gender sensitivity, reoccupying streets, etc. The myriad sectors where they function in are a manifestation of their capability in delivering at the beneficiary level, despite pecuniary issues.

Why do we need them?

The presence of so many NGOs world over is very critical to help take development (be it social or skill level)and opportunities to those places where the Governmental machineries are unable to penetrate. Many of the International NGOS (INGOs) are doing good work in India too like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Charity Aids Foundation, Hope Foundation, USAID to name a few.

While there has always been some amount of skepticism attached with the Non - Governmental sector, there can be no taking away the credit of those who have been doing excellent work over the years like the Salaam Balak Trust, Child Relief & You, and the Smile Foundation. One needs to observe the functioning of the civil society with a different lens –from the one we use to assess private organizations- to understand their deeper contributions in any society.

So, if you’re really interested in making a true contribution to the society, I would request you to become a member of an NGO right away or even better open one of your own.

 -Ms. Monica Mor
  Senior Faculty, INLEAD

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