Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), are voluntary organisation because they are free from governmental control in their functioning. They are democratic and open to all those wishing to become member of the organisation and serve the society. They have assumed a significant space in civil society, which is fast emerging today due to the weakening of the state. We can further define NGOs as “formally registered not-for profit association of groups of individuals founded on the principles of equality, altruism and voluntary work spirit to promote human development (including environment and biodiversity) and nation building”. NGO is a popular term, which has gained recognition at global level and commands respect in society due to its welfare services in society. The organisation does seek financial assistance from the government but it operates, atleast theoretically, on its own principles and programmes. NGOs are, in principl open to voluntary membership. Any one may become member by choice and resign from the organisation at one’s own will.
NGO- Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
NGO’s Role in Government’s Five Year Plans
India is a very big country. Government since Independence has lacked sufficient man power and logistics to reach each and every segment of the society. The vacuum created by this absence has been taken up by NGOs. Over the years they have found place in the Five Year Plans of the government. Sometimes, it is in the form of their roles in the rural sector development and sometimes it is in th formation of self-reliant groups. When Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) was launched in 6th Five Year Plan, they were at the forefront mobilising rural poor to avail benefits. Similarly, they served as crucial machinery for social audit of many schemes and programmes. In the success of White revolution, NGC played a significant role in mobilising the rural women milk producer and urged them to form a cooperative.
They also took the government message of family planning programme to the rural India by organising many awareness programmes through Nukkad Natak. Ti NGO Akshay Patra has been a unique partner of government in universalisation of primary education by organising mid-day meals for millions of children, Similarly, Rashtriya Mazdoor Sangh of Rajasthan was at the forefront in making Right to Information a legal right for all the citizens of the country.
NGO’s Role in Protection of Women’s Interest
Non-government organisations are playing imperative role in the empowerment of women. They adopt multiple strategies to improve the condition of women. NGOs are training women in various aspects to make them to come out of their inhibitions and involve in fruitful activity. The past few years have seen a rampant increase in crime against women in the form of, physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
These horrifying incidents leave deep scars that young girls and women are unable to cope with. They lose their self-esteem and confidence. It is over here that many NGOs take the charge, counsel them, help gain their lost self-esteem and make them self-reliant. In fact, there are many NGOs which are fighting a legal battle on the behalf of the survivors.
Role of NGOs in Providing Awareness
NGOs have played a vital role in educating the farmers and introducing them to new techniques of farming. They make farmers aware of the new cost saving techniques, special variety of seeds and manures etc. Additionally, they also protect farmers from any price sludge in the market prices of their produce. NGOs were at forefront in successful mediation between potato grower farmers in Gujarat and PepsiCo.
As the volunteers of NGOs have the ability to develop a bond with a particular cause and the concerned entities, it helps in easy implementation and execution of different governmental schemes. They have played an important role in making people understand the importance of education, curbing the menace of social evils such as child marriage, sati etc. Night schools have become common in the rural areas where the children and working adults can come and study.
In the domain of health, important international bodies such as UNICEF, WHO and FAO have forged unique partnership with NGOs in India to teach and make the masses aware in inculcating various strategies to ward off many diseases. For instance making them aware about importance of washing hands, importance of vaccination among others. Infact in last two incredible feat achieved by India, the Pulse Polio Program and Swachh Bharat Initiative have been made only through unique partnership between NGOs and government. They transitioned this government scheme into Jan Andolan through people’s participation.
The importance of NGOs has been mostly noted in the crisis caused by any disaster. Be it the Kerala flood or Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal, they were often the first responders. Apart from escorting the affected people to the safe places and ensuring food and other provisions, they also play crucial role in their post disaster resettlement. The way many NGOs have served an effective link for support be it financial or otherwise between prominent personalities and vulnerable section of the people in coronavirus crisis is worth appreciating.
Criticism of NGOs in India
• There are more than 25 lakh registered NGOs in India, many of them as reported in IB report in ‘Internal security of India’ had indulged in anti-India activities. Some of them serve as appendage of their home country and were involved in halting the construction of many infrastructure and mining projects by organising protest by indigenous people.
• There have also been allegation of money laundering on various NGOs in India. Meanwhile Government has come up with stricter compliance norms for them in Foreign Contribution and Regulatory Act (FCRA). They have also been brought under the ambit of RTI.
•During last few years, several new NGOs have come up in India that claim to work for the poor. These NGOs are not often engaged in serious social welfare work. Many of these are without serious intent and many are fraudulent.
• There are disproportionately large number of NGOs. There are issues of transparency and accountability which needs reforms. Allegations of corruption have also been levelled against the NGOs.
• Various NGOs have been purposefully indulging in undermining India’s development activities. A report by the intelligence bureau has accused various international NGOs of partisanship and showing India in a bad light.
• NGOs have interfered with social customs and religious practices in India. PETA India fighting in the courts against the government for the Jallikattu festival is seen in this context.
• Several NGOs are accused of non-transparent and undemocratic functioning. Many NGOs do not file their annual financial statements and only a few do so. Though FERA and FEMA have been made stricter yet issues persists.
Charity and Voluntary service has been in ethos of India and NGOs as trust and not for profit companies have been nothing but its modern manifestation. Government on its part recognises their importance in good governance. Faced with an unprecedented Coronavirus crisis, government has constituted the Empowered Group (EG 6) chaired by CEO, NITI Aayog to leverage the network of NGOs. This EG 6 has succeeded in galvanising a network of 92,000 CSOs/NGOs to harness their strengths and resources, expertise in key social sectors such as nutrition, health, sanitation, education and extensive reach in the community. Going by their importance, the NGOs need to be respected, recognised and constituted in various sectors to meet the development aspiration of the citizens of India.