Kill Bill:



    The HP Societies Registration Bill has been passed by the Vidhan Sabha last month during the monsoon session without much of an opposing noise. This points to the fact that most politicians, cutting across party lines, want the NGOs to be reigned in. This is also indicative of the manner in which the NGOs are largely perceived by the people outside this sector; the lack of accountability et al. So the best that the government could think of was to put a babu in an office to model the new Societies Bill on the lines of the outdated and much criticised Cooperatives Act and apply similar controls on Societies in HP. This bill seeks to make the Registrar all powerful and can even decide whether a society is not functioning properly (without any criteria defined in the Bill and open to interpretation by the government, see Section 41). In such a situation the governing body of the society can be replaced by an administrator (like coop societies) who makes all decisions in the name of the Registrar and with full costs of this administrator to be borne from the accounts of the society. There are many other contentious issues in this Bill regarding the Audit of Accounts independently by the Registrar; another clause which opens up the way for the Govt. to take over any immovable property owned by the society etc.

    Though it cannot be denied that the way this sector is growing, there is today a need to bring in accountability into the functioning of the NGOs but is this the way to go about it: through regulations that give arbitrary power to the government in power and not even looking at the impact that the functioning of an NGO has on the ground? Every one knows how the ‘Sarkari’ audits are done; booze flowing and the auditors floating in it, trying to catch the chicken legs. This would not be difficult to replicate in the NGO sector if someone has something to hide. Then who is government actually trying to nail down?

    It would be the NGOs who do not fall in line with the government’s line of functioning and its policies; NGOs who are vocal and challenge the designs of the powers that be. Also this could become a great mechanism for the political parties to create vote banks through NGOs in their areas of operation and their employees as NGOs would be running for political cover if this Bill gets passed.

    The modus operandi today is for governments to carry out discussions and debate on policy and bills before they are tabled for approval. The Government holds intensive parleys with the representatives of the industry to look at their concerns and is today making policies to facilitate their ease of operation (Ecology and local people’s opinion be damned). Then why this raw deal for the NGOs in HP? Why has this government passed this bill so suddenly without any consultations and debate if it was doing everything with all sincerity? That too at a point when a national policy for the voluntary sector is in the offing, courtesy the planning commission?

    NGOs in their respective districts and also at the state level have come together and raised voice against this move. The bill currently lies with the governor, waiting for his consent.There is a need to oppose the way in which the government has passed this bill; not only for this bill’s sake but also so that the government puts more participatory processes in place in the future while formulating and finalising laws and procedures that effect the society at large.

    This mail has raised questions without looking at answers and possible solutions. Subscribers to this e-group (and other stakeholders that we may contact) may contribute with their suggestions on how to restore credibility to this once esteemed line of work.

    Note: Mr Saxena is from Lok Vigyan Kendra, a partner organisation of Navrachna, a Palampur (Himachal) based NGO.

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