By: SUBHASH MENDHAPURKAR
Rahul has raised certain questions without understanding the nature and content of a sector. This sector popularly known as NGO – actually this name was given by World Bank and why people opposing policies and programs of WB accept this is a mystery to me – is a sector with variety of people joining this sector with variety of interests. At present there are large number of ‘societies’ registered under 1860 Act which are purely commercial – like they charge fees for rendering `education’ but when it comes to Income Tax, they claim to be charitable ones and claim exemptions.
At the other spectrum are the groups which can be best called Voluntary Action Groups who initiate actions which ultimately challenges the `power’ that be – this power may be within a family, within a community, within a village, within a state, nation or even international.
Between these two spectrum lie large number of organizations – societies who seek funding from various government departments, international donors, national donors and render schematic services to a targeted population and large number of them, are non accountable or are accountable to fund providers.
In 1986-87 first time in the country, few leaders (many of them were members of Planning Commission sponsored various Committees) of this sector came together to frame Code of Conduct for these organizations. They drafted Code of Conduct and widely circulated. This was opposed by large number of urban based, organizations whose main funding was from International donors. They claimed that people sitting in Planning Commission are the `co-opted people’ and they want the whole sector to be co-opted by the Government. ( It is a different matter that those who opposed the Code Conduct are the ones who are now sitting in Planning Commission and do not claim that they have been co-pted.) Thus a move to bring in a self regulatory code of conduct was scuttled. Thus when large quantum of funds started flowing from government (since the 7th Five Year Plan), unscrupulous elements propped up in this sector and this sector became as corrupt as any other sector of the society – which was but natural.
The present Bill fails to recognize the variety of this sector and treats everyone at par – sab ghode bara takke style.
To begin with, we need to differentiate this sector on two accounts – one who charge fees / collect money from those who get their services ( like education and curative health services) and those who render services without charging any fees. Thus we have proposed to the Government of HP that for the first category of societies, the present Bill may be made applicable. For the second category, there should be a debate on how to develop accountability at a larger level – not only to the fund providers but to the people in whose name funds are raised and how this can be a self-regulatory mechanisms whilst government playing a facilitator’s role and not that of regulators role.
Unfortunately the past experience tells me that the donors – foreign as well as some Indian – don’t cooperate with these kind of moves, and unless we rope them in, this can not be successful.
Rahul says there was unity amongst all political parties for passing this Bill and that reflects the credibility of the sector – in fact I shall take this as a `trophy’ because it shows that both the main parties are worried about strength of these organizations who are raising `uncomfortable’ questions for them. Thus one should not attach the response by a opposition party as an indicator of credibility of these organization. When few NGO leaders met the Leader of Opposition and requested him to oppose the Bill, he reported said, ‘don’t worry, people like you can be exempted from this Act under section 157’. This response shows how they have kept a ‘backdoor’ open for NGOs sponsored by them.
Given the present feudal nature of governance in Himachal Pradesh, expecting government to initiate ‘debate’ before it makes any move, is futile.
The only way to stop this move is to create strong opposition.
Note: Mr Mendhapurkar is from Sutra, a Jagjit Nagar, Himachal based NGO