This article deals with ‘NGOs.’ This is part of our series on ‘Governance’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What are NGOs ?

  • According to UN ,NGOs are  Organisations that are not part of government & are not conventional profit businesses. In case NGOs are funded totally or partially by governments , NGO maintains its non governmental status by excluding government representatives from membership in organisation

Other Names

  • Third Sector Organisations(TSO)
  • Non Profit Organisations(NPO)
  • Voluntary Organisations(VO)
  • Civil Society Organisations(CSO)
  • Self help Organisation (SHO)
  • Non State Actors

Types of NGOs

Can be classified in two ways

  • By level of orientation
  • By level of operation

1 . By Level of Orientation

Charitable NGOs with activities directed towards meeting needs of poor
Service NGOs with activities such as provision of health, family planning or education
Empowering Aims to help poor develop a clearer understanding of the social, political & economic factors affecting their lives and to strengthen their awareness about their own potential to control their life

2. By level of operation

National Eg YMCA , YWCA
International Eg Save The Children Org, CARE, Ford Foundation , Rockefeller Foundation

Funding of NGOs

  • Major source of funding are membership dues, sale of goods and services , grants from international institutions, national governments & private donations
  • Even-though term NGO implies independence from governments , many NGOs depend heavily on governments for their funds
  • Some NGOs such as Greenpeace don’t accept funding from Government or intergovernmental organisations

Theoretical explanation for growth of NGOs

Two explanations of  why NGOs emerged

Market Failure Theory NGOs emerged to provide services that the public sector can’t or will not provide & services for which businesses can’t get sufficient return on their investments
Contract failure Theory NGOs are created to provide services where the parties who want them offered were not in a position to provide these services. These parties are donors or well wishers of client’s receiving services

Strength of NGO sector

  • Strong grassroot links
  • Ability to innovate and adapt
  • Process oriented approach to development
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Long term commitment & emphasis on sustainability

Weaknesses of NGOs

  • Limited financial & management expertise
  • Limited institutional capacity
  • Low levels of self sustainability
  • Capable of small scale interventions only
  • Lack of inter organisational coordination & communication

Relationship between NGOs and Indian state

State policies have significantly influenced formation of NGOs eg government sponsored and aided programs & provided financial assistance to NGOs . Number of government committees have acknowledged the need to involve NGOs in social development processes

Initial years After independence, some attention was given toward NGO sector by central government mainly because NGOs were Gandhian in nature and Balwant Rai Mehta Committee constituted to look into work of Integrated Community Development  (ICD) program( which was gandhian in spirit) recommended more emphasis to be laid on it but after that next initiatives came in 1980s  
From 6th Five Year Plan Government has increasingly recognised the NGO sector’s vital role & provided increasing levels of funding . In past two decades , government has increased engagement with NGO at all levels  
GO- NGO Interface Launched in March 2000
– Planning commission made nodal agency of this
Message was clear ,  government will work with NGO for development of India
Main reason for this was State Minimalism after LPG reforms. NGOs became mediators and managers of development processes.

Government – NGO collaborations

  • Although social development has emerged as very important sector in 21st century & NGOs are vital part of it but there is no institutionalised mechanism of collaboration between Government & NGOs . Evolving long term & sustainable collaboration between Government & NGOs is need of the hour
  • Andhra Pradesh Model for this : Government of  Andhra Pradesh formed State Level Coordination Committee consisting of NGOs & Governmental officials headed by CM for promoting coordination between Government and NGOs.  All states must learn from this
  • CAPART (Council for Advancement of Peoples Action & Rural Technology) & various Ministries have evolved their schemes to be implemented by funding NGOs . Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan, Ajeevika and Watershed Development under Ministry of Rural Development involves NGOs in its implementation

NITI Aayog wants to involve leading Civil Society Organisations & NGOs in taking forward social sector initiatives of the government.

Role played by NGOs  in India

At international level , these NGOs have proved their mettle and NGOs like Red Cross & Amnesty International are even awarded Nobel Peace Prize for that. UN too has accepted their constructive role and some of the NGOs are allowed to participate in UN Agencies for their ability to reach people and spread awareness. In India too, they are playing important role.

1 . Poverty Alleviation

  • 275 million poor people in India (NSSO)
  • Many NGOs involved in implementing poverty alleviation schemes (IRDP (in 1980s & 90s) & Ajeevika(presently) )

2. Woman’s Movement

  • SEWA ie Self Employed Women’s Association played important role in women’s economic independence
  • Most important policy development that these NGOs were able to achieve was 33% reservation for woman in  Panchayati Raj Institutions

3. Environment Conservation

  • Greenpeace International is the most important NGO working in environment conservation
  • Their success forced government to create new policies on environment conservation, big dams , resettlement & rehabilitation

4. AIDS prevention & Health 

  • Realising the critical need for these NGOs & their services ,  government invited them to participate in developing health policies related to HIV
  • Uday Foundation – India’s largest volunteer based NGO working on child healthcare, health rights advocacy & took active role in Uttarakhand disaster

5 . Disaster Management

  • NGOs have always been on forefront in providing recovery, relief & rehabilitation after natural calamities
  • Government has also acknowledged NGOs role in these situations
  • Goonj –  important NGO working from 14 years in disaster rehabilitation processes

6. Fight against corruption

  • NGOs like India against Corruption has played important role in passage of many laws most important being Right to Information + forced Election commission to increase transparency in election processes and include option like NOTA

7. Giving voice to the voiceless

  • Downtrodden people like Prostitutes, Bonded Workers, displaced due to project , LGBT, Under-trials etc don’t have such a power that they can make political parties to hear their voices.
  • NGOs take up their causes and give voice to the voiceless 
  • Important NGOs working in this sector are Bachpan Bachao Andolan & Bandua Mukti Morcha

8. NGO as pressure groups

  • Working as pressure groups NGOs have forced governments to act on juvenile Justice, ending corporal punishment in schools, anti trafficking , forest, environment & wildlife protection , resettlement of displaced people to name a few

9. Their role in various Schemes

  • Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan, Ajeevika , Watershed Development under Ministry of Rural Development involves NGOs in its implementation

Civil Servants too work as agent of Economic and Social Development but they don’t have reach to the ground-level in way these NGOs have. If these NGOs & Bureaucracy work together, they can end all the problems like Naxalism , Poverty etc that India is facing.

Some Issues with NGOs in India

1 . NGO & Legitimacy Issue

  • NGOs are known as independent voice  but in recent years NGOs have increased in number & range of activities but number of donors haven’t increased with that pace . Hence, there is large competition for funding
    • This adds risk of donors adding conditions which can threaten independence of NGOs
    • over dependence on official aid has potential to dilute stand of NGOs to speak on public issues critically
  • Other criticism – NGOs are used by western nations as extension of their normal foreign policy
  • Allegations of use of foreign funds for religious conversions have also been made

2. Unaccountability & Non-transparency of NGOs

  • India has 2 Million (20 lakh)  registered NGOs but there is accountability & transparency  problem
  • Their credibility is questioned because there is lack of transparency about their finances  & absence of performance benchmarks
  • Main Problem : NGOs are registered under multiple acts in India like Societies Registration Act,1860 ; Indian  Trust Act ,1882; Bombay Public Charitable Trust Act,1950 & Companies Act . Accountability  requirement of all acts differ with some of them not requiring any form of annual filling
    • NGOs are required to register annual returns with Income tax department but annual returns filed by NGOs are not subject to public disclosure .
    • While receiving Foreign funding , NGOs only need to inform Government of India and file annual report to Home ministry under FCRA and no public disclosure is required

Hence, statutory framework doesn’t require NGOs to be accountable directly to Public

  • NGOs should try to build and regain lost public trust by better transparency in functioning . They can adopt following
    • External auditing
    • Increased Information disclosure

3. NGOs running PIL Industry

  • They are tutoring victims to seek larger compensation when some development project  run on their land
  • They file bogus affidavits & PILs

4. Harming Internal Security

  • They have soft glove and apologist attitude towards Naxalites , Insurgents & Terrorists
  • They force government to repeal some acts like AFSPA which can prove dangerous in some situations
  • IB Report (2014) also brought to forefront the obstructionist role played by Foreign Funded NGOs and loss of GDP to tune of 2% happening due to their protests .

5. Try to put Animal Rights above Human Rights

  • Resulting in Street dog/monkey menace
  • Animal Right Activists NGOs vs Inconvenience to Public issue .

6. NGOs Cherry Pick Causes on Donor Priorities

  • Initially Chipko Movement was success but NGOs failed during Bhopal Gas Tragedy because foreign donors didn’t want to raise voice against those companies
  • There is particular scene which emerge when we see funding pattern from particular nation and issues raised by NGOs who receive this fund. French Funded NGOs are soft on Maoists, German funded are Anti GM , US funded are Anti Coal (so that government go for US Nuclear Firms) 

Foreign Contribution(Regulation) Act ,2010 (FCRA)

  • Act  seeks to regulate flow of foreign funds to voluntary organisations with the objective of preventing any possible diversion of these funds towards activities detrimental to national interest
  • NGO has to register under FCRA to accept foreign contribution & central government can deny certification under certain conditions.
  • Organisation must renew FCRA certification every 5 years   . Using this, dormant accounts can be weeded out
  • Such contributions can only be accepted through designated banks.
  • Further, the NGO has to report to the central government any foreign contribution within 30 days of its receipt, in addition to filing annual reports with the home ministry
  • Time limit for processing application of registration is 90 days (earlier there wasn’t any time limit)
  • If any organisation receive foreign contribution of over ₹10 lakh in an instance , bank concerned would immediately inform govt so that source of such fund can be tracked
  • Section 8(1)(B) – NGOs cant spend beyond 50% of its foreign funding on Administrative expenses.

Since NGOs work independently and are not accountable to government , MHA is encouraging them to be transparent & accountable + Ministry has warned that NGO sector is vulnerable to risk of money laundering & terrorist financing 

Fodder for answers : Important Indian NGOs and their works

Pratham – Largest NGO in India
Works toward provision of quality education to underprivileged children in India
Prepares Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER)
HelpAge India Setup in 1978
Work for the cause of & care of disadvantaged older persons
One of the founding members of HelpAge International  
Bachpan Bachao Andolan Setup in 1990 by Kailash Satyarthi (Nobel prize winner)
Centred on ending bonded labour , child labour & trafficking 
Akshay Patra Foundation – Run school lunch programme across India
Distributes freshly cooked , healthy meals to 1.3 Lakh underprivileged children in 9,000 government schools
Samman Foundation Works toward organising rickshaw pulling class of people by providing them with opportunity to earn livelihood  
LEPRA Society Promotes quality health care through various initiatives
Aims to support various healthcare programmes in prevention and control of diseases like AIDS , Leprosy & TB

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