Sanjeev Nayyar, management consultant, talks on the role of NGOs. He says NGOs could stimulate thought by undertaking original, innovative research and follow up action in a socio-cultural-environmental-education context. Pratham is a very successful NGO in the education space.
They can become a useful vehicle for well off citizens to share their wealth, those who are looking for a private not government-sponsored effort. Or the Friends of Tribal which runs a teacher school in tribal areas. The problem arises when NGOs become branches of the global network. It is natural then that their mission and thought would be in line with that of the parent.
Does India have a policy on NGOs?
The central government has no policy towards NGOs. As long as NGOs are sympathetic to and work in tandem with the party in power, it is fine. The minute they cross the Laxman Rekha, the government comes down heavily, for eg Koodankulam.
I call it a Laissez faire policy. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed US-based NGOs for engineering protests against nuclear reactors in Koodankulam. Tamil Nadu and Chennai district have been amongst the largest recipients of foreign money for many years now. This was known to the government all along. So why has the PMO woken up to the perils of foreign money now? Because foreign money has been used to delay commissioning the Koodankulam nuclear power plant? As we have seen in the past, any policy matter that has the words ‘nuclear’, such as the Indo-US Nuclear deal, makes the Prime Minister unnaturally assertive and stubborn, notwithstanding threats from UPA allies.
Do you think some NGOs are misusing foreign funds in India for their own purposes?
The top three donor countries for many years have been USA, Germany, and UK. Remittances from the U.S. Between 2002-03 and 2009-10 have nearly doubled (Rs 1,680 to Rs 3,106 crs). Spain and Italy are in dire economic straits, Britain had a fiscal deficit of 11 per cent of GDP in 2009-10 yet they remitted over Rs 1,000 crores to Indian NGOs per annum. Despite the economic downturn, the west has continued contributions to Indian NGOs? A reading of the top 15 donors and recipients might provide some answers! There are reports that NGOs are diverting money and using it for anti-national purposes in Maoist-hit areas, Jammu and Kashmir, North East and other insurgency-prone regions.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) grants approval to an NGO for receipt of funds from abroad and then annually collates audited receipts and payments accounts, balance sheet etc.
The MHA scrutinises returns to ensure that contributions have been well used. During 2009-10, only 46 per cent of foreign contribution recipients filed their annual returns with MHA.
Therefore, the governmentdoes not even report the actual amount of contributions received by NGOs. There are 38,000 odd registered associations with MHA. Is it possible for the Govt to monitor utilisation of funds and activities?