Recently there have been series of media reports around the laws governing charitable works and institutions in India. Whereas some of them have dwelved into laws and legalities, it is significant to understand India’s “NGO Environment” in its entirety.
We have been serving people through our various charitable initiatives for decades and in our experience there is no country in which humanitarian efforts are encouraged and supported by state machinery like they are in India! The government and the law not only make the environment conducive to carry out such activities but also lend support through representation by state officials and assistance in all ways possible.
However, checks and balances in the NGO space, like in any other system are an integral part of this support mechanism. Without effective and robust assessment machinery, it will become very difficult to sustain the credibility and utility of NGOs.
In fact, it would be fair to say that scrutiny and regulation of organizations in NGO space is far more critical than that of the private sector. This is because humanitarian organizations compliment and supplement the efforts of the state in a country of the size and diversity like ours. So whereas the government is at the forefront of inclusive growth for all sections of the society, civil society participation becomes imperative to achieve the expected pace of reform. And therefore it is sacrosanct that the credibility of these civil society participants is maintained with full caution in public eye.
We have implemented a large number of projects with state and central governments across the country. From sanitation drives to rehabilitating victims of natural disasters, from rescuing trafficked children to rebuilding a life of dignity for prostitution victims – the state machinery has always come out and supported our efforts in all ways possible.
In fact, in my travels across various parts of the country I have come across numerous cases of civil society heroes who are working selflessly for social causes. I have met doctors from metropolitan cities who have given up their plum jobs with top hospitals to serve the needy in remote areas. I have met Ivy league graduates who have gone into the remotest parts of the country to address social issues like sanitation, preparedness against natural calamities, clean energy and other such issues. They not only get access to government grants but also the necessary support from the local agencies in order to initiate reform measures.
There are a host of reasons why the narrative in India has changed to NGO versus state. Whereas some of the NGOs have been accused of funding anti-national activities, others have been accused of financial impropriety. These are grave charges and it is but natural that the relevant authorities have taken timely action to intervene.
However, governments – state and central, as well as concerned authorities have always been extremely encouraging and supportive of all humanitarian tasks being carried out by various organizations. It is significant that in all this we do not lose sight of what we set out for – a better world especially for those who are deprived.
Like the great Desmond Tutu had once said - Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
(The author Dr K P Yohannan is Social Crusader & Metropolitan of Believers Church.)