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NGOs in India – Muddied waters

I begin with the story of Jayavel, who once used to beg on the streets of Chennai and is going to go to Cambridge University for higher education thanks to Uma Muthuraman and her NGO Suyam Charitable Trust. Contrast that with the story of the many nameless children picked off the streets and placed under loosely managed organizations from where they fade away into the world of child trafficking and we find that the story of NGOs in India is indeed a complex one.
NGOs have been a harbinger of change and development in any civilized society till date. Common people with a zeal to do something for the good of mankind coming together under a banner is an undeniable characteristic of human society. They have created awareness among the distressed masses and have led to the empowerment of downtrodden. NGOs of today rescue adults and children off the streets and enable them to earn their livelihood with respect. They fight for the respect of the marginalized like the sex workers, aids victims, and transgenders. They ensure that animals also get treated with the care that is the humane right of every living soul. They watch out to make sure that in our quest for development we do not irretrievably damage our environment. They provide the apt counter balance to those in power to ensure that fruits of prosperity is not denied to even the lowest echelons of society.
Having said this much, it is also pertinent to note that all is not hunky dory when in comes to ngos in India. Quite a few have been accused of mismanagement of funds, diversion of funds into avenues other than those permitted for charitable organizations by the law of the land and tax evasion. There have also been allegations that some of these pull up people centric issues and use them to disrupt and change the dynamics of Indias energy mix by adversely influencing the common people. Very recently, the intelligence bureau came out with a report in this context labeling these organizations as tools to further foreign policy interests in India to our disadvantage.
Considering the extreme lack of transparency and existence of numerous loopholes some small scale organisations also end up becoming venues of illicit money in the hands of money launderers.
In this scenario, what needs to be done is to build a system of transparency and accountability among the caucus of ngos. For this a database could be maintained that is constantly updated and provides real time info for the general public into the activities of various NGOs in India. Making this database online would make the entire network of NGOs more accessible for the people. The next thing to do is to tighten the rules regarding the governance and management of NGOs. Ensuring that every NGO is properly registered, routinely audited and it’s tax returns filed on time in itself will help weed out the black sheeps. It would also be pertinent to start a system through which the victims of spurious organisations posing as charitable ones could report such to the concerned authorities and get necessary help.
NGOs, civil society, etc are the face of the public. The phrase for the people by the people becomes true to basic essentials in case of such organizations. Therefore it is essential that each NGO decide to clean up their act and bring in transparency and accountability into all their actions. Only then will they be able to do the good they aimed for without being burdened by the dark clouds of suspicion.

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