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Role of NGOs in India

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Role of NGOs in India


NGOs can and should play the “game changer” to pro-poor development through leadership on participatory research, community empowerment and search for development alternatives
 

In a democratic society, it is the state that has the ultimate responsibility for ushering development to its citizens. In India, through the progressive interpretation of the Constitution and its laws and policies, the scope of development has been significantly broadened to include not just economic progress for citizens, but also promotion of social justice, gender equity, inclusion, citizen’s awareness, empowerment and improved quality of life. To achieve this holistic vision of development, the state requires the constructive and collaborative engagement of the civil society in its various developmental activities and programs. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as the operational arm of the civil society therefore have an important role in the development processes.

Defining Non-Government Organisations

In its most general usage, civil society refers to all voluntarily constituted social relations, institutions, and organisations that are not reducible to the administrative grasp of the state. NGOs are organisations within the civil society that work on the “not-for-profit” approach in the space which exists between the family (household), market and state. It is made up of several types of formal voluntary organisations, where people based on community, neighbourhood, workplace and other connections form their association to participate in actions for their own collective interests or for larger social good. Those NGOs which are working at the global arena, across several countries are termed as international NGOs.


Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in its concept papers on civil society and good governance has defined civil society as “an intermediate realm situated between state and household, populated by organized groups or associations, which are separate from the state, enjoy some autonomy in relations with the state, and are formed voluntarily by members of society to protect or extend their interests, values or identities”. For the purpose of this paper we understand NGOs as “formally registered not-for profit association of groups of individuals founded on the principles of equality, altruism and voluntary work spirit to promote human development (including environment and biodiversity) and nation building”

Indian State and NGOs
In India the state policies have significantly influenced the formation of NGOs and their activities. The government sponsored and aided programmes provided financial assistance to NGOs either as grants or as matching grants to support the implementation of social development projects. In the Sixth Five Year Plan (1980-1985), the government identified new areas in which NGOs as new actors could participate in development. The Seventh Five Year Plan (1985-1990), envisioned a more active role for NGOs as primary actors in the efforts towards self-reliant communities. This was in tune with the participatory and empowerment ideologies, which was gaining currency in the developmental discourse at that time.
Government support and encouragement for NGOs continued in the Eighth Five-year plan, where a nation-wide network of NGOs was sought to be created. The Ninth Five-year plan proposed that NGOs should play a role in development on the public-private partnership model. Also, the agricultural development policies of the government and its implementation mechanisms provide scope and space for NGOs. A case in point is the watershed development program, which has led to the growth of NGOs working for rural development. This has also been acknowledged in the Tenth Five-year Plan Document.
Such proactive state support to NGOs has also brought in the element of reporting and regulations. This is being done through a series of legislative and administrative measures, which are often considered by NGO workers as affecting the performance and efficiency of NGOs. However, the Constitutional provision for right to association ensures that the NGOs enjoy adequate autonomy in terms of their management and governance. In the words of Prof. Amartya Sen, the relationship between the state and NGOs is one of “cooperative conflict”.
With the increasing role of the NGOs in development activities they are now attracting professionals from various other sectors, and capacities are being built in support areas such as financial management, resource mobilization, human resources, leadership development, governance procedures and practices and institutional development.
At another level NGOs have been addressing the social service issues and empowerment related advocacy efforts have been increasing. The study conducted by a New Delhi based NGO concluded that every fifth NGO in India works on the issues of community and social service. The favourable disposition of the governments and the political will to involve NGOs is more pronounced in implementation of the welfare schemes addressing causes of women and children.
Further, the industrial policies have influenced the formation and relations between the businesses and NGOs. The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), a leading organisation, has been raising the issues of corporate social responsibility. The emphasis of industrial policies on the promotion and development of small, cottage and village industries has also lead to the formation of agencies such as the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Small Industries Associations and likes.
The Indian NGOs Scenario
In India, it was the 1970s which saw rapid growth in the formation of formally registered NGOs and the process continues to this day. Most NGOs have created their respective thematic, social group and geographical priorities such as poverty alleviation, community health, education, housing, human rights, child rights, women’s rights, natural resource management, water and sanitation; and to these ends they put to practice a wide range of strategies and approaches. Primarily, their focus has been on the search for alternatives to development thinking and practice; achieved through participatory research, community capacity building and creation of demonstrable models.
When we review some of the work done by NGOs over the past 3 decades, we find that they have contributed greatly to nation building. Many NGOs have worked hard to include children with disability in schools, end caste-based stigma and discrimination, prevent child labour and promote gender equality resulting in women receiving equal wages for the same work compared to men. During natural calamities they have played an active role in relief and rehabilitation efforts, in particular, providing psycho-social care and support to the disaster affected children, women and men. NGOs have been instrumental in the formation and capacity building of farmers and producers’ cooperatives and women’s self-help groups.
Several NGOs have worked hand in hand with the Government to ensure that millions of out of school children are enrolled and continue their school education, thus making the right to education a reality. The leprosy eradication programme was spearheaded by NGOs and today only residual leprosy remains in our country. NGOs have implemented the Jeevan Dhara programme for creation of wells for safe drinking water; promoted community toilets for total sanitation, and supported the public health programs on immunisation and for eliminating tuberculosis and malaria. The much celebrated NREGA, ICDS, ICPS, Nirmal gram, and Swasthya bima of the government have their roots in the work of many NGOs.
NGOs have significantly influenced the development of laws and policies on several important social and developmental issues such as the right to information, juvenile justice, ending corporal punishment in schools, anti-trafficking, forests and environment, wildlife conservation, women, elderly people, people with disability, rehabilitation and resettlement of development induced displaced people to name a few. Further, NGOs made their modest attempts to ensure the effective implementation of these laws and policies by conducting and disseminating findings from participatory research, budget analysis, public hearings, social audits, workshops, seminars and conferences.
Summing up, it is now well established that NGOs have an important role to play in the development processes and that both the state and market need the collaboration of credible, active, and accountable NGOs. Given their connect with the grassroots realities, NGOs can and should play the “game changer” to pro-poor development through leadership on participatory research, community empowerment and search for development alternatives.
By : Mohammed Asif ; Director-Programme Implementation, Plan India, New Delhi. (E-mail: mohammed.asif@planindia.org)

3 comments:

Joney Symond said...

Thanks a lot for such a nice and informative information about your NGO. I really enjoyed a lot after reading this.

Keep blogging.

Subi Azim said...

Helped me a lot with my paper, thanks~

Anonymous said...

well written article

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