Thursday, September 16, 2010
It is not easy to keep pace with the world which is changing fast in spite of my attempt to spend about half an hour every morning to read 3-4 newspapers. It seems that I missed the following July 04, 2010 report due to summer vacation pressure :-) There was one. I went invisible in google too to avoid any ping. Shall talk about that later. I was on the facebook page of an NGO where I saw a connection to this thread. It reveals some startling facts.
India has possibly the largest number of active non-government, not-for-profit organizations in the world. A recent study commissioned by the government put the number of such entities, accounted for till 2009, at 3.3 million. That is one NGO for less than 400 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres in India.
That too is a conservative estimate according to http://www.indianexpress.com/news/first-official-estimate-an-ngo-for-every-40/643302/
Isn't that great? One NGO if on average has 10 members, the ratio becomes 1:40. Besides we have GOs - schools, health centres to top up (since the NGO number is larger). Our population must be getting great care. Let us see how they are financed.
While the government will begin studying the finances of the sector in the second phase of the survey, estimates from within the sector suggest that NGOs, or NPIs, raise anywhere between Rs 40,000 crore and Rs 80,000 crore in funding annually. ... Individual donors are emerging as the biggest and most lucrative source of funds. According to an internal study by a leading foreign NGO headquartered in the UK, donations by individuals are expected to have grown from around Rs 2,200 crore in 2005 to Rs 8,100 crore by a conservative estimate, and to around Rs 21,000 crore (in 2009) by more liberal estimates.
That is lot of money. It requires audit of both types. The one according to financial norms. The other is the social audit. The community for which donation is made should know the amount donated, work done; the donor in turn should get report of utilization of fund and actual outcomes. Is that happening? Our little exposure to underdeveloped area do not say that. On the contrary we see high rise building of NGO officials with marble floors, air-conditioned vehicles and there are advertisements of 'lucrative' NGO jobs in various campus. Indian Express report leaves a hint.
“The government study included, these are all broad estimates. Nobody really knows the ground reality because this sector has grown very fast in the past many years. Besides, there have been no efforts to maintain an official database or even to encourage such entities to be transparent about their activities as well as fundings,” said Soumitro Ghosh, founder CEO, CSO Partners, a Chennai-based organization set up to encourage transparency in the functioning of the sector.
The effort of Mr. Ghosh is laudable. But often the NGOs use the umbrage that they are so much burdened with their 'social service' work that this accounting, keeping records etc. becomes an extra burden. And there are bigger plots too as has been mentioned in a follow up article of Indian Express dated Aug. 17, 2010. It also gives further clarification on financial aspect.
According to various estimates, in 2009, around Rs 18,000 crore (of total Rs. 80000 crore) came in from the government, around Rs 10,000 crore were generated through foreign contributions, Rs 1,600-2,000 crore were raised through religious contributions and the rest (~ Rs. 50000 crore) through corporate and individual donations.
These are big numbers. And Mr. Ghosh rightly says, “The point is that if India, indeed, had 3-4 million NGOs, whatever amount of funds they may be raising, by the sheer amount of work they would do, we will not have the kind of social problems that we are currently faced with.”
A few days back when we (a team of NSS officers) were visiting a few Sarva Shiksha Kendra we happened to meet an NGO official in a Panchayat Office. He said, "I requested you to join us or at least visit our NGO. You asked one of our volunteer about audit statements. It was not ready at that time. I understand why you said that. Most of the NGOs are in money-making business. We are not like that. We care for the people." To hear that from an NGO official right at the heart of a village means a lot.
I shall end this post with the opening statement of this second Indian Express report. It shows that money is not the issue. A professionally managed, transparent organization who really care for the people is the need of the hour. That organization need not even touch any money and can simply serve as an integrating force of various well meaning NGO and GO efforts. To do that one needs to have a balanced development of 3 'H' : Heart - to feel, Head - to plan, Hand - to execute. Donating money is the easiest thing to do and usually that comes first to our mind when we think about our social responsibility. Often people play on that tender feelings, show images of poverty, lack of facilities etc. for collecting money. We donate and think that our job is done. But as this report says, that is not enough. We have to have a system in place, if it does not exist, we need to create a one. We need to visit the places ourselves, first time may be with the help of NGO. After that on our own and check the progress. We have read that in a well run kingdom, the king used to mix with people like a commoner and find out their problems, how they are benefited from development schemes etc.. If he visited with royal entourage the truth would not have been revealed.
I think that a significant number of iitians possess these qualities (3 'H'). With a strong 'IIT' brand and stronger alumni network we can surely take a lead here. That will be one excellent gift to the nation, our 'Bharat' which often is treated differentially with 'India' and talked about in various circles. The endnote from the newspaper article.
It is surprising that while India has one of the largest number of active not-for-profit, non-government organisations, most global donor agencies and voluntary agencies lament that they do not find enough “eligible partners” to work with. “We fund only around 250 NGOs in India. Finding professional, above board organisations that will follow transparent ways of functioning is a challenge (here),” says Nisha Agarwal, CEO, Oxfam India, a US-based organisation that mainly raises and donates funds to grassroots agencies. Oxfam’s funding budget for 2009 was Rs 90 crore.