It’s been proposed that an autonomous accreditation authority — National Accreditation Council of India or NACI and a mechanism to rate NGOs should be set up to address some of the crucial issues related to functioning of NGOs. Critically examine the merits and demerits of implementing these proposals, especially in India. (200 Words)
Recently, several NGOs have been accused of not understanding the people’s plight, as the members are themselves are from well off sections of society, and also that, some NGOs are not doing any real work on ground, besides only creating unrest in public order.
To counter this situation, the govt has decided to form an accreditation forum, so to rank them according to the work done, so as to ease the choices of donators, who will then donate to the better ranked NGOs.
    • It will lead to an increase in investor confidence and betterment of public perception.
    • The deserving NGOs will get formal recognition for the work done on ground, which will help in motivating them even further.
    • The NGOs will be able to compete with political parties, who claim to have a better platform, as the reputed NGOs will also be able to obtain adequate funds from the govt, thus removing the problem of fund shortage, and they will also be at a stage to demand a say in policies regarding social initiatives.
    • The govt would be able to outsource their work of social impact assessment of any public policy to reputed NGOs, and save the time of govt depts., avoiding the unnecessary delays in execution stage.
    • It will not be able to adequately rank the NGOs, which have intangible results of their activities, like those only campaigning to remove a social evil from a society. The ranking agency will not be able to link the actual achievements on ground with their activities.
    • It may lead to the autonomy of only some of the NGOs due to large fund availability, which will demotivate the other organisations, even if they are doing an equal amount of hard work.
    • The list can be politically motivated too, to provide credence to a particular NGO.
In the past, a body called NACI was made for this purpose, which only reached up to the stage of preparing a document enlisting all NGOs.
In India, such a ranking system can be helpful, as they can serve as a nice supplement to the efforts of the central govt. and it will help in bringing recognition to the worthy NGOs.
But also other NGOs should be equally motivated to work harder and help in making the nation, a better society.
Looking at recent controversies regarding the functioning and funding of NGOs in India, do you think internet and communication tools can reform them in this regard? Critically examine. (200 Words)
According to the report of Central Bureau of Investigation’s recent report, there are around 3.1 million NGOs in India with only 10 percent of them filing Income Tax returns and submitting Balance sheets. This clearly indicates shoddy working NGOs which are seen with suspicious eyes by the government. The government also recently banned some international NGOs owing to their non-compliance to Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.
This clearly dictates more transparency and accountability in working of the NGOs in India. Internet and communication tools (ICTs) can a long way in bridging this gap. The online sharing of their compliances, sources of funding etc. can prove to be beneficial not only from security point of view but can also acts as a quick guide to donors before donating to them.
On the negative side, ICTs would increase cost input of NGOs and they would require more technically competent staff for the same. The cost compliance would come from their capital earmarked for development work. Also, due to insufficient infrastructure facilities like internet in remote locations which are often working bases of many NGOs may impose some problem.
ICTs have a huge potential and when used by NGOs can definitely bring in more transparency in their functioning and funding. This will also bring more confidence from the government, donors and society in general.
Critically comment on the recent changes in the rules governing foreign funding of NGOs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). (200 Words)
Recently, many NGOs like Greenpeace, Ford Foundation, Gates foundation, Sabrang etc have found themselves on the wrong side of Foreign contribution regulation act (FCRA). FCRA is legislated to monitor the flow of foreign currency to NGOs , as to check whether any foreign influence is used to do activities which are detrimental to national Interest. Some of its provisions include:
  1. Registration of all NGOs receiving foreign funds with government
  2. Routing of foreign funding through designated bank
  3. Submitting report of foreign contribution within 30 days
  4. Limiting the administrative expense to 50% for foreign funds.
In recent times there is an apprehension, that by invoking FCRA, the government is trying to stifle the voice of the NGO and civil society. Also political parties do receive, allegedly, large donations from vested interests in foreign as is being made out from their reluctance to follow CICs order to comply with the RTI. World Bank, UN agencies are exempt from FCRA but their contribution goes directly to the government and mostly the bureaucrats who benefit from deputation periods. FDI norms are relaxed for various sectors but rules made tougher for NGOs.
Foreign funding should always be monitored carefully to prevent misuse, but opting to put a blanket ban, undermines the democratic ethos and freedom of speech in India. Efforts should be made to bridge the trust deficit between government and civil society
Do you think NGOs should be treated on par with private companies, especially when it comes to foreign funding? In the light of India’s curbs on foreign funding for certain NGOs, critically comment. (200 Words)
Civil society forms an important part of today’s Good Governance paradigm, it seeks to bridge divides between state and its subjects by playing an important role in each stage of public policy formulation and implementation.
Government of India has targeted various NGOs like Greenpeace, Ford Foundation alleging that they have played an obstructionist role in development with the funds sourced from abroad. This has led to actions like cancellation of their registration, freezing accounts and keeping them on watch list.
  1. As private companies lobby for govt policies (like subsidies, exemptions) favourable for themselves, NGOs too lobby but for interests of illiterate and unrepresented sections of society.
  2. Although govt has the final say in every decision, NGOs can only highlight the hitherto ignored impact of big-ticket projects.
  3. While foreign funding in case of companies is generally welcomed with a red carpet, discouraging it for NGOs will stifle voluntary efforts for education, health, social reforms, upliftment of vulnerable sections.
  4. Considerable development-led displacement has caused peasants movements to be given proper shape and platform to interact with govt.
This is not to deny that some NGOs do promote vested interests. However, the right way would be to:
  1. Regulate activities of NGOs periodically under provisions of Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act
  2. Strictly enforce submission of annual account statements to the govt similar to listed cos submitting annual reports to Stock Exchanges
  3. Providing adequate hearing to NGOs against whom allegations may be made.
Govt has to conclusively prove the charges that are levelled against them.  Outright ban citing the excuse of ubiquitous “foreign hand” is a common feature of authoritarian regimes, not democratic polities like India.
Some parts of Southern India have witnessed major protests against setting up of beverage plants in the vicinity of agricultural lands. Critically examine why and comment if such protests can be called as anti – development. (200 Words)
Industrialization is usually good for the country as it results in providing improved services along with creating employment opportunities. However it becomes matter of concern when industries start exploiting natural resources at a rapid pace having an adverse impact on the local population. On the similar concerns major protests were witnessed against setting up of beverage plants in the vicinity of agricultural lands in South India.
Reasons for these protests include:
  1. Beverage plants once in operation will use around 1 lakh litres of water per day which will be sourced from either ground water or rivers which are also sources of water for agricultural sector. This tremendous usage of water will put burden on the already stressed water resources and will have a devastating impact on the agricultural sector in the long run. Also South India grows some water intensive crops like rice therefore the impact will be intense. This can result in not only decrease in production but productivity of the agriculture which will hit earning of the farmers.
  2. Further huge amount of waste will be generated by the industry is another matter of concern. With no effective dumping strategy on bypassing the laws companies usually dump the waste in close vicinity or rivers which will pollute the environment. Polluted water from rivers when used in agriculture will have devastating results on production as well as quality of the crops.
  3. There is huge amount of plastic being used in the beverage industry which will also result in waste generation and if this plastic waste if dumped on the agricultural lands will affect soil health adversely. With already stressed health of the soils in the country this will present additional burden for the sector.
As development is done for the benefit of the country is general and society in particular but it causes apprehensions when it is not inclusive and it is done at the cost of other sectors like agriculture. And in a sector like agriculture where half the country’s population is engaged any steps to protect the sector cannot be termed as anti-developmental.
In this perspective it would have been better to select the locations for the industries near to water sources in areas where water sources are not under stress. Further better communication with the local populace about the plans of the industry keeping both local and environmental needs in notice and about the benefits of the industry would have helped. Also adding Corporate Sector responsibility works in the fields of agriculture will further help in easing the operations for the industry.
In the light of recent issues related to NGOs, critically examine their role in development processes. Do you think the government should keep itself completely away from the activities of NGOs which are involved in developmental activities? Critically comment. (200 Words)



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