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NGOs-Non-Governmental Organizations in India

What are NGOs?

The World Bank defines NGOs as “private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services or undertake community development”.

As per UN, a non-governmental organization (NGO) is a not-for-profit, voluntary citizens’ group, which is organized on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good.

Registration of NGOs-

Registered under Acts such as- 
  • The Societies’ Act, 1860,
  • Indian Trust Act, 1882, 
  • Public Trust Act, 1950, 
  • Indian Companies Act, 1956 (Section 25), 
  • Religious Endowment Act, 1863, 
  • The Charitable and Religious Trust Act, 1920,
  • The MussalmanWakf Act, 1923, 
  • The Wakf Act, 1954, and 
  • Public Wakfs (Extension of Limitation Act) Act, 1959
  • The Companies Act, 2013 (Section 8)

Characteristics of NGOs-

It includes-
  • Formed voluntarily;
  • Are independent of government;
  • Are not for profit or gain;
  • The principal is to work for disadvantaged/ underprivileged people.

Historical background-

  • The emergence of voluntary organizations in India can be traced to the reform movements of 19th century. 
  • Movements like Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission etc. were few examples that worked for the disadvantaged, equality, political upliftment, literacy, removing social evils etc. 
  • With National movement, these organizations saw the role in mass mobilizations, political awareness and actions etc.
  • In the post-independence period, the voluntary organizations found role in nation building. 
      • Played important role in letting the voice of downtrodden to be heard while formulating policies.
      • The work was not only confined to these areas, rather they focused on relief and rehabilitation of people affected due to natural disasters like flood, drought, earthquakes etc.
      • Contribution in literacy and awareness is massive. Helped the government to run the literacy drive especially for women.
      • They worked for primary health facilities being available to needy like in rural areas, far flung areas etc.
      • Role in nutritional and immunization drives like of Polio is significant.  

Current Status-

  • The first-ever exercise, in 2015, by the CBI to map registered NGOs has disclosed that India has at least 31 lakh NGOs.
  • Among the states, Uttar Pradesh tops the list with more than 5.48 lakh NGOs, followed by Maharashtra which has 5.18 lakh NGOs. Kerala comes third with 3.7 lakh NGOs, followed by West Bengal with 2.34 lakh NGOs. Of the 82,250 NGOs in the Union Territories, Delhi alone has more than 76,000 NGOs.
  • The Central Statistical Organisation of India states there are around four NGOs for every 1,000 people in urban areas and 2.3 NGOs for every 1,000 rural population.

Types of NGOs-

Various types includes
  • International NGOs
  • Environmental NGOs
  • Health-sector NGOs
  • Civil Society Organisations
  • Governmental NGOs
  • The government promoted Third Sector Organisations

also read the role of NGOs in India

Role/ Importance of NGOs-

  • Awareness– These are at the grassroot levels. So informing in local dialects is easy for them to convey the rights, rules, regulations, schemes etc. provided for the welfare of the citizens.
  • Education & Research– Since earlier time, they have played crucial role in imparting education to the downtrodden or under-privileged. Also they can contribute in research work as these organizations are free to take risks, innovate and for trials.
  • Human Rights– NGOs are known to safeguard the rights of people be it from government, private parties. Many protests have been witnessed against developmental projects which were displacing large numbers from their lands or were harmful for human health. 
  • Animal Rights– NGOs like PETA has worked efficiently to prevent cruelties on animals.
  • Women & Child Welfare– NGOs have helped in implementation of schemes like Integrated Child Development, Mission Indradhanush, Polio drives, maternal care, drives against domestic violence, awareness about Domestic Violence Act, prevention of Child marriages, etc. They can play crucial role in empowerment of women at grassroot level as they are in real contact with the populace.
  • Health servicesTracking health workers, inspecting primary healthcare centres, monitoring vaccination drives etc. are some significant tasks performed by the NGOs.
  • Training & Skilling– Many NGOs are providing skill to under-privileged to uplift them and bring in to the mainstream. They are being funded by government for success of Skill India Mission, PMKVY, etc.
  • Environmental Protection– The NGOs from very early time have acted to secure the environment be it Narmada Bachao Andolan, Chipko Movement or protests against mining in Jharkhand and Odisha, etc. They have tried to maintain the ecological balance along with the development projects. 
  • Culture & Recreation– The rural and traditional culture is being revived by the help of NGOs. Many old and vanished arts, dances, music etc. are being publicized and helped to get the due attention and importance.
  • Media & infrastructure– They are helping the needy to get to know of the available options for them to have requisite infrastructures. Many schools and colleges are being opened with the initiatives of NGOs.
  • Participatory Democracy– Encouraging people to participate in democracy, to let their voices be heard by the government is the task taken care of by the NGOs. Ensuring accountability, transparency, reducing red-tappism are some of the works of NGOs.
  • Development of Rural Areas– Most of the NGOs are operational in rural areas as these areas lack awareness, infrastructure, plans etc. So it can help to draw the region-wise plans to have a inclusive development and to ensure last mile delivery of the services.
  • Entrepreneurship Development– many of them have helped the unemployed or needy to get their business being setup like Stitching centres, coaching classes, laundries, repairing shops etc.
  • Internal Security– conveying the developmental works to areas where the LWE or other rebellion groups or non-state actors are operating is the crucial task undertaken by the NGOs. They take note of basic facilities to be provided, area-related schemes, development plans etc. Through NGOs, internal security can be maintained by mainstreaming these marginalized sections of society.
  • Social Work– Social work is the main task of the NGOs as it is for which they are being promoted as it is impossible for Government to reach the last mile.

From where funds come?-

  • Government funding-

      • Government provides funds to NGOs as they assist government to implement the policies at the grassroot level. 
      • Ministries like Health & Family Welfare, Women & Child Development and Environment, Forest & Climate Change, etc. have separate department to work in collaboration with the NGOs.
  • Foreign funding-

      • NGOs registered under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, with the Home Ministry, are allowed to receive funding from abroad.
      • Unregistered NGOs can’t receive funds worth more than `25,000/-.
  • Charitable donations are eligible for exemption under Income tax (Sec 80G), with the condition that it should not be for benefit of any religious community or caste, among other conditions.
  • In future, all funds to NGOs/VOs should be released through the Public Fund Management System (PFMS) that a three-tier monitoring system shall be instituted uniformly for the central government and ministries.

Issues with NGOs-

  • Monitoring– there lacks a mechanism to monitor the activities of NGOs. This has resulted in the opaqueness in their functioning.
  • Biasnessmany NGOs are biased as they are being funded for some specific purpose and by some specific groups resulting in to demoralizing the work of NGOs who are actually working for humankind.
  • Hidden motives/ intentions– Many a times the NGOs hide what actual work has been taken care of by them. Hence intentions affect the government funding and also trust deficit from public side.
  • Interference– They tries to interfere in many development projects making for the government to delay or stop execution of many important works like in recent banning of Greenpeace.
  • Foreign influence– Foreign actor tries to influence the domestic policies or try to encourage sectionalism or fractionalism through these NGOs like recent case of an NGO associated with Zakir Naik.
  • Transparencylack of management guidelines make it difficult for transparency in NGOs. How they decide to spend money, Where and what work needs to be undertaken are few questions which most of the times remains unanswered.
  • Money Laundering- a way to rotate the illicit money, to convert it into white, to operate illegal tasks are the new trend in few NGOs which are for namesake.

Problems faced by NGOs-

  • Lack of funds– funding is strictly regulated by the government, so they have a fund crunch resulting into inoperationability. 
  • Corruption– to get government fund is a task which can be fulfilled only through corruption. Then to work in any particular area, any specific task etc. need bribery for free operation.
  • Trained personals– India lacks a team which can carefully and efficiently carry on the task to serve the mankind.
  • Reach– Their reach is restricted many a times by the government so that the drawbacks and lack in government policies remains hidden.
  • Accreditation– registration of a NGO is very difficult task in India. Unavailability of single-window system makes it cumbersome to get a NGO registered.
  • Public aggression/ protests– When these NGOs act against any public norm/ ritual/ tradition, they face the public protests like in the case of Jalikattu.

Constitutional provisions-

  • Article 19(1)(c)- it gives freedom to form an association or cooperative.
  • Article 43(b)- The State shall endeavour to promote voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control and professional management of [co-operative societies].
  • Part IXB– cooperative societies.
  • Entry 32 of State List
  • Entry 10 and 28 of Concurrent List

Statutes governing NGOs-

  • Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010-
      • Foreign funding of voluntary organizations in India is regulated under the FCRA act and is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
      • The acts ensure that the recipients of foreign contributions adhere to the stated purpose for which such contribution has been obtained.
      • Such funds must not be used in speculative activities identified under the Act.
      • Except with the prior approval of the Authority, such funds must not be given or transferred to any entity not registered under the Act or having prior approval under the Act.
      • Every asset purchased with such fund must be in the name of the NGO and not its office bearers or members.
      • Under the act, organisations require to register themselves every five years.
  • Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999-
      • Foreign Exchange Management Act (1999) aims to consolidate and amend the law relating to foreign exchange with the objective of facilitating external trade and payments and for promoting the orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India.
      • In 2016, the powers of the Ministry of Finance to monitor NGO were placed under the FEMA. 
      • The idea was to bring all NGOs, which receive foreign contributions, under one umbrella for better monitoring and regulations.

NGOs and RTI-

The Supreme Court adjudicated in 2019 that Non-Government 0rganisations (NGOs) that are “substantially financed, directly or indirectly”, by government funds will fall within the ambit of “public authority” under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005,

Recent Developments-

  • All NGOs that are allowed to receive funding from overseas under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010, to fill a form online to report their COVID-19 related activities by the 15th of every month.
  • FCRA registered NGOs have received a total of Rs 2,244.77 crore in 2018- 19 (as on November 28, 2019) as compared to Rs 16,902.41 crore in 2017-18.
  • Certificates of registration of 1,808 FCRA registered NGOs have been canceled recently for non-submission of mandatory annual returns for 2017-18.
  • Registration certificates of approximately 14,500 associations have been canceled during the last five years.
  • NITI Aayog has been appointed as the nodal agency for the purpose of registration and accredition of VOs/NGOs seeking funding from the government of India.

Way forward-

  • Need for Policy– The erstwhile Planning Commission had drafted the National Policy on the Voluntary Sector 2007 and had come up with a set of guidelines set forth in the Eleventh and Twelfth Five Year Plans for the sector.
  • Rating Agencies– intermediary organizations such as rating agencies could definitely be beneficial in building a robust voluntary sector.
  • Accreditation CouncilNational Accreditation Council of India or NACI need to be established with balanced participation from both government and voluntary sector for transparency and accountability.
  • Strengthening the monitoring and surveillance– recently, the role of NGOs in certain anti-national activities and protests has led to the demand of proper monitoring mechanisms.

Conclusion-

The country faces a number of complex problems that require adaptive, multi-sectoral solutions where sustained social mobilization is particularly important where these Voluntary Organizations could play a significant role. These include poverty alleviation, skill promotion, entrepreneurship development, empowerment of women, population stabilization, combating HIV/AIDS, managing water resources, elementary education and forest management, etc.

The government must ensure that the NGOs work transparently and it must work alongside these organizations for the welfare of the people and the safety of democracy.

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