Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Problem of plenty
Sopan Corespondent/ Shillong
Many NGOs in North-East have links with terrorist outfits and recieve funds from dubious agencies
A recent survey found that North-East states like south India have been a fertile land for non-governmental organizations. For instance, in Tripura, is abounding in the number of NGOs disproportionate to its population. According to the census, the total population of Tripura is 35 lakh. But the number of registered NGOs in the state is 4963 as on February 28, 2006. There is no count of unregistered NGOs.
According to government sources, the surge in the registration of NGOs is a recent phenomenon and it came to light after the Centre came out with a list of default NGOs. Another interesting aspect of this sudden spurt of NGOs is that most of them have mentioned their area of operation as Women Development/Empowerment. Why is there a sudden interest in the welfare of women?, asks a Mahendra Singh, himself an NGO activist.
"Going by the sheer number of NGOs and the money being spent through them by the government and other agencies, the tiny state would have become a developed state by now," he said. But the social indicators of the state present a dismal picture.
The Social Welfare Board under the Central government blacklisted 69 voluntary organisations for financial misappropriation in the state. All these non-governmental organisations have taken financial assistance from the Department for various projects for which they have not submitted either status report or carried out the development project for which the funds were intended. This is for the first time that a large number of voluntary organisations have been targeted.
The Central Social Welfare Board was set up by a Resolution of Government of India dated 12th August, 1953 with the object of promoting social welfare activities and implementing welfare programmes for women, children and the handicapped through voluntary organizations. Till 1969 the Board functioned as a limb of the Government and then it was registered as a charitable company under the companies Act to give a legal status to the Board.
The Board was given the dual responsibility of taking welfare services to the disadvantage sections of society especially women and children, and also developing a nationwide infrastructure of voluntary agencies through which these services could be made available.
The bogus voluntary organisations see the Central Social Welfare Board as a milch cow. Since there are many schemes for uplift of women, most of these agencies prepare detailed proposals and approach the Board for funds.
Most of the voluntary organisations running in the state have the support of powerful politicians and the bureaucrats in the state. Although questions were raised in the Assembly about the activities of voluntary organisations and their financial irregularities, the state social welfare minister had no clear answers for many of them.
The state opposition leader Mr. Rattan Lal Nath asked the minister that why the state did not take any action against any voluntary organisation even after there were complaints about the functioning of certain organisations. Senior political leader and a noted Scheduled Tribe leader Samacharan Tripura also questioned the role of some politicians in the running of voluntary organisations.
According to a social activist there is a powerful NGO mafia that is pocketing funds for developmental projects.
This mafia is so powerful that they even dictate terms to the bureaucracy. It is also true that some voluntary organisations are run by proxy by senior bureaucrats.
However, there was practically no whimper of protest over the government action by the voluntary organisations. Most of the voluntary organisations chose to remain silent on the issue.
But the Tripura Adivasi Samiti is the only organisation that has come out with a statement against the centre's move.
The director of the Samiti said: "The government's decision is not right. We were not given any intimation or time to represent our case. The allegation of financial misappropriation is baseless."
Agragani Samanj Kendra, (Abhay Nagar, Agartala), Assampada Nari Samiti, Ranir Bazar (Adaliya), Ganatantrik Nari Samiti (Bishram Ganj), Aamtali Upajati Ganatantrik Nari Samiti (Bishram Ganj), Agragani Mahila Samiti (Pratap Gad), Vajrapur Mahila Samiti (Bilonia), Birchandra Mahila Samiti (Bilonia), Bhatti Abhay Nagar Mahila Samiti, Chandrapur Mahila Samiti (Resham Bazar), Chaygadia Mahila Unnayan Samiti, Durgapur Mahila Samiti, Dharyatal Mahila Samiti (Khowai), Durantpada Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti (Jirania), Debanpada Mahila Unnayan Samiti(Devangad), Gobtali Nari Samiti, (Bilonia), and Gomati Project Ganatantrik Nari Samiti (South Tripura) are some of the voluntary organisations that have been blacklisted by the Board.
In the year 2003, union home ministry had blacklisted more than 800 voluntary organisations in the north-east for alleged links with separatist groups. The Centre had asked the respective state governments to keep these outfits under close watch.
Centre had always been concerned about the proliferation of voluntary organisations in the region. Most of the voluntary organisations had dubious origins and served as conduit for rebel funding both from foreign sources and government funds.
Meghalaya, a state of only around twenty five lakh people, has more than 8,000 voluntary organisations.
They received nearly 15 crore from the government last year out of the 50 crore rupees pumped into the state by Delhi. More than 300 of the blacklisted voluntary organisations are in Meghalaya.
The role of several human right groups including the Manab Adhikar Sangram Sam iti (MASS) in the North-East is under scrutiny, with the Ministry of Home Affairs identifying them as having close links with the underground outfits.
The names of organisations are MASS, North-East Coordination committee on Human Rights (NECCHR). United committee, Manipur (UCM), Naga peoples Movement for Human rights (NPMHR) and Naga Students Federation (NSF).
These voluntary organisations have not been reported to have engaged them selves openly in supporting or promoting terrorist activities.
These voluntary organisations maintain discreet links with the terrorist organisations. However, 13 organisations of the North Eastern States had been declared as Unlawful Association under the Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act, 1967.