Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Activists and NGOs under govt scanner

                                                        SANJU VERMA

For Prime Minister Narendra Modi the Non-Governmental Organisaions (NGO) should have supplementary role rather than the leading role in initiating, conceptualising and leading people in a particular direction. This is a marked shift in the policy of the government since former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demitted the office. However, even during his tenure, the former Prime Minister flagged the anti-development stance of NGOs, particularly in case Kodaikulam Nuclear Power project in Tamil Nadu. But he did not initiate any action against alleged erring NGOs
Since Mr Modi took charge of the country, his office, the PMO, has so far been quite vigilant over foreign funding to NGOs and has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to tighten rules of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). In the span of about one year of Modi government coming to power, the FCRA licenses of over 9, 000 NGOs from across the country have so far been cancelled. Approximately, a little over12,000 NGOs registered with home ministry.
People, who are in know of Mr Modi and his Gujarat model of development, claim that the Prime Minister has grown from chief minister to PM despite NGOs and he “never had good opinion about voluntary organisations”. In the Gujarat model, they claim, government is on the fore front in providing leadership while leaving the space for NGOs only to follow and implement the directives.
With this as the premise for allowing the NGOs to function in the country, no issue or debate can be initiated by such organisations, which is generally aimed at molding the public option and launch agitations. This was the order of the day during 10 years of the UPA rule, which saw sprouting of a political party out of NGO activism.
Without passing any judgment on the recent moves by the government against NGOs- big and small- there exist an issue, which needs to be addressed and this can only be taken up by the government. Action against without giving opportunity for hearing is against natural justice. MHA passes the order against NGOs claiming that the entities have not filed their returns for three years, which is mandated under FCRA- 2010. But NGOs are not given opportunity to explain their position or a window to correct their mistake, which is provided in almost all the cases even in cases relating to Income Tax or Service tax returns.
There is dire need to provide a platform for the NGOs to interact with the government on the lines of Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA). Even well meaning NGOs have been asking for it. Many among them say wrong or right actions are being taken against them, but there is no place to approach and redress their grievances. They claim that actions are being initiated against them and they are not being told about their mistakes. Therefore under present situation good and bad entities are treated equally and thus good one suffers and overall image of the voluntary sector is dented.   
It is an experience that about 25 years ago the image of corporate was almost like the same as it is in the case of NGOs. But post liberalization, as the economy evolved and the MCA came into being, the corporate entities got a platform to interact with government and a regime of collaboration ushered in.
Similarly, need of the hour is that on the lines of MCA, the government needs to work out a mechanism for interaction with NGOs so that issues are discussed and well meaning solutions are arrived at. There is denying the utility and importance of voluntary sector activism, without which soul of society would be lost. Only government cannot bring about socio-economic changes in the lives of people. Long live India, its government and also NGOs! Together wonders can be achieved, but only in an environment of trust.

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