What are Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)?
Civil Society, when organized in structure and specialized in function, takes the form of NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations).
Characteristics of NGOs:
- It is an organization of private individuals who believe in certain basic social principles.
- They structure their activities to bring about development to communities they are servicing.
- It is a social development organization.
- An independent, democratic, non-sectarian people’s organization working for the empowerment of economic and/or socially marginalized groups.
- An organization not affiliated to political parties.
Types of NGOs
In the 1980s, three different forms of NGO/voluntary movement emerged in India.
• Traditional Development NGOs: These NGOs directly engage with the public at large, go to the villages, tribal areas and carry out grass root development work related to education, health, sanitation, rural development etc.
Ex: treatment centre for leprosy patients run by Baba Amte in central India.
• Activist NGOs: They see activism as their primary means of reaching their goals, because they do not believe they could get the authorities to move in any other way. Perhaps the best-known example of an NGO in this category is the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Campaign), an organization that opposed the construction of a series of large dams in a large river valley of central India.
• Research NGOs: They carry out intensive and in-depth analysis of topic/issue and lobby with the government, industry or other agencies to influence public policy.
Ex: Centre for Science and Environment which engages in environment related works.
Role of NGOs in Development
In developing countries India, there are numerous gaps left by the government in the development process. These gaps are filled by NGOs.
• Work where state is unwilling to work: For example, caste is an issue that no government wants to fiddle with. The persistence of caste hierarchy suits the vote banks for the politicians.
• Work where state resources are inadequate: Two main such area include education and healthcare. There are not enough government run schools or hospitals, especially in rural areas. Even if they are present, they do not have resources. The NGOs try to complement and complete these initiatives.
• Fighting social evils: It is due to the efforts of NGOs that the government has banned sex determination of foetus as it leads to evils like abortion of female fetus.
• Right to Shelter: NGOs such as YUVA and SPARC in cities like Mumbai have repeatedly opposed the demolition of hutments even as they try to improve the quality of life in the sprawling slum clusters
• Right to Information: It is because of the efforts of NGOs that RTI has become reality in India.
• Tribal Rights: As witnessed in the Vedanta vs. Posco case, NGOs have raised voice against the discrimination of tribal by the multinationals. Many of these NGOs have partnered with Gram Panchayat in proper implementation of acts like Forest Rights Act, CAMPA Act etc.
• Community Development: Local, national and regional NGOs have emerged as major players and partners in development activities in the region. At the community level, they are in the front line in providing assistance in the acquisition of basic needs and amenities; in identifying issues, raising awareness, and in articulating the communities’ problems.
• Rehabilitation: NGOs did remarkable job post 2004 Tsunami. Besides helping in rescue operations, NGOs also set up vocational training centers.
• Implementation of welfare schemes: NGOs due to proximity to general public, work as interface between government and the end users. Thus NGOs play three roles of implementer, a catalyst and a partner in the implementation of government welfare schemes.
Role of NGOs in Protection of Environment
The rapid growing and economic development is leading to number of environmental issues in India. In order to deal with the increasing damage to environment many Non-Governmental organizations have been set up.
• They play a crucial role in helping to plug gaps by conducting research to facilitate policy development, building institutional capacity, and facilitating independent dialogue with civil society to help people live more sustainable lifestyles.
• The issues like future of environmental protection, sustainable development and zero population growth are some of the major concerns of the environmental NGOs.
• Major campaigns by NGOs:
o Climate Change
o Protection of Pristine forests
o Protection of marine life and diversity
o Against whaling
o Against Genetic Engineering/ GMOs
o Prevention of Nuclear Threat to wildlife
o Elimination of chemical and biological toxic waste
o Encouragement of sustainable trade
• NGOs carry out mass awareness campaigns, tree planting drives, promoting ecologically sustainable practices for waste removal like vermin-culture and composting instead of dumping in landfills, supporting the use of cycles and green renewable fuels instead of fossil fuels.
• Globally, NGOs have the power to bring about global treaties, including reforms to address regulation of hazardous wastes, bans on landmines, and control of greenhouse gases and emissions. The Centre for Science and Environment for example, has been a leading light on, pollution, toxins in food and beverage and other key areas.
• Some major environmental NGOs in India are:
o Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)
o Development Alternatives Group
o The Energy Research Institute
o Birdlife International
o The Centre for Science and Environment
• Bombay Natural History Society: It conducts field research projects on bird migration. It also studies certain endangered species of wildlife and their habitat and through environmental education imparts the knowledge and awareness of the need to conserve wildlife.
• The Energy Research Institute: Its mission is to develop and promote technologies, policies, and institutions for efficient and sustainable use of natural resources. It deals with policy related works in the energy sector, research on environmental subjects, development of renewable energy technologies and promotion of energy efficiency in the industry and transport sector.
Challenges faced by NGOs in India
• Lacks of funds – Most of the NGOs in India are suffering from paucity of funds. Government does not give cent percent grants in aid or make delay in sanctions of grants for numerous programmes.
• Inadequate Trained Personnel – It is expected that the personnel working in NGOs shall have a sense of dedication and commitment and interest in the social services. Lack of professionally trained personnel is one of the major challenges faced by NGOs in India.
• Misuse of Funds – It is a common experience that there have been serious charges of
misuse and misappropriation of funds received as grant-in-aid form the government, foreign donors and raised through their own resources by the most of the NGOs.
• Inequality in rural areas – NGOs are more developed in urban areas as compared to rural areas. The backwardness and ignorance of the rural people and lack of enthusiasm among social workers to among them in the absence of availability of minimum comforts are the two important reasons for the backwardness of the NGOs in rural areas.
• Lack of Volunteerism/Social work among Youth – The basic characteristic of NGO is volunteerism. The extent of volunteerism is declining day by day and turning it into professionalization.
Suggestions to Improve the Working of NGOs
• The rules and regulations of grants-in-aid should be liberalized by the government and sanction more grants to NGOs.
• At the same time, the government should appoint commissions of enquiry or committees to cross check the misuse of funds by NGOs.
• Young graduates from universities, colleges and schools should conduct the public seminars, meetings etc., and use the local media to advertise the importance of volunteerism, success stories of NGOs and encourage people to participate in voluntarism.
• Universities, colleges and schools should collaborate with NGOs and conduct a campus interviews for the young graduates who are interested in voluntarism. NSS and NCC should encourage students to participate in voluntarism from childhood days onwards.
• In India, 65% of populations belong to rural areas. NGOs, therefore, need to operate in rural areas on a bigger scale to enlist the cooperation of village people in making their lives better.
• NGOs being a welfare organization should maintain high standard of quality in service. The government also should recognize those NGOs, by giving awards or rewards with additional grants. This would motivate the other NGOs to work efficiently
• The government should revise the pay-scales and allowances to the personnel of NGOs. At the same time some special funds to be allotted for the NGOs to train the personnel at the grass root level.
• The NGOs should use of latest technologies like internet, websites etc., for raising of their funds, to have mutual associations, to advertise their products and for the selection of efficient personals.