Sunday, June 22, 2014

Non-Govt Organisations (NGOs)

Q & A with Lola Nayar, Outlook Magazine

Q1: Your views on the IB report on foreign funding of NGOs and the charge that the issues raised by them and protests staged by them is responsible for 2-3 percent lower GDP growth?

A1: The IB report has highlighted the issue of foreign funding (under FCNRA) of organizations whose primary purpose is to agitate against development projects. This issue needs to be debated. Like CAG's estimates of 3G losses the estimate (in the covering letter)is quite arbitrary and unsupported by sound analysis.

Q2: How responsible and justifiable is this view?

A2: The IB's job is to provide intelligence to the government. It is for the public to debate issues of importance  to public welfare.
   In my view the decision of the UPA Govt (a few years ago)to insert a rule banning foreign funding under FCNRA for NGOs whose primary objective is to protest against government decisions on economic development (such as nuclear power, GMO crops) is justified.  However care must be taken by home ministry to ensure that transparent(audited) foreign funding (under FCNRA) of research organizations and social welfare organizations helping disadvantaged individuals, groups and the poor are not impeded.

Q3 In a democracy, can dissent or opposition to a policy or project be only seen in terms of corporate interest or should the human cost as in case of displaced people in land acquisition and environment costs also be factored in?

A3: There are a number of issues rolled into your question. My response to these diverse issues is as follows: 
a) In Indian democracy Indian citizens have and will continue to have the (fundamental) right to lawfully oppose projects and policy that they disagree with.
b) Rail roko, Chakka Dham, Dharnas and burning of public property are not mere "opposition" to a policy or project. Illegal activities should not be allowed in the name of opposition.
c) Organizations are not people. Organizations are set up under rules designed for their creation and must follow these rules to be allowed to function. 
d)India has 'land acquisition' and 'environmental protection' laws which factor in human costs. It is an insult to the majority of voters who choose one balance between the rights of many to development vs a minority that wants only the rights of the small group of people affected by a particular project. 
e) If these laws are not properly implemented due to corruption and/or bad governance, the proper course is to agitate against corruption and bad governance, which a plurality of citizens/voters agree on.

Q4: In your view, do NGOs play any fruitful role in the development goals of a country? Have the NGOs accused of being anti-development, served foreign interests in the issues raise by them?

A4: As in Government and Private Sector there are good and bad eggs in the Non-Government, Non-profit sector. The proportion of good vs bad varies across sectors. The ideological assumption that non-profit sectors are "good" and profit sectors are "bad" is a hangover of our Fabian socialist heritage. 
  Private sector can be kept honest through market competition and government and regulators enforcement of laws and rules. However, Corruption is now pervasive in government from the lowest level up. Many politicians have set up both profit and non-profit organization to disguise corruption. Therefore any assumption that all NGOs are knights in shining armour is self-delusion. Rich Foreigners have their own interests in mind when they fund Indian NGOs. To demand transparency in the receipt and usage of these funds from large, media savy Indian NGOs is perfectly justified! To harass all NGOs is not.

Other Questions

Q: Do you oppose Foreign funding of NGOs?

A: Certainly not! I strongly support foreign funding of NGOs/NPOs engaged in research (economic, social, technical) and of NGOs that do social work for the welfare-betterment of the poor, the socially dis-advantaged and the physically or mentally handicapped.

No comments: