Global Policy Forum

Fast Developing India is Putting NGOs Out of Business


By P Pavan

January 9, 2010


The Indian government's repeated demands to be treated as a developed nation is causing a major problem for Non-government organisations (NGOs). A large number of global funding agencies are refusing to fund their activities saying that India is no longer a developing nation.

More than 24 international funding agencies have upgraded India from 'poor' or 'developing' country to a 'developed nation' on the basis of the projections of the Central and State governments, and corporate India painting a rosy picture of the country at international fora.

Malini M, president of Aranyika, an NGO working for tribal women and youth empowerment, says, "Over the last two years, many funding agencies and foreign governments started telling us that India has been deleted from their list of countries requiring funding."

To make matters worse, the public (government) spending on NGOs is also coming down due to the global financial crisis.

The cutback in funding has had such an impact that some NGOs are shutting down. In Andhra Pradesh, where the number of NGOs working on different subjects, including child rights, women issues, tribal problems, environmental issues, Dalit rights, farmers, is over 4,600, many small and medium NGOs have started winding up while the few big ones are reducing their activities.

Take the case of M V Foundation, which was founded by Ramon Magsaysay awardee and now chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Professor Santa Sinha. The MVF has directly or indirectly brought over five lakh child labourers back to schools over the last decade.

But, after it stopped getting the Rs 3 crore annual aid that it requires, its activities are down to near zero. "Only existing projects are running. We told our staff to look out for alternative opportunities," says MVF's national coordinator R Venkat Reddy.

Another NGO facing a crisis is Chaitanya Sravanthi, which works on tribal upliftment in Visakhapatnam and Khammam districts.

According to sources, several NGOs have sold their movable assets, including vehicles bought for field visits.

The last time NGOs faced a funding crisis was in the mid-90s, but they managed to keep going by changing their focus from general social work to specific areas, like women, Dalits, children, tribals, minorities and environment.

Faced with a new crisis, NGOs are getting in touch with each other.

"We don't know how long this situation will continue. In fact, we are discussing amongst ourselves on how to overcome this crisis," Malini says.


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