Thursday, July 08, 2010

Are NGOs required in India?

Lately, I wonder as to why NGOs exist? Are non-profits required? Is the govt not sufficient? Do we need NGOs in traditional sense or more as catalysts / facilitators? You might wonder why am I saying this.

I have been in the social and development sector for last 2 decades. Every few years, I analyse the work I am doing and the sector itself and ask myself if my direction and strategy will lead to a developed India by 2025. My recent analysis, led to the above questions.

Today, Indian govt both at central and state level has welfare schemes for everything. Children, women, health, environment, wildlife, education, livelihoods, social security, electricity, road, school, water, sanitation, ..., you name it and there is a Scheme run by Govt of India. GoI has even launched a website so that you can find a scheme relevant to you.

Now, there are schemes and the resources behind them. Both are unlimited and mostly unutilised. Still NGO sector in India scrambles to raise funds to do the welfare of the poor Indians. Why cannot NGOs act as catalyst or facilitator and bridge the gap between people and govt schemes? Can't they empower people to ask for their own rights and teach them how to access their rights? Isn't it far cheaper to be a catalyst, then to run these schemes themselves. It can easily be done at 1/10th the cost of running an actual scheme. So why raise lakhs and crores of Rupees when you can do it for few thousands or lakhs of rupees. Also, NGO resources are always limited but govt resources are practically unlimited. Is it not better to teach people to tap these unlimited resources than go after limited donations to do welfare yourself?

It leads to the age old conundrum. If i do it myself, i get the name, credit, fame. If i show the way, I will hardly even get recognition. So is it that NGOs in India want to survive for generations and so unable to do the right thing. As soon as I put this question before NGOs, I know what the response will be. We are different, we are unique, we provide quality, there is corruption in govt, we cannot work with govt, govt is inefficient, govt cannot do it the way we can do it, govt does not provide what i provide and so on. I wonder if we can put our differences aside and get united to help the poor instead of funding our own survival.