India is a land of exotic diversity – from its culture to its topography. In every corner of the country, one witnesses a different type of weather and land form, a different race of people and a variety of cultures, languages, religious beliefs and eating habits. As the 1.3 billion people of the seventh-largest country in the world take pride in saying, there is unity in our diversity. One similarity that runs through the different cultures and races of every part of India is the economic inequality among its people. The richest 1% own 58% of the nation’s total wealth, leaving behind 23% of the Indian population impoverished. If this was not problem enough, the rich and powerful exploit the poor in every way possible and the poor in India face all kinds of hardships on a daily basis- from food insecurity and lack of healthcare, to illiteracy, unemployment and a total lack of general facilities. Despite the technological and economic development taking place in urban areas of India, the condition of the poor continues to deteriorate.
Over the years 2011 to 2015, Indian NGOs received $7 billion worth of foreign funding.
With these provisions being made, we see no improvement in the developing state of the Indian population. So, the question that arises is: where does the funding really go? What are the NGOs really up to?
In 2015, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs cancelled the licences of 10,000 NGOs. Why?
The reasons were:
- “Not filling returns
- Misutilisation of funds
- Accepting funds for prohibited activities, which include funding legal costs of bail
- Writ petitions of NGOs in India and their activists
- Undisclosed payment of salaries by foreign NGOs to foreign activists”
This is what those 10,000 NGOs had been up to. But these were just the reported cases. Like the 95% of unreported rape cases in India, NGO fraudulence also goes majorly unreported.
A submission of few documents and not more than ₹3000 is al it takes for an NGO registration in India. Once registered, NGOs are licensed to acquire foreign funding by submitting their development model. With the process being so easy, there’s an NGO sprouting up in every nook and cranny of the country. These NGOs, though, aren’t open with the sole aim of service to the society and/or its upliftment, they have some hidden aims too. The not-for-profit organizations take illegal profit shares from the funds provided to them for human welfare. With the funds which are to be used to provide basic nutrition and clean drinking water for underprivileged people, corrupt NGO heads and members fulfill their own profligacy.
A country cannot grow with efforts made by one person alone, it can only grow with efforts made by all, in the right direction and with the same motive. Here comes a crucial aspect which should be considered, What is the role of NGOs? NGOs are meant for filling the gaps between government and citizens. Indian Government, even after 67 years of independence, has not been able to reach ground level reality; the facts above justify it. NGOs came into existence so that more underprivileged people could be reached out. So, the role of NGOs was to help the government in taking remedial measures, but NGO establishment has now become a business. In this business, donation and funding is taken from different sources and instead of putting it to humanitarian causes, the people running NGOs pocket it for their benefits.
The un-secular nature of the NGO was discussed in a report from 2014, titled, “Hindu nationalism in the United States: A Report on Non-Profit Groups”.
A number of Indian NGOs had been officially blacklisted and their licenses had been cancelled, cutting off their foreign funding.
In the 2015-16 fiscal, Christian NGOs Ayana Charitable Trust, Believers Church India and World Vision India received the highest foreign funding. Ayana Charitable Trust, based in Kerala, is reportedly just the name under which the Texas-based NGO, Gospel for Asia, funds projects in India. The NGO, headed by the Keralite K.P. Yohannan, has two lawsuits of racketeering and fraud filed against it by former Arkansas donors. Gospel for Asia is also a prominent donor to Believers Church, whose temporal and spiritual head is K.P. Yohannan himself, and which owns billions of dollars in assets and claims over 2 million members. Most ventures in Yohannan’s religious empire are for profit. Param Shakthi Peeth, an NGO run by Sadhvi Rithambara, a Hindu political activist and a member of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and RSS, was the second-highest recipient of foreign funding in 2015-16.
Despite the allegations, devotees keep on donating to these organisations. As some of the NGOs are run by religious institutions, people believe that they’d be genuinely working for the greater good. When religion comes into the picture, people turn a blind eye to what may as well be full-fledged corruption and injustice. Because of this, the corruption does not stop, it continues and exploits the resources for the poor in its wake.
There are NGOs which genuinely work, or aim to work, for the betterment of society. But because of the frequent fraudulence in the NGO world, their work is doubted as well.
With licenses and funding being continually issued to reportedly corrupt organisations, development or positive change cannot be expected to be witnessed. The underprivileged will be left to face the brunt of it, like they always have, despite so much money being put towards their upliftment.