GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Governance: Government policies and interventions
Source: The Hindu
The context: This article highlights importance of civil societies and how recent changes affect their nature of work.
Direction: Keep a prepared note on civil society/NGOs. Keep the names of a few civil societies working in different areas handy – to use as an example in writing the Mains response. This is the subject not to be missed to score good marks.
What are civil societies?
According to the EU, civil society means “All types of social actions carried out by individuals or groups that are not linked to the State or managed by it“. India has more than 3.4 million NGOs working in various fields.
Role of civil societies
- Closing the Implementation Gap: NGOs play an important role in promoting and implementing important rights-based legislation such as RTI, FRA 2006, RTE 2010 and MGNREGA
- Support for sectors spared by the State: g. providing aid to migrants, human and labor rights, tribal welfare (Nilgiris Wynaad Tribal Welfare Society (NWTWS)), Wadvocacy for omens (ActionAid India, Sewa, Eklavya, Sathin, Disha working for the empowerment of women)
- Promotes community organizations such as SHG and farmer organizations: these organizations are essential to bring about change at the local level
- Working as a pressure group: NGOs mobilize people for their rights as well as educate communities against harmful government policies, e.g. Narmada Bachao Andolan working for the rights of displaced people
- Bring about behavioral changes: NGOs work against superstition, false faith, beliefs and customs, for example Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS); or Committee for the Eradication of Blind Faith, CEBF)
- Promote environmentalism:g. Green Peace, Vanashakti NGO, etc.
- All new government initiatives require the participation and awareness of people and there is no better organization than civil society to achieve this goal.
- Involvement of civil society in the Swachha Bharat mission made it a huge success.
- Role of Swacchagrahis has a visible impact by changing people’s behavior to stop open defecation practices in rural areas.
Challenges faced by NGOs in India
- Inaccessibility of funds: Government regulations will prohibit the “regranting” funds to smaller NGOs, making them more dependent on public funds.
- It will be counter-intuitive for NGO independence and their ability to make their voices heard against government policies
- The politicization of NGOs: The proliferation of politically motivated NGOs that act as conduits for political funds, money laundering and advocacy is a challenge for Indian politics
- Participation in anti-national activity:g. some of the NGOs were involved in financing terrorism at J&K and promoting LWE activities in the “red corridor areas”
- NGOs lack transparency and accountability: Only a small fraction of NGOs have submitted their account statement for income tax and only a few have a governance board
- Undermining India’s development: An IB report said in 2014 that the work of NGOs such as Greenpeace, Cordaid and Amnesty cut India’s GDP by 2-3%
- Loss of registrations: Data sugg is that of the 20,679 civil society organizations that lost their registration between 2011 and May 2022
- Non-use of the fund for which it was intended: The foreign contribution doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, however many beneficiaries did not use the fundfor the purposes for which they were registered or granted under the FCRA.
- The Rural Development Department Council for the Advancement of Popular Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) has blacklisted 833 NGOs for misuse of funds provided to them by the government
- Civil societies are the subject of deep suspicion: At the 73rd graduation ceremony from the Indian Police Academy in November 2021. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had warned aspiring police officers that “Civil society was the new frontier of war.”
- In 2017, the Home Ministry suspended the FCRA license of the Public Health Foundation of Indiaon the grounds of embezzling foreign funds to lobby MPs for tobacco control activities.
Measures taken by the government:
Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act of 2020 (FCRA)
|Restrictions on the transfer of money from the foreign contribution to other organizations||・It’s going seriously restrict collaboration between organizations and small grassroots NGOs may be starved of funds
This would also allow undermine the flow of foreign funding and development aid
|Restricted administrative costs at 20% of an NGO’s budget||This will have an impact on employee salaries and the ability of NGOs to attract diverse experts|
|Each organization must have its own FCRA account in a single SBI branch in delhi||It can be a regressive step in the era of online connectivity and digital monetary transactions.
It will also be impact on the transfer of funds in remote areas.
|Increased the power of government officials investigate offenses||Government interference can hinder work in critical areas such as Tribal Welfare in areas affected by LWE|
|National Council of Social Work (Education and Practice) Billthat regulates social work education||This advice is meant promote ethical behavior among social work professionals, but may make it much more difficult to get a job in the NGO sector without diploma.|
|These changes are not synchronized with the ideals of human rights, environmentalist and civil liberties (important pillars of Indian Soft Power) because these sectors receive most of the foreign contributions|
Effects after modification
- Oxfam’s license was not renewed, a mechanism permitted by the 2010 FCRA amendment.
- Oxfam produced widely disseminated reports on the the plight of migrant workers and the conditions of the poor during the pandemic.
- The Commonwealth Human Rights InitiativeFCRA’s approval was suspended for a time, after which its license was revoked.
- The Directorate of Execution (DE) has been used to attack NGOs such as Amnesty International and the Center for Equity Studies who have worked tirelessly for minority rights.
Civil societies are a essential aspect of democracy; they bridge the gap between the government and the governed. Appropriate guidelines should be issued, rules regarding their accreditation and record keeping should be clearly stated and efforts should be made to have a balance between national security concerns and the need for a vibrant civil society.