Current Public Administration Magazine (September - 2014) - State, NGOs & Development Experiences in India

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine



THE DISCUSSION on the governance of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) reveals that the International Organizations (IOs), Central and state governments and the educated middle class people are welcoming
the active participation of NGOs in the development process. The supporters argue that the NGOs maintain ethics in their governance and thus have greater credibility and legitimacy in the society. But the human rights
activists, academicians, journalists and several others doubt the competence of NGOs in the development. They opine that the NGOs can not be a substitute to the state as the former is confined to limited areas/regions and activities. However, it is important to point out here that the marginalised sections are neither welcoming nor opposing NGOs participation in development. The balance sheet of NGOs reveals that most of the NGOs are Xerox copy, survival and pseudo agencies and an insignificant percentage of them have professional competence and commitment to the development. They suffer from the maladies that the government agencies encounter and also lack ethics in their governance.

This situation poses challenge to the policy makers whether it is desirable to establish network with NGOs or not in the development process. These divergent opinions necessitate us to make SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of NGOs in socio-economic development of the rural hinterland. The present article is a modest attempt in that direction. The article is divided into four sections. The ethical governance of NGOs, role of International Organisation in promotion of NGOs is presented in Section I and Section II, respectively. Indian Model Development and role of NGOs in the development process is analysed in Section III. The last section gives the conclusion.


The term non-governmental organisation (NGO) is considered as an organisation which is independent of government—it is not controlled by a governmental entity nor is it established by an inter-governmental agreement. The term originated from the United Nations in 1945, and normally refers to organisations that are not a part of a government and are not conventional for-profit businesses. There are different classifications1 in use. The most common NGOs use a framework that includes orientation and level of operation and generally associated with those seeking social transformation and improvements in quality of life. NGOs are interested in generating livelihood opportunities, human development, empowering marginalised groups, right to food, protection of rights and entitlements of the people, etc. NGOs are expected to maintain the highest ethical standards in their governance and stay the course in terms of their own practices and founding vision of service.

Ethical Governance of NGOs: The governance of NGOs stands for transparent, honest, accountable, work beyond the boundaries of race, religion, ethnicity, culture and politics. They have the obligation to respect each person’s fundamental human rights. World Association of Non- Governmental Organizations (WANGO), in 2004 developed the Code of Ethics and Conduct for NGOs and is designed to be broadly applicable to the worldwide NGO community. According to this, an NGO is considered in its broadest context: a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation. The term non-profit is used in the sense of “not-profit-distributing” in that any profits are invested back into the public mission of the organisation, and are not distributed for the benefit of the board, staff or shareholders— thus distinguishing the NGO sector from the business sector. All NGOs, even the most sincere and selfless, can benefit from a code of ethics and conduct that systematically identifies ethical practices and acceptable standards. The adoption and internal enforcement of a suitable code not only provides an ethical check for an NGO; it also serves as a statement to beneficiaries, donors and the public that the NGO takes seriously the importance of maintaining high standards. Such a code can assist stakeholders in identifying and avoiding “pretenders” and irresponsible NGOs. The Code is a set of fundamental principles, operational principles, and standards to guide the actions and management of non-governmental organisations. The code of ethics for NGOs is applicable to all the socioeconomic development programmes, including food security policies.

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International Governmental Organisations (IGOs) Role in Promotion of NGOs Rapid development of the non-governmental sector occurred in Western countries as a result of the processes of restructuring of the welfare state. Today, NGOs are influencing policies and advance initiatives that once were nearly exclusively the domain of governments and their service has become vital to the well-being of individuals and societies throughout the globe. Globalisation, during the 20th and 21st Centuries and international treaties and international organisations such as the World Trade Organization, which were centred mainly on the interests of capitalist enterprises, gave rise to the importance of NGOs in development. The globalisation process restricted the role of the State and encouraged the private sector to take active role in development. This process of development instead of reducing inequalities has widened the inequalities in different societies, including India. In an attempt to counter balance this trend, International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) such as World Bank, United Nations Bodies- World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)-and NGOs emphasises on humanitarian issues, human rights, environmental or developmental work, food security and sustainable development.

United Nations’ Networking with NGOs The advocates of networking among the agencies/institutions argue that lack of a strong, coherent and democratic system of governance at all levels has deepened the multiple crises facing humanity, such as climate change, economic instability, resource depletion and malnutrition and hunger. For instance, in the food policy sectors, various UN agencies— World Food Programme (WFP)—World Bank, donor agencies and national and state governments are favouring networking of institutions in formulating the policies and its implementation. WFP is the food assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organisation addressing hunger and malnutrition world wide. WFP provides food, on an average, to 90 million people per year, 58 million of whom are children. WFP works to help people who are unable to produce or obtain enough food for themselves and their families. WFP operates its activities through network with national governments, UN partners and NGOs. To collect, manage and analyse data on the issues related to food security, they use advanced technologies such as satellite imagery, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mobile data collection platforms such as smart phones, tablets and Personal Digital Assistants.

Bulletins, reports, and analyses generated from all of these activities are public and can be downloaded from the Food Security Analysis Assessment Bank for up-to-date guidance, tools and tips to assess needs in different contexts. The information is shared by all the agencies who use it for advocacy for policy formulation in different countries. In this regard, the NGOs take a leading role to coordinate the various organisations, including the government ones to address the food crises world over, India is also a recipient of assistance/help from the WFP and International NGOs for its implementation of food security policies. Recently the Government of India issued an Ordinance (issued in July 2013) called “The National Food Security Ordinance” (NFSO). It is a larger national security programme covering 67 per cent of the people in the country. Under the NFSO, the Central and state governments’ commitment to food security will cover four broad areas: provision of (i) monetary benefits to pregnant mothers; (ii) cooked meals to children under six; (iii) cooked meals to school going children; and (iv) subsidised grain of five kg per capita per month through public distribution system (PDS) to 75 per cent of the rural and 50 per cent of the urban population. Along with the government agencies, the NGOs and private agencies are involved in the governance of the programme/s. It is hoped that the effectiveness of this policy depends on the networking among several actors, especially the government agencies and NGOs. Here an attempt is made to analyse the experience of NGOs in development process, which would give insights into its role in the implementation of food security policies.


Indian Model of Development The development experience in India of the last six and a half decades reveals that Central and state governments have evolved and experimented different strategies–starting from ‘Growth with trickle down’ (1950s), ‘Green Revolution’(1960s), ‘Growth with Social Justice’ (1969), Minimum Needs programmes (1975), Structural Adjustment Programmes (1991), ‘Governance and Development’ (1992), ‘Millennium Development Goals’ (2000) ’Reforms with Human Face’ (2004), ‘Inclusive Growth’ (2007) to ‘New Public Management/Good Governance/Public Private Partnership’ (2007) model now. The present model is the new face of development where the State either with private sector or with voluntary organisation/ civil society organisation work in collaboration and cooperate with each other to further common goals of market- riven, growth oriented agenda. The rise of neo-liberalism and so-called Washington consensus2 have generated a powerful international ideology concerning what constitutes good governance, democratisation, and the proper rules of the state and civil society in advancing development. As public spending has declined, the non-government sector has benefited very significantly from taking on a service delivery role. At the same time, NGOs as representatives of Civil Society are a convenient medium through which official agencies can promote pluralism (Deborah Eade, 2005). NGOs are gaining a powerful stronghold in development process. In the interest of sustainability, most donors require that NGOs demonstrate a relationship with governments. State governments themselves are vulnerable because they lack strategic planning and vision. They are, therefore, sometimes tightly bound by a nexus of NGOs, political bodies, commercial organisations and major donors/funders, making decisions that have short term outputs but no long term effect. NGOs in India are under- egulated, political, and recipients of large government and international donor funds. NGOs often take up responsibilities outside their skill ambit. Governments have no access to the number of projects or amount of funding received by these NGOs. There is a pressing need to regulate this group while not curtailing their unique role as a supplement to government services. The government monitors the receipt and utilisation of foreign contributions received by any ‘person’ including Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the country in terms of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 and the Rules framed there under the Act. As per Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Annual Report, 2012, there are about 20 lakh NGOs, of which 43,527 receive contribution from different foreign countries. Every year on an average these institutions are receiving Rs 11,500 crore from the donor countries. During 2011-12 financial year, 22702 NGOs received Rs 11546 crore as contribution from different countries. World Vision of India, Chennai received highest amount (Rs 233.38 crore), followed by Believers Church of India, Padhathitta, Kerala (Rs 198 crore), Rural Development Trust (RDT) (Rs 144.39 crore), Indian Society of Church of Jesus Christ of latter day Saints , Delhi (Rs 130.77), Public Health Foundation of India, Delhi (Rs 131.31 crore). The state wise analysis indicates that Delhi received the highest amount, followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka . The NGOs allocated the amount /contribution mostly for undertaking rural development programmes, women and child welfare, education and research activities, etc.. (Eenadu Hyderabad, 20-03-2014). The above contributions are made by the donors such as Compassion International, USA (Rs 99 crore), followed by HCL Holdings, Marissas (Rs. 69.98 crore), Action Aid, Britain (Rs 62.66 crore), Population Service International, USA (Rs. 61.34 crore), Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation of America (Rs. 48.91 crore. The country-wise analysis reveals that the agencies/institutions representing USA contributed more amount (Rs 3838 crore), followed by Britain (Rs 1219 crore), Germany (Rs 1096 crore), Italy (Rs 528 crore) and Netherlands (Rs 418 crore). (Eenadu Hyderabad, 20-03-2014). On the basis of the complaints of various violations of FCRA, the Ministry referred 24 cases to CBI and 10 cases referred to State Police for investigation. 21493 associations were found to have not submitted Annual Returns for the years 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09. In respect of 4138 associations, the letters dispatched from the Ministry of Home Affairs were  returned undelivered by the Post Office as the addresses were not found. After due consideration by the competent authority, the registration of these associations under FCRA was cancelled. The list of such associations was posted on public domain of Foreigners Division, Ministry of Home Affairs website.

Brief Account of the NGOs in the Development Process India has had a long history of voluntary action and its existence can be traced to the functioning of social institutions from ancient times. Since then the VOs-NGOs are in operation and have been striving for the development of marginalised sections of the society. There are about six lakh registered voluntary organisations, and an equal number of unregistered ones. The Central, state and local governments, during the post- Independence period, have acknowledged the existence and the role of NGOs in the development process. It is now widely recognised that the state and voluntary sector need to form a strong relationship for better development process and build a stronger civil society. Such cooperation should not be based on replication or replacement of state activities and obligations, but on the adoption of complementary roles predicated on each sector’s unique characteristics. NGOs should ideally undertake activities that add value to state efforts, or perform roles for which the state’s size and bureaucratic processes make it difficult (Tanya Jaime, 2008). In order to have strong networking of institutions, the Government of India formulated National Policy on Voluntary Sector, 2007. The policy’s objectives are: (i) Creating an enabling environment for NGOs/VOs that not only stimulates their effectiveness but also protects their identity and safeguards their autonomy; (ii) Enabling NGOs/VOs to legitimately mobilise the necessary financial resources from India and abroad; (iii) Identifying systems by which the Government may work together with the Voluntary Sector; (iv) Encouraging NGOs/VOs to adopt transparent and accountable systems of governance and management. The policy aims at improving the engagement between the government and the voluntary sector. The policy outlines instruments of partnership. They are: formal consultation; strategic collaboration; project funding; and establishment of joint consultative groups with representatives from NGOs and the government. These are designed to be permanent forms with the explicit mandate to share ideas, views, and information and to identify opportunities and mechanisms for working together. The policy aim is to encourage the voluntary sector to improve governance, accountability and transparency. But there are always complaints of misutilisation and lack of accountability in using funds, lack of cooperation and constraints in mobilising resources. It is important to note here that NGOs take on roles based on their comparative advantage rather than supplementing or substituting the state or other agencies in the development process (Tanya Jakimow, 2008). The nature of governance and services varies from one NGO to another NGO. Today, their services include charity, welfare, human relief, economic assistance, legal service, human development activities, empowerment of social groups, protection of human rights, ensuring food security, advocacy, mediation between groups and government and several other services, mass mobilisation and organising the poor, etc. and contribute to bring bottomup development in the society.

The studies on NGOs reveal that there is mixed opinion on the role of NGOs in the development process. The studies point out that the factors like proximity to people far and near, flexibility, innovativeness, human touch, spirit of self-service, democratic interpretation of the needs and desires of the poor, implementation of interventions that are relevant to people, de-bureaucratisation; etc have enabled the NGOs to play an important role in the development process. NGOs also contributed to improve the self-representation of the marginalised sections of the society to act as watchdogs of the government, to protect the rights and entitlements, to create strong civil society and they have legitimised NGO’s activities in the development process during the last several decades (Bava, 1997; Escobar, 1992; Korten, 1990; Hameed, 2007).

The studies also emphasise the need for a strong relationship between the state and NGOs for better development process and bring inclusive growth in the society. This is partly due to terms and conditions stipulated in the development projects sponsored by the International organisations like World Bank, Department for International Development, in which NGOs’ participation is essential/desirable, in the implementation of the project. Another important reason is the NGOs have strong and committed workforce, approximately two crore with potential to affect many people (Vani, 2003). In addition to this, the NGOs have close rapport with the local elite, civil society organisations, self-help groups which would ensure active participation of people in the implementation of development projects.

However, the studies also point out that the NGOs in development sector also acquired all the maladies that the government organisations encounter. Unfortunately, there are many actors in the NGO community that are neither responsible nor ethical. Alan Fowler (1997), in his book Striking a Balance, utilised a collection of NGO acronyms to identify various NGO “pretenders,” such as BRINGO (Briefcase NGO), CONGO (Commercial NGO), FANGO (Fake NGO), CRINGO (Criminal NGO), GONGO (Government-owned NGO), MANGO (Mafia NGO), and PANGO (Party NGO). Many NGOs do not even understand the standards that they should be applying to their activities and governance. The virtues of the NGOs like human touch, dedication, flexibility, nearness to the community, accountability and transparency, to large extent, eroded when they started getting government funds and assistance from donor agencies. The role of NGOs in service delivery has been many times based on their comparative advantage, rather than replicating or substituting, the state or other agencies (Jain, 1997; Ramanth, 2005; Commins, 1999; Tanya Jakimow, 2008). The crisis of NGOs is that they do not have autonomy in undertaking the activities/services as they are guided by the donor agencies. Edwards and Hulme (1997) observed that the NGOs are “too close to donors” reporting the values, interests, methods and priorities of their financial supporters, rather than being an alternative to them. The NGOs’ autonomy is tied to conditions imposed by the donor agencies and there is always top-down approach – from donors to NGOs in the implementation of activities. They (NGOs) are not voluntary any more, as the availability of funds and the objectives, priorities, designs and action programmes are determined by the sponsoring agencies (Kanshik, 1977). In addition to this, the Indian State uses its power to regulate domestic and foreign funding as a means to restrict, control and depoliticise the voluntary sector. The regulations like renewal of certificates every five years, prior approval of Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Central Social Welfare Board and the Council for Advancement of Peoples Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) in getting funds and conditioning the receipt, utilisation and accounting of the foreign funds, etc, sometimes is intimidating and killing the spirit of voluntary service of the NGOs. The government funding is mostly project based, time bound and result–based management. In this regard, the NGOs have little freedom in implementing the programmes, as the programmes are centrally devised. As a result NGOs are made more accountable and responsive to numerical targets rather than people and thereby weaken the core values of NGOs’ functioning. The governance of NGOs is rarely democratic and with autocratic leaders often ruling over the NGO’s operations (Nyamugasira, 1998). It is the middle class educated people who dominate NGOs and civil associations, who are not better equipped to understand the poor (Samuel, 2003). Sometimes the funds are misutilised by the NGOs and thereby distancing themselves from the marginalised sections of the society. In the process, the NGOs are losing their credibility in empowering the poor and marginalised sections. Based on the performance of NGOs in the development process they can broadly be categorised as:

(i) Sacrificial NGOs: The NGOs have clear vision, commitment to the work and needy people and aiming at social transformation. These NGOs account for less than 10 per cent of total NGOs.

(ii) Professional and Development NGOs: The NGOs are based on: (a) professional competence and commitment of the employees; (b) undertake work based on people and processes; (c) priority to mass mobilisation; (d) concentrate on the capacity building up the people; (e) clear vision on the concept of the development and organisations; (f) focus on facilitator role; etc. They account for 10 to 15 per cent of the NGOs.

(iii) Xerox copy of NGOs: The role of NGOs is unclear and copies other NGOs. They view that doing any thing for others is development and function as worker. They confine mostly to the activities like charity, welfare and relief. They are directed mostly by others particularly donor agencies and do not have independent thinking. These NGOs account for 20 to 25 per cent of the total NGOs.

(iv) Ventilator NGOs: The elite (Lions /Rotary clubs) undertake welfare activities like organising health camps, supply of medicine to the needy people, etc. to ventilate their urban stress and also for advancement of their business activities. Their work is mostly ad-hoc in nature and depends more on the media coverage of their activities. They account for five to 10 per cent of total NGOs.

(v) Survival NGOs: Such NGOs’ voluntary work is primarily bread winning protection and their activities are undertaken more for their own existence than the poor and the needy. They are less motivated, less committed and also look for alternative livelihood activities for their survival and growth. They are basically selfish and do not have professional competence. These NGOs account for 25 to 30 per cent of total NGOs.

(vi) Pseudo NGOs: The NGOs believe that doing voluntary service is easiest way to earn money. The educated and unemployed youth, retired employees, expelled staff, politicians and others who are interested in money making, start the NGOs and treat them as money making institutions. They mobilise the resources from the national and international institutions for undertaking the programmes. They are hand in glove with donor or government agencies. Their activities are mostly confined to paper work and are known as ‘Letter Pad NGOs’. They also make use of this opportunity to get tax concession from the government. These NGOs account for 30 to 35 per cent of NGOs.


The analysis reveals that NGOs, to some extent, have contributed to improve the social consciousness of the marginalised sections and protection of their rights and entitlements. Though the formulated national policy for networking of institutions for ensuring people participation and implementation of programmes, it has not enabled them to improve the engagement between the Government and NGOs. They (NGOs) take on roles based on their comparative advantage rather than supplementing or substituting the State in the development process. NGOs’ ethical virtues like human touch, dedication, flexibility, nearness to the community, accountability and transparency, to large extent, has eroded. More than the service and commitment to the welfare of the poor, they suffer from the problems like lack of professional competence, autocratic leadership, unethical practices and rampant corruption. Their accountability is mostly to the donor agencies than the government agencies and people. But their functioning is no way different from that of public organisations. The lesson that one can learn from the above account is that NGOs need to re-emphasise on the practice of ethics in their governance. The success of the NGOs depends on the basic philosophy of voluntary organisation-non-profit, democratic leadership, practice of values and principles, capacity building and enhancement of professionalism, transparency and accountability in their day-to-day functioning.


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