In the early 1980s,people of the world's largest democracy -India-_had great hope of getting their condition improved with the entry of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the social arena in big way. Both the state and union governments opened avenues for developments at grass-root level by opening flood-gates for NGOs. In the process, a huge number of NGOs came up and many of them started their work at the right earnest by getting huge amount of funds from India and various state governments as well as huge foreign funding. Later, many NGOs, concentrated on direct foreign funding as donations for developmental activities, specially at social and rural level. They got long rope in contacting various foreign governments and foreign social organisations for money to spend in India for the upliftment of the people, whom, they described , are in pitiable condition ! And foreign donations and funding started rolling..
According to figure , compiled by the Indian government; the United States and its private institutions ,is top donor nation to Indian NGOs, followed by Britain and German.In the year ending in March 2011, the most recent period for which data are available, about 22,000 NGOs received a total of more than $2 billion from abroad, of which $650 million came from the United States.
Curiously enough, in all these years, huge funds received specially from foreign funding by the NGOs, both the state and union government have practically no information about the ground-level work being done by the NGOs. People of specially rural areas for whose development, the foreign funds came,also did not know about the utility of the foreign money. No social or government auditing was done about the utility of fund by the major NGOs.
In the meantime, founder-activists of the NGOs, reportedly spent huge chunk of foreign fundings in the 'political activities, anti-government agitations'. In many cases rag to riches story also came out. Many NGOs owners became millionaires and started leading luxurious life. Many of them became vocal in political activities. Big NGOs holders including Ms Kiran Bedi, Arwind Kejariwal and his associates Shishodia have started participating in anti-government rallies and protest. No one knows their NGOs functioning and utility of foreign fund for development.Not only that these NGOs also started involving themselves in protest meetings for setting-up nuclear power plants. No doubts, installation of nuclear plants are not only harmful but detrimental to the interest of the people of the country. But for that ,the matter is being tackled at political and social level. What is the need of NGOs being involved in these issues ?
Trouble for NGOs started when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed groups from the United States for fomenting anti-nuclear protests that have stalled the commissioning of India's biggest reactor, a Russian backed project in Koodankulan in power-starved Tamil Nadu state. NGOs also hobnobbed with protestors that delayed several important industrial projects. Officials including Peter Burkeigh, the American ambassador at that time, quickly moved to assure Indian officials that U S Government supports India's civil nuclear programme. Victoria Nuland, then the State Department spokeswoman, said the United States does not provide support for non-profit groups to protest nuclear plants." Our NGO support goes for development and it goes for democracy programme" Nuland said.
On the Indian government's moves against foreign -funded NGOs , a US State Department spokesman said the department is not aware of any US government involvement in the cases. The Spokesman said such civil society groups around the world "are among the essential building blocks of any healthy democracy." Situation in India is different in comparison to Russia where where similar situation prevails. Russia has enacted a law last year, which requires foreign-funded NGOs that engage in loosely defined political activities to register as "foreign agent" Further, the government's action appears to have led its desired effect." NGOs are too scared to visit Koodankulam or associate with us now," said anti-nuclear activist S P Udayakumar.
Because of all these developments, India government has tightened its noose on non-governmental organisations over the past two years, calling the NGOs engaging in activities that harm the public interest.The government stepped up its campaign recently, suspending the permission that the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of over 700 NGOs across India,, had to receive foreign funds. Groups in the network campaign for indigenous peoples' rights over their mineral rich land against nuclear energy, human rights violations and religious fundamentalism; nearly 90 percent of the network's funding comes from overseas.In its letter to INSAF, the Home Ministry said the group's bank accounts had been frozen and foreign fundings approval suspended because it was likely to "prejudicial affect public interest." INSAF (in URDU its meaning is justice), has seen its portion of foreign funding increase significantly during the last 15 years. Now it receives funds from many international groups including the American Jewish World Service and Global Greengrants Fund in United States and groups in Germany, Switzerland and Netherlands. The top American donors to Indian NGOs include Clombo-based Compassion International, District-based Population Service International and the Bill and Milinda Gates
A government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the government is not against criticism. But when an NGO uses foreign donations to criticise Indian policies, "things get complicated and you never know what the plot is", the official said adding that NGOs should use foreign donations to do development work instead.
On the other hand, Anil Chaudhary, who heads an NGO that trains activists and is a part of INSAF network, said "the government's action is aimed at curbing our democratic right to dissent and disagree. We dared to challenge the government's new foreign donation rules in the court. We opposed nuclear energy, we campaigned against genetically modified food and we have spoil ed the sleep of our prime minister."
Indian officials say NGOs are free to use Indian money for their protests. But activists say Indian money is hard to find, with many Indians preferring to donate to charities A recent report by Bains &Co, said that about two-thirds of Indian donors surveyed said that NGOs have room to improve the impact they are making in the lives of beneficiaries. It said that a quarter of donors are holding back on increased donations until they perceive evidence that their donations are having an effect.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South- Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, said many NGOs are afraid to speak up about the suspension of their foreign funding approval, which "is being used to intimidate organisations and activists."