Why middle class India hates NGOs

World NGO Day, February 27, though observed by several agencies and institutions across the globe is yet to adopted as an international day by the United Nations General Assembly.

However, even if it were, middle class India would at best have mixed views about dedicating a day to acknowledging and celebrating the work NGOs do. For, the middle class-NGO engagement is complicated and has a chequered history.

Until the late 1980s, middle class Indians did not particularly mind NGOs, unless its own progeny decided to commit career suicide by joining one. NGOs operated in the peripheral visual field, in villages and slums, and did things it felt petty to question. Organising health camps, teaching children, promoting handicrafts, distributing relief, etc. Orbital overlaps were few – mostly when a donation-seeker appeared at the doorstep – and vaguely amiable. Save for Emergency-era movements, news of NGOs skirmishing with authority was rare, and seen as a little release of steam, nothing to be unduly perturbed about.

A number of coherent and strident voices, most headline-grabbing of who was Medha Patkar and the Narmada Bachao Andolan, would change all that. Punching much above their numerical strength, this new breed of NGOs refused to stick to traditional niches and was not to be limited with roles in implementing government programmes either; they were challenging the development paradigm itself.

Patkar and Co, for example, went beyond the fairness of resettlement and rehabilitation packages and questioned the raison d’etre of big dams themselves. NGOs had asked inconvenient questions of the government before too, but this was qualitatively different.

A sub-group, small but forceful, had discarded the gloves and was itching for proper battle.

Always wary of disaffection spread and not as clueless as the middle class about the NGO power, the government retaliated with anti-NGO propaganda. A small group of mischief-mongers was blocking India’s progress march with moral and financial support from foreign powers, it alleged.

Surely, it was anti-development to protest projects meant to deliver power to homes and factories and water to fields and, surely it was treasonous to whine about the nation’s problems in international fora.

Redistribution of government largesse and international embarrassment are among the middle class’s top fears in any context. Unsurprisingly then that this anti-NGO propaganda found greatest resonance among it.

More negative shades came to be added to the portraiture in time.

With new fangled ideas of participation gaining currency in the 1990s and its own personnel not really queuing up for the task of cajoling communities, the government had been prompted to envisage greater roles for NGOs in local planning and implementation.

However not all “partner” NGOs were keen to settle into contractor-type arrangements (read shady quid pro quos) and a handle was needed over them too. So, programme guidelines were drafted such that there was no ambiguity on who was wearing the pants in the government-NGO relationship, and an entire list of sticks assembled to wave as needed.

If NGOs confined themselves to a small area, they lacked scale; if they expanded, they were creating empires. If they developed “models”, they were naïve; if they emphasised nuancing implementation approaches to local contexts, their work lacked replicability.

If they invested too much in community-level processes, they did not understand urgency and lacked outcome orientation; if they invested less in community-level processes, they were taking short-cuts.

For middle class Indians, which had already made the journey from seeing NGOs as woolly-headed do-gooders to development saboteurs, the spin about NGO ineptitude and corruption was easy to accept.

To be accurate, the NGO sector is far from perfect and corruption within it is a genuine problem, but it is clear that a blinkered middle class has focussed largely on the darker end of a large colour spectrum. And the shades have only darkened in these hypernationalistic times.

At the heart of middle class Indians’ contempt for NGOs lies the fear that NGO action may at some point in time achieve the re-setting of power balances and the re-ordering of development priorities it aspires to.

Forward movement on agendas of women’s empowerment, environment, right to information, etc have already confirmed the threat.

The most telling evidence of the middle class Indians’ fears of privilege usurpation lie in its positive image about the new generation corporate philanthropies and foundations – places where the work has the flavours, in some senses, of the old school NGO. Useful work such as building toilets, planting trees, heritage protection, skill training and research happens, but it is work located within a framework set – and consented to – by the elite.

Nobody is washing the nation’s dirty linen abroad. Nobody is losing it in anger. It is all very gentle, very “civil”. Just people like us giving back what we feel ready to give back.

Meanwhile, the fight for a fundamentally better world is happening in messy spaces we have shut ourselves to.

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Ambulance for Pets in Kolkata

Bengal Govt to introduce app-based ambulance for pets & others
Kolkata: The State Animal Resources Development Department will launch an app-based ambulance service soon.
The ambulances would be fitted with an operation theatre for dogs and other pets, and street dogs too. The State Animal Welfare Board is the nodal agency for carrying out the project.
This is for the first time that an ambulance would be introduced for pets in the city. According to the initial plans, an 11-seater ambulance would be operated on the basis of a mobile application.

Apart from an operation theatre, there will be doctors and nurses in the ambulance. There will also be adequate arrangement of oxygen and blood inside the ambulance.
The air-conditioned ambulance will be stationed at the CSPCA Animal Hospital on B B Ganguly Street round-the-clock. The superintendent of CSPCA said that the ambulance service would initially be available till 10 pm. The full-fledged operation would start within a few months from its inception. People can also contact the CSPCA if they require the ambulance.

The civic authorities and various NGOs working for the welfare of the animals can also book the ambulance if required. A campaign would be carried out jointly by the Animal Resources Department and Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) to make people aware about the initiative. The ambulance facility will be available within KMC limits.

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Actor Salman Khan’s NGO facing blacklisting!

 

Bollywood star Salman Khan’s Being Human Foundation, a charity outfit that works for the underprivileged in the education and healthcare sectors, is likely to be blacklisted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for not operating a dialysis centre in Bandra.

After issuing two show-cause notices to the NGO last month, the BMC’s health department is now in the process of blacklisting it.

When contacted, an official with Foundation, who did not want to be identified, said: “We do not wish to say anything.”

Dr Padmaja Keskar, BMC’s executive health officer, confirmed that the Foundation is being blacklisted as it has done nothing to start operations at the centre, which has been lying closed and unused since it was set up and handed over to the NGO in 2016. The centre is supposed to offer the medical facility to citizens at minimum cost.

In July 2016, following a tendering process, the NGO was allotted a 250 square metre space at Bandra’s St John Road to run 24 dialysis machines in a public-private partnership basis. “The project was never been implemented. After we sent them a reminder last December, the Foundation responded saying it cannot run the dialysis centre owing to some difficulty,” said Keskar. “We will now issue a notice to blacklist the Foundation.”

The BMC sent two letters to the Bollywood actor’s NGO, on January 6 and January 18, warning the organisation that it would be blacklisted for “showing negligence” after bidding for the project.

As there has been no positive response, the BMC is now refloating tenders for the dialysis centre. Once the Foundation is blacklisted, it cannot bid for the same project again.

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Towards honking free Chandigarh!

In a bid to make the city noise pollution-free, the Chandigarh Traffic Police have initiated a no-honking campaign under which motorists will be sensitised about it and administered a pledge to support the campaign.

The police are also distributing stickers, meant for steering wheels of vehicles with ‘I will not honk’ written on these. The traffic police also encouraged people by asking them to tweet pictures of the steering wheel of their car with a sticker on it. Notably, the campaign was started on January 1.

The traffic policed will start challaning the motorists who will be found honking unnecessarily. The challans will be issued in silence zones-Sector 1 Capitol Complex, Sector 12, Sector 14, and the roads near hospitals and educational institutes, where honking is prohibited.

The traffic police will use body-fitted cameras to record the violations after which the offender will be booked under Section 177of the Motor Vehicles Act and will be fined Rs 1,000. The challaning drive will be conducted in the presence of a traffic marshal.

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SC seeks ideas from NGO to enforce anti-sexual harassment law at workplace

SC seeks ideas from NGO to enforce anti-sexual harassment law at workplace

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the NGO Initiative for Inclusion Foundation (IIF) to give suggestions for the effective implementation of a law to curb sexual harassment of women at workplaces, particularly in the private sector.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud sought the suggestions after the Centre in its affidavit claimed that it has taken steps to enforce the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Appearing for the IIF, senior counsel Sanjay Parikh said there was no implementation of the law in private companies.

He said a meeting was held with ASSOCHAM four years ago but nothing happened later.

The IIF has sought to put in place the guidelines for the implementation of the law at all levels.

 

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