NGO officials under Lokpal law could drive out ‘good’ people

NEW DELHI: A “bad law” too can drive the good people out. Civil society groups fear that prominent people associated with NGOs could move away to protect their privacy in view of the government’s rule that stipulates them to declare their assets by month-end.

Last month, senior functionaries of NGOs were put at par with civil servants under the Lokpal law if an NGO received foreign funds over Rs 10 lakh or had an annual income of Rs 1 crore-plus, a part of it from the public exchequer.

This means they have to declare their assets and liabilities — down to their bank balance, investment portfolio and jewellery — to the government before July 31. The government has to place the information in public domain by August-end. They can also be probed under the anti-corruption law. “It is not that they have anything to hide. People do file their income tax returns, don’t they?” asked Rajesh Tandon, founder president of PRIA. “But it is the principle that is as absurd as the effect of the law,” said Tandon, an IIT-IIM alumnus who quit his corporate job in the 1970s to engage in social work. In a single stroke, he said, this order has more than doubled the number of public servants under the central government.

Because every ‘officer’ — the law doesn’t specify who is an officer in an NGO — will be treated as a public servant under this law. There will be millions of people.

And why not, the order would also cover teachers and doctors in trusts that run schools and hospitals too. Ditto for the philanthropically-inclined businessmen and industrialists.

And there lies the irony. A businessman can keep his assets secret when he defaults on loans, but not if they are on the board of an NGO.

Agreed Thomas Chandy, chief executive officer of “Save the Children”. “I am afraid that it may become very difficult to attract prominent people to join as new board members,” he said. Already, Chandy said he had heard of the board members elsewhere planning to quit their honorary positions to protect their privacy. A few already had. “We will appeal to the government or file a stay order as the time accorded to organisations is very less,” said Harsh Jaitli, chief executive officer of VANI, the apex body of the voluntary sector.

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The Civil Society- Accountability and Control

The civil society is built on the concept of participatory governments. Government is not business. Government is services. Small governments equipped with competence and public morality render better service than huge governments which can see the forest but not the
woods. If the government is an essential asset, it must not be overloaded with responsibilities, it cannot bear and expectations it cannot met.
Government must now be owned by the community. Only then will the people be able to govern themselves. The idea and role of Civil Society have been recognized in the past two decades with the waves of democratization across the developing world. The growth of the civil society has corresponded to the decline of the role of state in delivering public goods and social services and overall in development. Although civil society has not been
clearly defined in terms of the space it occupies and the members it is represented by, a discussion on the working definition of civil
society is in order, notwithstanding the bewildering diversities of perception. Civil society is composed of groups and association organized voluntarily, devoted to the cause of collective good, independent of state and on any other vested interest. A lot of confusion prevails over its relation to the state. Without entering into a deeper debate, one would safely assume that the civil society should compliment that state if desirable, collaborate if possible, and confront it if necessary. In normative terms, the civil society is widely seen as empowering the
people, mobilizing them for moderating both state and market and helping in the supply of public goods and social services. Reverting to NGOs, the typology covers a broad spectrum of development activities. It is, however, not easy to classify them as, of late, NGOs have mush-roomed in various sectors. Roughly, we can talk of NGOs in the categories. First are those which have been inspired by great individuals in the wake of India’s freedom movement. The second lot is motivated by the need for voluntary action in view of the inability of the state to cover a holistic development paradigm. This group can be characterized essentially as developmentalists who attempt to improve the social-economic conditions of the people. The third category can be those engaged in empowerment, advocacy and sensitization actions.

Attributes of the Civil Society

Some of the core attributes of the concept of civil society are:

1. Self-governing institution where the people themselves take over the functions of the state would have to be encouraged, sustained and
nurtured.
2. Empowerment of people—power lies with the people.
3. Assertive role of the community organizations.
4. Small governments equipped with competence and public morality.
5. Mission-guide organizations.
6. The municipalities and corporations have to be effective services-rendering, result oriented mission driven small governments with sufficient budgets and autonomy.
7. Community-based development initiatives.
8. Gramsabha to become the ultimate repository of power over development decision making, over the local bureaucracy, over the management of natural resources and even over the local adjudication of justice.
9. Instruments of social audit-By social audit we mean a view of the administrative system from the perspective of the vast majority of the people in the society in whose name and for whose ‘cause the very institutional/administrative system is promoted and legalized.

Civil Society: Components and Role

It is to the requirements of creating a civil society and reinvesting a people-oriented democracy, we need the following:

1. Civil Competence: A democracy cannot work without a certain level of civic competence and absorption of the culture of democracy’ among its people:’ The culture of democracy is equality and independence and openness of mind. Sycophancy, servility, fear to express dissent and
engage one’s superiors in uninhibited discussion of policy options are the antithesis of democratic civic culture. Civic culture requires a
social discipline born of common sharing of values.
2. Good Government: Good Government means that it is the community that will exercise power as far as ‘Possible and not the bureaucracy
in the name of a political party in power. Communities can run schools and colleges better, can provide more effective and uncorrupted
policing and ensure better health than hospitals run by governments. There must be empowerment of the people at all levels, especially at
the grassroots, through participatory government.
3. Competitive Government: The real issue is not public versus private. It is competition versus monopoly. What is needed today us
competitive government, injecting competition in the delivery of services.
4. Competition must cover a variety of fields. In administration, government has to compete with elected civil bodies; in business with the private sector and public enterprises must compete with private business leaving no room for monopolies. Competition will have to be created within the, government between its different services, rewarding the achievers and punishing the laggared; needless to say, this inter-services competition within a government must be open to public eyes.
5. Replacement of Rule-driven Bureaucracy with mission-guided organisation: In the course of making civil society, it will be
necessary to replace rule-driven bureaucracy-managed government with one that is driven by mission. Mission-guided organizations in general are efficient and effective. To create a mission-inspired government, it will be necessary to scrape off the deadweight of rule and regulations, of precedents and red-tape. It is not enough to deregulate economy. Far more important is the need to deregulate government.

The voluntary actions are also known as action groups, development agencies, advocacy groups, support institutions, voluntary development organisations. People’s action in India also encompasses many other citizens initiatives, movements and struggle catalyzed by ideology, religion or social group. Many are inspired by towering personalities Gandhi), on religious affiliation (such as Swami Vivekananda in 19th century and Mother Teresa in recent times.) There are activities that have responded to local need (as after the Bhopal gas disaster), or
that of empowering disadvantaged groups (as in many tribal groups). Some began small or local and stayed that way, as has Anandran
established in rural Maharashtra by the renowned Baba Amte to serveliprosy patients. Other like Gram vikas in Orissa, started work with a handful of volunteers in a remote community and have grown to cover hundreds more. A causes and beliefs, such as the Chipko struggle to protect Himalayan forests and the Swadhaya reform group of Pandurang Shashtri Athawale.

6. Panchayti Raj Institution: The constitution of Gram Sabhas under the provisions of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act for every Gram Panchayat provides a political forum to people in every locality to meet and discuss the local development problems and consequently understand of felt needs and aspirations of the community. It is an institution to meet, discuss and analyse the development and administrative and, thereby ensure transparency and accountability in the Panchayati Raj System.
7. Strategy of Introducing Citizen’s: Since the time of management Thatcher as the Prime Minister in 1970’s, the Government of Britain
has introduced the idea or rolling back the frontiers of state as a means of reducing unnecessary burden of state in the name of ‘welfarism’. By early 1980’s, the Government was seeking ways of improving quality of public services without adding to their costs.

A series of major reforms were instigated, aimed an injecting greater economy, efficiecy and effectiveness into the pubic services. These
were Efficiently Scrutinizer (introduced in 1979), the Financial Management Initiative (FMI in 1982), and the Next Steps Programme (NSP
in 1988), which provided the foundation from which the Citizen’s Charter was launched. In order to raise standard of public services by
making them more responsive to the wished and needs of the users,Prime Minister John Major launched the strategy of the Citizen’s Charter in June 1991.
The Charter initiative embraces greater competition, independent scrutiny of public services, greater accountability and openness and a
program of management change to improve public service. In Britain, the citizen’s charter is now enmeshed with the Next Steps Programme, the continued commitment to privatization and competition, the marketisation of public services and the withdrawal of government
to and empowering justification. These foreshadow different governing functions for the state, the delivery of public services through
markets, or their imitators, and accompanying change in orientation towards customer satisfaction and duties. It provides the opportunity
to put in place a market system within the public services sector in the guise of empowering citizenship based on rights and duties. It provides the opportunity to put in place a market system within the public services sector in the guise of empowering citizens. Since June
1998, the charter office in United Kingdom has been renamed as People First Unit, signifying the precedence of people over other things.
Sharing the concern for ensuring responsive accountable, transparent, decentralized and people-friendly administration at all levels and
with the objective of restoring faith of the people in the fairness and capacity for administration against the prevailing frustration and dissatisfaction, the then Prime Minister of India, had inaugurated a Conference of Chief Secretaries in 1996 called to develop “An Agenda for an Effective and Responsive Administration” to make the public services more efficient clean, accountable and citizen-friendly. The conference inter-alia recommended that accountability should be interpreted in a larger sense in relation to public satisfaction and responsive delivery of services and a phased introduction of citizen’s charter for as many service institutions as possible by way of citizen’s entitlement to public services, collaboration of consumer organizations and citizen groups, the wide Although not justiciable but these publicity to standards of performance, quality, timeliness, cost, etc., for public services and promotion of periodic and independent scrutiny of performance of the agencies against the
standards.
The concept of citizen’s charter in India was picked up and pushed forward by the Consumer Coordination Council (CCC) and its associate the ‘Common Cause’ (headed by H.D. Shourie) in association with the Cabinet Secretariat.
Although not justiciable but these charters aim at affirming the commitment of an organization to the people that it will deliver its particular services promptly, maintain quality and that redressal machinery will be available where this services is not of the standard which it is committed to maintain.

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Our Civil Society

Our Civil Society has been created to document and showcase the contribution of the Civil Society in community development, covering all aspects of social development. The portal will highlight the efforts of voluntary organizations, co-operatives, trusts, pressure groups, clusters and any other Non governmental agency working for the empowerment and enrichment of the Human Race in general and the marginalized groups in particular.
Our Civil Society will also recognize and highlight the contributions of social workers-luminaries, award winners, social workers, volunteers, professionals and leaders of social movements. Students have also been given a platform to enlist their areas of interest so that suitable organizations may contact them for professional engagement.
Our Civil Society is also providing a notice board to NGOs for listing them and providing linkages.
The major objective of the portal is to bring into focus and document the work of the NGOs through their reports in text, audio or video clips. The portal will also focus on the resources and materials produced for the use of NGOs. Books and Reports on social issues are also reviewed.
While representatives have been appointed in several towns, anyone interested to represent us anywhere in the country is welcome to contact us through email or telephone.
Your observations and views on the portal are welcome!

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