Time to have some candid criticisms!
Govts, banks can succeed in villages only working through NGOs,SHGs and even panchayats.

NGOs are very much part of any development. More so in India with its myriad problems. Even more pointedly society development where a host of intractable problems persist and defy easy solutions. Poverty, illiteracy, healthcare, social issues like gender disparities, much more serious the infanticides, as poignantly pointed out in the disturbing, very disturbing indeed, of the child sex ratio leading to “alarming fall in the number of girls as indicated by the Census of 2001 report. And the Centre’s instructions to monitor the child sex ratio on a monthly basis.

Much more disturbing about rural scenario that one district, the only one district (says Census 2001) Salem in Tamil Nadu where the sex ratio of girls was below 800 in the 1991 census but since then the number of districts had risen to 45! Why, you know? The latest technology of sex determination tests had grown and the evil practice of sex testing and the foetus destruction etc. are going up in many districts. The best districts, as per the Census 2001 are all in backwards States! So much for technology development and our social evils!

In such a scenario, the NGOs can play a great positive role and they are playing indeed. But even NGO is not producing a Durgabai Deshmukh! Though lately there are some negative reports and negative developments on the NGOs front. Mr.Joginder Singh a former CBI director and public activist had brought to our attention the following statistics. A recently issued communication by the centre to the States and the NGOs 2 points out : “The headquarters of an NGO should be at the project location so that the operation of the NGO reflect involvement of the NGO with the community”. It also says “absentee NGOs” are not to be assisted under the grant in aid scheme”.

And how many NGOs are there? In the Union government 14 ministries have contracted 15,458 NGOs to implement their projects. The rural development ministry in the biggest contractor with 6,467 NGOs, followed by the social justice and empowerment ministry with 2,944 and the health and family welfare ministry with 1,038. The NGO network in itself is mind-boggling, says Singh. He quotes a study by the John Hopkins University that there are 120,000 NGOs in the country. Half of them unregistered! Most of them are claiming to be working in rural areas. An estimated sum of Rs.17,922 crores are mobilised by the NGOs. Now, as for the criticism Singh ofcourse points out how the NGOs are operating from airconditioned rooms and headquarters in cities and Delhi. The “absentees” run their “business” on corporate lines!

Now, we can take on from where Singh leave the topic. The other day Ratan Tata, the head of the Tatas said on a CNN interview that his biggest “frustration” was he couldn’t do much for the rural poor, farmers, etc. Since we know the Tatas from the times of the great JRD, we can say something here on the Tata-type corporate concerns for the rural poor and then go on to other really corrupt elements with powerful links and linkages with a host of forces, media to government bodies and ultimately with the top political leadership through a cunning network of bureaucrats and other men of their own in critical positions, in trusts and award giving bodies.

The corporates have done some outstanding altruristic service to the community, we can’t deny. In fact, Tatas are themselves a good example. So too the Birlas and the Godrejes and others.

But what is needed some realisation is the fact the corporates often advance their corporate interests along with their `altruistic’ motives. Thus, Tatas themselves exemplify one more side to their charities. They, the big corporates want to act big in whatever they do and the Tata umbrella holds on over all their work, outsiders might be deterred to enter their areas like social work. This umbrella type overwhelming hold on the small NGOs, small men and women with their humble selves like Gandhian type workers feel discouraged and really feel frustrated. Not only corporates, even the religious denominations, all denominations now run their charities like big businesses!
Our Prime Ministers in recent years had all failed us, when it comes to serious social and religious issues they go silent! A great shame and a great pity indeed! Now, the other threat is some NGOs whose heads often fly and they seem to virtually live in the air, they are so busy, one day in America the next day meeting a busy conference in Delhi and one wonders, as Joginder Singh wondered when they actually are in the field. The absentee NGOs are now posing the biggest threat to any genuine rural development work. We have come to a stage where to talk of rural India would be wrong, we feel. It is now always urban/rural infrastructure that is only right. The other day, there was this report on Bangalore where the air pollution, says a respected Cardiology head, is like smoking 46 cigarettes a day! Serious charge! So, the congestion and other infrastructure problems of a city like Bangalore, which is now considered the fourth largest technology hub where four IT firms set up shop!

And yet the IT bigwigs, they are no big spenders eitheron their infrastructure or on rural development, they cry like babies more for State support for solving their own creation of this infrastructure bottlenecks and heavy pollution. Why don’t they be moved to far off, off city limits, even in Bangalore! Yes, there is no easy solution to urban congestion except to plan in advance, says draw up a 25 year perspective urban/rural plan. Urban expansion can’t be limited. Cities would grow, so our ideas of how to plan in advance the rural/urban linkages. What about our talks of deploying IT tools in reaching out the villages. “The connecting rural Indian slogan? Now education satellites put in orbit, our students needn’t take long and even dangerous travels into the cities. Reduced the physical movement of people and create more jobs and work at home services, service deliveries.

The Internet revolution gives us such a chance to redeploy our rural/urban development concepts in an equitable manner.

The possibilities to link the villagers and villages to the State capitals through the Internet are too immense and therefore too urgent.

Likewise, the delivery of a host of services from health care, telemedicine, land records and other services to spread education, literacy are also now within our capacity thanks to the Internet traffic growth and the subscriber base expanding fast.

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