What the government can’t do, the NGOs do, more often!
Can they transform society? Save rural India?

NGOs, the non-government organisations are aplenty in India. They have lately gained much clout after Sonia Gandhi started her National Advisory Council (NAC, with some of the high profile members drawn from various fields.

Of course, every member has his or her own track record and there is no doubt about it. Some have won recognition for their work and some have won such rewards and recognitions like Magsaysay awards and Padmasris and other such awards.

So, there is no doubt they bring to their task some specialised knowledge or insights and it is always a good idea and a very valuable source of inputs and authority in any task any government undertakes.

Just recently, the NGOs acquired great deal of attention thanks to Anna Hazare’s own movement against corruption.

In fact, the value of the NGOs work and wisdom can be seen from the fact that the government draft bill on Lokpal was almost freezed by the very same government and the alternative lokpal, Jan Lokpal draft has been adopted for the enactment of the law. In fact, not one NGO draft, many others, notably, the draft of Aruna Roy and even by one by the Loksatta movement founder Jayaprakash Narayan from Hyderabad also have some very clear features that would go a long way to  serve as an effective Lokpal bill.

The NGOs have always stood for independent views and some independent views originate only from individuals and once the views start getting support for fellow citizens then it becomes a collective effort and collective effort.

Of course NGOs can have any subject as their focal point. There are some of the great international NGOs, one obvious name that comes to mind is the Greenpeace, the environment group that keeps up pressures on even the powerful governments and the Greenpeace in fact had largely succeeded in saving the environment in most trying conditions where the powerful governments or the powerful multinational companies like oil companies are engaged in such  dubious activities like deep see drilling and the results sometimes are not always in public interest, as in the case of the US Gulf oil drilling that led to great disaster like oil spills that killed the flora and fauna of the sea life and affected the human health.
So, it is time, especially in the wake of the Anna movement we, the citizens, realise that the NGOs is one way of serving our public commitment for public good and we ,each one of us, can take up any service that are close to our heart and live out our life in a very meaningful and fulfilling way.

There are individuals, sometimes professionals like lawyers like Prashant Bhushan, why even the father the great Shanti Bhushan who, as father some duo, have fought many legal battles on behalf of the public and in such case like the Public Interest Litigations (PILs) and won many battles for the benefit of society.

One such outcome of the work of the NGOs, us the Right to Information Act (RTA) that had almost revolutionised government service which was always secretive in India, thanks to our colonial legacy. The so-called Official Secrets Act was demolished thanks to the RTI and now almost everyone trembles at the applications under the RTI.

So much so, that even the highest in the land, from the President of India and Supreme and high court judges, even the Lokayuktas, come forward voluntarily and declared their assets and liabilities.

Only the most corrupt and the most hardened political elements that are holding out against such stringent laws.

Even in the recent years, in spite of the long delay in the enactment of the Lokpal bill for the past 42 years since in 1968 when Morarji Desai government introduced the first Lokpal bill, the earlier 8 attempts didn’t succeed.

Now, it looks like succeeding.

Now, the point is that there have lately been many new developments that have widened the citizen awareness about the NGOs work and the wider public participation.

This development is owing to the technological revolutions.

The Internet, You Tube and SMS etc have created a great deal of interest among the youth and we saw the overwhelming success of the Anna, s movement only owing to the deployment of the new t5echnological tools.
What a happy coincidence?

Anna, the old fashioned Gandhian has got the new technologies to help him to gather such a crowd all over the country and also the movement was able to collect contributions in open and transparent manners thanks to the high level of planning and deployment of specialised talents to each task.
Some of the prominent NGOs are the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) .It is prestigious till the other day thanks to its close association with Sonia Gandhi.

But there are others. Most of the Team Anna members were members of either one of the NGOs, Medha Patkar has a Peoples’ Alliance, so too the vocal members, there are too many to mention here.

There is another high profile NGO in Bangalore. Ramesh Ramanathan, co-founder of Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy which launched a novel idea during the agitation. Wadha Na Toda is a network of 400 NGOs says its co-ordinator, Amitabh Behar.

Of course, these NGOs or some among them bemoan that all the NGOs are concentrated in the cities and there are no connectivity in the far off states and rural habitations.

Some other NGOs are also into some very valuable reforms in electoral reforms, there is the Association for Democratic Reforms. Medha Patkar says: If consensus (among the NGOs) is not there, it can be achieved through dialogue, because at heart we belong to one biradari”
This perhaps sums up the every philosophy behind the various NGOs that have, collectively, brought about a definite change in mindset of the people, as well as the entrenched political establishment.

That very perceived corruption, distortation and even degeneration in the political parties, see the major national parties that have collected hundreds of crores in party funding and are using and adopting dubious methods even now, using private planes of the corporate giants and thus favouring them with one illegality or other and the collective outcome is the series of scams today, from 2-G to CAG to telecom scandals and the CWG. They ones inside the Tihar jail might not be the really corrupt and must be held responsible for what had happened but there are others outside, because our political system had evolved in such a brazen manner that the really corrupt are the ones outside in the cosy rooms of Delhi, pontificating on everything.

Such deterioration only had led to a situation when we find, as Anna Hazare pointed out, nearly one third of the MPs are with criminal records, we have MPs sitting on mountains of cash piles, there is the cash for votes scandal, where the real culprits who benefitted are left out the ones who facilitated is hauled up by the CBI. During the debates in Parliament on the Anna’s three demands we heard the every many descriptions about the CBI! The Congress bureau of Corruption, Congress Bacho of India etc.
So, the real need of the hour is the time that has come for the opportunities thanks to Anna’s success in awakening the mass energy about the corruption ills.

Let us hope the work of the NGOs would be better understood in the coming years.

There are NGOs in development work, in agriculture, rural development work, in eradicating very many social ills, in education, among women and many more areas.

Sometimes only NGOs can do and sustain interest in such social issues like prohibition, untouchability and exploitation of worm and children, eradication of child labour etc.

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