Transparency in funding is a must
While the brouhaha over the Intelligence Bureau report on foreign-funded NGOs ‘stalling developmental projects’ and playing a significant role in slowing down the economy cannot be overstated, there’s also a need to understand that international sponsorships might have rival lobbies at work. Given that there were definite apprehensions over Modi sarkar curbing freedom of speech and voicing of democratic dissent, the latest (intentionally?) leaked report on NGOs such as Greenpeace being a threat to ‘national economic security’ only adds fuel to the fire of paranoia surrounding the clinical and sanitised atmosphere that is a trademark of successive Narendra Modi regimes in Gujarat. In fact, a report shows how paragraphs from an earlier speech by Modi have been lifted and pasted in the IB report which talks about how ‘wealthy’ and ‘influential’ class of NGOs ‘hire PR firms’ to build their public image and promote ‘antinational’ causes. While civil society organisations are up in arms against the government move, particularly the home ministry’s sending of a particularly invasive questionnaire to the India branch of Greenpeace, several Gujarat-based NGOs are also protesting the maneuver to single them out for future clamp down and persecution. Vociferous and prominent forums like People’s Union for Civil Liberties have campaigned for pro-people causes including stopping mass displacement, environmental damage, nuclear pollution as well as wresting of ancestral lands, felling of forests, among others, which have enormous economic and social fallouts impacting millions. Given that not all the local movements ride the NGO bandwagon, it is important to distinguish between careerism in this sector and the actual causes and struggles that the aam aadmi is fighting for in different corners of the country.
Blaming the foreign hand for stalled development, however, could not be an excuse for governmental ineffectiveness, as displayed by the former UPA regime, which also saw an explosive NGOisation of the public sphere. While it is important to give the civil society its rightful share in deciding crucial policy matters and legislation, it is equally significant to ensure transparency in the funding of such para-state bodies. Inasmuch as blanket curbing and red-flagging of NGOs is concerned, it is certainly not a feasible or desirable solution towards ensuring smooth progress of pending development projects. NGOs give shape to several submerged voices in the civil society, when not battling for foreign corporate lobbies pushing vested interests.