Thursday, July 31, 2014

NGO Culture

With upwards of 2,000 registered NGOs, Sikkim is arguably among the best serviced states in the world when it comes to the density of organisations engaged in ‘social service’. As per the annual report of the Law Department, 125 new NGOs were registered in Sikkim between 01 April 2013 and 31 March, 2014, alone, that’s one every third day during the last financial year. Apparently, Sikkim is more interest in social work than enterprise because during the same period, only 10 companies were registered in Sikkim. Of course, no one is buying into that fiction because, let’s accept it, people’s collaborations for non-governmental social work is still an awaited initiative [by and large] in Sikkim. Put the numbers in perspective and one stares at a number that projects one NGO per 300 people in the State! Just to drive the point home, every set of 300 people in Sikkim, have an NGO dedicated to their welfare. Normally, a good NGO would have that many members. An NGO, by general understanding, is a citizens’ organisation. Because only conscious citizens join hands to engage in socially-productive and not-for-profit initiatives, NGOs are expected to be civil society collectifs. By definition, an NGO is a Non-Governmental Organisation. When the concept began, they were genuinely NGOs in composition and conduct, in that they neither sought government representation, nor pursued government funding. Over time, the Government realised the effectiveness of these bodies in getting things done at the grassroots level and sought their assistance and used their commitment to engage beneficiaries of State assistance, initiative and doles. Things went downhill ever since. Now, in Sikkim as elsewhere in the country, too many NGOs are launched when new schemes and funds are sniffed. At times, the corridors of power reflect the insider trading that one sees in stock markets, only in this case, NGOs are launched by sections close to hands that move files. These sections get wind of funds arriving earmarked for specific NGO-managed programmes and a new non-governmental organisation gets born. Then there are groups which start earnest, but soon start digressing. There are also some NGOs that actually work hard, but only as programme implementers of ‘projects’ that have state sponsorship, not as organisations that identify people’s crisis and work without profit to resolve the situations. NGOs that are genuinely civil-society manifestations are the rarest. Look around, how many of the around 2000+ NGOs registered in Sikkim do you think are open, competent, effective, earnest and durable? Now, imagine the social engagement that could have happened if enough of these too many had all these attributes…

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