What Would India Look Like Without NGOsBy
Among the 188 countries, India ranks 130th in the UNDP published Human Development Report 2015. The developing country which has launched its own GPS last week and is seen as a rising economic power is hoped to create a trickle-down effect which will benefit the poor and marginalized. Unfortunately, in reality the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. There are many NGOs in India contributing to fight this growing inequality.
Most important form of inequality
There are many forms of inequality and one of the most important forms is income inequality- where the rich are only getting richer. But what is concerning is rising inequality in opportunity. The haves having more access to opportunities than the have-nots.India’s high-income population and its top talent have access to better opportunities and can compete with the world’s best but on the other hand it is also the home to the highest number of illiterate population.The ills of such inequality have been linked to social problems. This manifests itself in different forms, defined by health class, caste, religion and, of course, literacy. This inequality brings India down to the 130th position even though India is becoming a rising economic power.According to the Inequality report published by Oxfam India- 1/3rd of the world’s malnourished children live in India. 59% children are stunted. Around 74% of the population does not have access to prescribed 2,400calories per day. What is concerning is although we do not have the resources for such basic requirements- we have the resources to complete the Mars mission. It has been found out that the 100 richest people in India own more wealth than the two-thirds of the population.
To even up such inequality, along with the government there are many NGOs in India who are trying to represent the civil society and fight for the right to equality. There are many different NGOs in India at different levels, international, national, regional –working to realize different vision and mission- all aiming to make the voices of the marginalized heard.
For example: India is an agricultural country but more than 85% Indian farmers are small and marginal farmers, holding less than 2 hectares of land. Without the effort of Oxfam India, 9,542 small and marginal farmers would not have had access to government schemes. Their efforts resulted in adoption of climate resilient agricultural model promoted to more than 1,200 farmers in Uttarakhand and Odisha, there was 30-35 % income enhancement per family per annum in Uttarakhand, 1,150 farmers adopted alternative livelihood options and more than 11,580 land applications have been processed for women farmers.
Although these contributions might look small but these are important drops in the ocean to bring about change.
NGOs in India work in different aspects
There are NGOs and think tanks that work purely on research to publish exact details on the kind of programs that is required, to evaluate a program once it is implemented. NGO also represent the civil society voice and analytically summarizes government policies in published policy briefs, evaluates their impact. This contributes to advocacy. There are NGOs that work on advocacy to represent India and influence the agenda at the international level, national level and regional level. This is very important because concerns of developed nation are very different from that of developing nation like India. These NGOs contribute to ensure that the international agenda, government policies are influenced by the actual needs of a developing country like ours. There are other NGOs in India that work to implement pilot programs.
In India, there is a huge number of rural and urban population who do not seek medical treatment due to financial constraints. But because of the efforts of Jan Swasthya Sahyog (an NGO in India) that promoted a voiced-based portal ‘Mahatari Swara’ that is directly connected to people in remote areas lacking access to basic healthcare services. Through this software, pregnant and lactating mothers can get information regarding birth and maternal health issues, and they can record their experiences of receiving health services in public health institutions. MahatariSwara provides audio recording facilities to callers and records vital information related to their pregnancy and also records experiences of getting health facilities through public health centers.
NGOs in the education field
India is also the home to the largest illiterate population above the age of seven. Further, estimates according to a published article by Smile Foundation say that up to 60 million children (6-14 years) are not in school. Of those in school, only 47 out of 100 children enrolled in Class I reach Class VIII. Many concerned NGOs, think-tanks, institutions in India working in the field of education came together and formed the RTE Forum which worked for years demanding the government for the Right to Education Act. The Right to Free and Compulsory Education then finally came about bringing a drop to the number of out of school children.
NGOs in the agricultural field
Similarly, the agricultural country which is a surplus producer of grain has 70% of the population at below the poverty line in terms of consumption of food. With the increasing number of malnutrition and starvation deaths -the civil society groups decided to intervene. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) collaborated with other organizations like the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and responded by filing a public interest petition in the Supreme Court of India asking for measures to reduce starvation.They asked for directions to be issued to the Government of India and the State Governments so that starvation deaths prevented and malnutrition could be reduced.
There is an informal network of organizations and individuals committed to the realization of the right to food in India- the right to Food Campaign. They consider that everyone has a fundamental right to be free from hunger and under nutrition. To realize this right they focus on equitable and sustainable food systems. They also focus on entitlements relating to livelihood security such as the right to work, land reform and social security. Their efforts along with many others resulted in the coming of the National Food Security Act, 2013.
NGOs working for the rights of the people
There are many alliances working on early childhood intervention, secondary education, health, gender, violence against women, farmer’s rights formed by NGOs in India. There are also organizations like Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) that analyses government finances and public policies in India. They advocate for accountability, transparency and public participation in budget processes. Every year CBGA publishes the budget analysis from the civil society perspective.
NGOs as the watchdogs
With so many NGOs in India working in different sectors, they can definitely be called the watchdogs for the rights of the people. The wheels of change are moving ahead and one of the most important reasons for this change is the increasing emphasis that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are putting on social, cultural and economic rights, at both national and international levels.
In a country like India, where inequality is increasing at such alarming rates- we are dependent on such watchdogs to represent the civil society and raise their voice and concerns and work to reduce this growing gap. With so many different NGOs in India working in so many different areas- it is difficult to imagine India without these NGOs.