Monday, 8 August 2016

Why don’t NGOs bring Social change?

More the issues of society the higher the number and scope of Non Government Organisations (NGOs) remain a reality in India today. Comparatively the state like Kerala has fewer NGOs compared northern states of India as the nature of issues are more compact with the nature and scope NGO functioning in north Indian states. As northern states undergo multiple issues/deprivations states like Kerala experience complex issues that are more challenging for the intervention of NGOs in its present paradigm.

The origin of NGOs in India in its present form could be traced back to the spirit of Volunteer Organizations that emerged during the independent movement and post independent era until the declaration of emergency. Volunteer Organizations gradually transformed to NGOs as the world moved towards the dominance of global capital for economic growth and development. Thus they are known as development organizations working on various issues with diverse mission and objectives. Global capitalism brought foreign money to ‘developing’ countries like India and ‘under developed countries’ like Somalia.  It was time the State recognized the role and potential of NGOs that could fill the gaps that the government machinery could not do. Thus they could get wide spread endorsement and appreciation from various quarters of development sector. After emergency NGOs became popular in rural areas as they could bring lots of investments in infrastructure development as well as in Health and Education sector. In the initial stage many of the organizations worked with the spirit of charity that promoted the exchange of material benefits in the form of money and other material wants and needs of life. It was the time when Christianity too focused on improvement in health, education and various issues of poverty. With its religious belief in charity Christianity supported many NGOs to emerge in poor areas of India that created the masses of dependents on its charity. Gradually NGOs turned to right based development objectives that was envisioned to challenge the limitations of charity mode of functioning.

A lot could be written about the historical evolution of NGOs and its impact on life. One thing should be recognized that changes in its method and objectives should be analysed in connection with the changing nature of global capitalism, its strategies to ensure economic growth through market economy. It is also important to understand the emergence of micro credit as part of micro finance and its role in ‘empowerment’ of vulnerable communities.

Why don’t NGOs bring social change is a topic that can’t be dealt it a single article to examine the subject with its magnitude and extent that influenced the culture and scope of social change. Every organization enter into the arena of social work with its declared vision, mission and objectives that are either diluted or relegated into oblivion in the midst of organizational management, maintaining the fund flow and tackling the community issues during the intervention in the area. The expression ‘social work’ itself reveals its alienation from Nature or its failure to consider mankind as one of the species in the eco system. In other words with the promulgation of ‘scientific temper’ and faith in the man’s supremacy over Nature prompted individuals and organizations not to recognize the importance of treating man as part of Nature. The rational thinking, evidence based scientific approach and unquestioned faith in the separate existence of man from Nature with its reliance on rationality endowed with western theoretical support led social work in India towards its doom.

The fact remains that NGOs normally function in the domain of existing paradigm of nation state with its supremacy over communities through centralized system. Legally bound to the ethos of modern nation state NGOs are functioning as the extension of power mechanism endorsed by its authority. Thus organizations that seem to be radical in its stated objectives are destined to be a ‘refined’ version of the State apparatus that is obviously a tool for capitalism to expand its clutches of authority overtly and covertly over its people.

In addition to that Non Government Organizations are working with the paradigm of development envisioned by global capitalism based on GDP as an indication of positive change. Thus it is part of monetary economy that commercializes all the community resources and people’s willingness to extend their support with the spirit of community sharing. In other words the situation does not allow an organization to perpetuate a value of life beyond the existing frame work of socio-economic management. Besides that the whole operation of a Non Government Organization is built on the fund flow from a donor organization that prevents them to move away from the existing economic system based on growth for the sake of their survival.

Based on the perception of global agencies on development and backwardness, most of the communities including tribal groups are considered to be vulnerable groups that need to be mainstreamed. Mainstreaming of such ‘vulnerable’ communities is a declared agenda of NGOs with the observation that the indigenous culture, tradition and way of living are primitive and it is essential to modernize them. Thus standard means of social and cultural homogenization is implemented in various forms in the name of development. Traditional practices that have ecological significance and principles of sustainability are termed as unscientific and obsolete.  On the contrary if the values of such indigenous communities are asserted by somebody, for instance the symbiotic relationship of tribal communities with nature, it will be described religiousness or part of anti-development agenda.

Another interesting fact is the organizations that are formed with an objective of community development, a popular social work intervention strategy, work with people living in a particular location selected by the feasibility tools of a project plan where the actual Community is absent or invalid. Thus a development project is designed to fail with its formulation to work with community resources, its members and issues. The reasons for the absence of communities could be traced to multiple reasons such as caste discrimination, gender inequalities, other various forms of inequalities and the dominance of monetary economy over gift economy that strengthened and sustained the spirit of community living. The situation became worse with the absence of common assets with the growing privatization of land and other resources.

NGOs in India have valuable lessons from its past experience to move towards a new paradigm, yet they continue lingering in the field of ‘development’ for its capability to sustain a parallel economic system and attractive employment opportunity for some people in the sector along with the support of the state for its gap filling role. (the state act against them when they challenge its policy). It is a shock absorber for the existing gravity of inequality and oppression. Thus it becomes inevitable for the state as well as the oppressor to have a safety valve for resisting the rising people’s movements against the present system. In their struggle for survival most of the organizations do not recognize the absurdity of working for development as the global capitalism has reached its peak of natural resource extraction and thus heading towards economic crisis. They don’t even appreciate Ecology as the Science of 21st century.  Any way man cannot go on with their dream for their unlimited growth with limited natural resource even with the support of technology.

There are many people with their commitment towards a more just and fair society working as part of NGOs working on various critical issues. It’s time for them to decide whether to go on with a perished dream or choose a way of better understanding, contemplation and find a way forward. One thing is sure, the present paradigm of material well-being cannot be achieved with the designed system without letting a new system to emerge that is based on principles of Ecology, the Science of present times.  Being part of the present economic system and growth based on GDP social work in its effort fails to find the real cause of issues lurking in the space away from its domain. Otherwise with the dedication and commitment of some people working in the field, some of the NGOs may be able to cure the wound temporarily without healing real diseases permanently.

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