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NGOs in India’s Development Process

V. Ranga


In a democratic system, the role of the state is primary and most crucial in formulating and implementing the social and economic development programmes. However, in the contemporary society, the problems that people have been facing especially the poor are much more complex. This is especially true in a country like India where a large number of vulnerable sections are experiencing inequalities at all the levels.

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Development does not only mean economic development but also includes promoting social equality, gender equality, improving quality of life etc., It is not possible for government alone to effectively undertaking such complex development activities. So, there is essentiality of other groups or organizations to support the government on various fronts. This essentiality paved way for the emergence of civil society.Non-Governmnt organizations (NGOs) being a major arm of civil society thus have a crucial role in the country’s development process.

Non-Government organizations (NGOs) are the groups or institutions or organizations that are not reducible to the administrative grasp and work on ‘non-profit’ basis with the principles like social equality, altruism and human development as their foundations. In India at present there are nearly 25,000 NGOs spread across various parts of the country.


Social service is associated with India since ancient times. It is said that even Mahatma Gandhi after attaining independence wanted Indian National congress to be transformed into a Public service organization. Although such proposal was rejected, later many of staunch Gandhi followers did setup large number of voluntary orgs across various parts of the country to carry of the constructive works on Gandhian principles. However, the real and identified registration and formation of NGOs emerged in India from early 1970s. Immediately after their formal inception, NGOS received grater thrust form the Government in more than one ways.

The GOI during the sixth Five year plan with its famous”GARIBI HATAO” slogan did recognize the importance of NGOs in the development process of India. In the seventh FYP, it gave a task of developing “self-reliance communities” to NGOs for promoting rural development. Later in the eighth FYP, government sought to promote nationwide network of NGOs. In its ninth FYP, it envisaged the primary role of in promoting PPPS in the country. The tenth FYP envisaged the need and importance of NGOS in developing agricultural sector by promoting awareness among the farmers about various modern farm techniques and government initiatives for their benefit. Moreover, government has also been promoting the development of NGOs through financial aid and assistance programmes.

NGOs with the support given by the government has been accelerating its development activities by taking up specific issues like Poverty alleviation, child rights, caste stigma and discriminations, women rights, child labor, rural development, water and sanitation, environmental issues etc., In the last two decades the role of NGOs have become proactive in the social sector development-education, health etc.,NGOs have played a crucial role in sending the school dropouts back to the school especially in rural areas thus upholding the Right to education. And also the heath sector development programmes like Leprosy eradication programme and programs on eliminating TB, malaria and improving water and sanitation facilities by NGOs have met with huge success.

The most highlighted success of NGOs could be seen in their achievement in influencing government to bring out various development-oriented policies and laws. Few of such laws and policies include: Right to Information, Integrated child development scheme(ICDS), Integrated child protection scheme(ICPS), MNREGA, Juvenile justice, Nirmal gram initiative, Rastriya swathya bhima yogna(RSBY), Various policies on women development, forest and environment development, anti-trafficking, people with disability etc.,

NGOs and Controversies

NGOs undoubtedly have been playing proactive role in protecting the interests of the poor and destitute and are also essential for upholding the democratic values of the country. However, many NGOs in India have come under the red scanner and their functioning have to be seen with suspicion. This is majorly because of loss in credibility and lack of accountability with NGOs in India. Although this is not true with all the NGOs but it is certainly true that the red spot is on many NGOs across various regions in the country.

The recent report of Intelligence bureau (IB) stated that-the working of few NGOs in the name of protests against the government activities have become detrimental to the nation development. It also mentioned that the protests of ‘foreign funding NGOs’ led to loss of 2-3% of country’s GDP. The report has brought the discussions and debates about NGOs accountability into fore. It is true that NGOs must raise voice to protect the rights of people and protest but it is also equally important for them to provide the alternatives for the government to ensure development. Mere protests and stalling development activities would not prove effective and hurt the nation building. So, it is essential for NGOs to ensure effective policy research with ‘think-tank’ way of functioning and provide alternative solutions to the government since after all the emergence of NGOs linked to the requirement of best effective alternative approaches.

It is well known fact that several NGOs obtaining funds from the foreign sources for their activities. It is also true that these NGOs played crucial part in protests against setting up coal and thermal project plants and Konndankulam nuclear project which led to power shortages in the respective states. In the wake of IB report, there are few arguments from different quarters to block the option of availing foreign funds. But in a country like India where income source is low and high difficulties associated in raising funds which are primary for NGOs to fulfill their minimum requirements it is definitely not acceptable to stop the foreign funds. Instead of blocking the foreign funds it is necessary for government to ensure further transparency in categorizing the NGOs based on their funds sources. It would also prove effective if government tightens the scrutiny procedures through foreign contribution (regulation) act, 2010. And also it is necessary that NGOs to ensure transparency in their governance frame work and board functioning.

In fine, the NGOs working with enhanced accountability, by providing alternative solutions to the development, in collaboration with the government and market which is the need of the hour would further strengthen the development process in India.

Source: Development for and ‘the Hindu’ articles.