First the elected law makers were involved in governance then it shifted to unelected civil servants and from them the judiciary took over Governance of our country and now the NGO’s are trying to take the slot. Can Johlawalas who are the self proclaimed civil society be involved in Governance and with what implications?
Two recent news reports carried briefly in our News papers highlights some issues in this regard. One from Karnataka in Southern India and another from Chhattisgarh in Northern India. One is regarding violence and cutting of trees in Mysore by public after an accident in which a pedestrian was knocked down by a speeding lorry and died. The reports suggests that an “hit-and-run accident that killed a Mysore City Corporation (MCC) employee on Saturday[ 9th January] morning developed into mob hysteria, leading to the felling of some 25 trees along Lalitha Mahal Palace Road where a road-widening project has been stalled since June by the Tree Court following objections by environmentalists. Local councilors P. Deveron, Anantha, Vinita and Mahadevamma joined the dharna and raised slogans in support of the road-widening, criticizing environmentalists opposing the project. Soon some people, armed with axes, began felling trees on both the sides of the road near the Arch Gate.”
The tree court seems to have suspended felling of some two hundred trees for the project. But recently more than four persons have been killed in that stretch due to narrow roads. Environmentalists suggests that heavy traffic should not be allowed in that road but elected representatives suggest that road widening is important.
The second report is more revealing about the role of NGO’s in supporting disruptive and dangerous forces like Maoists. This report says that Medha Patkar and Sandeep Pandey and other Jholawalas were prevented by a large group of villagers in Dantewara in Chhattisgarh when they attempted to go to a village to address what is called public hearing a la Maoist kangaroo courts. Of course Leftist News Papers castigated the agitators for preventing democratic forces from exercising their freedom as if the demonstrators did not have any freedom. Also mentioned was the fact that the demonstrators were asking them to go back since they are supporters of Maoists and not tribals.
These Jholawalas also do not have any respect for democratic institutions and they have the fascination for dictatorships, naxalism and autocracy. They have not condemned unequivocally Naxalism/ Maoism other than some Mumbo –Jumbo on means and ends etc. NGO’s are accountable to only themselves and hence they cannot be held responsible for any act of omission and commission of others.
Also the peculiar situation of the NBA leaders like Dharmadhikari and Himanshu Thakkar– being on the international Advisory Board of the Organisation like International Rivers registered at Berkley– California which gets huge grants –more than USD 100,000 –from organizations like Ford Foundation and Tides Foundation and Blue Moon fund—is never talked about since Sources and Uses of Funds of NGO’s are beyond the ambit of ordinary mortals. They thrive on propaganda and even the Supreme Court has expressed its displeasure as early as 1999 regarding these NGO’s in terms of their prevarication and obfuscation on the Narmada Issue.
NGO’s have become the major non-state actors in deciding about resource allocation, location of plants, starting or not starting of projects and Government spending The single largest corrupt activity of the Central government called NREGA –unfortunately now named after that poor soul Mahatma Gandhi –wherein thousands of crores are transferred to contractors and middlemen in the name of “inclusive growth” is the brain child of many of these NGO’s. Now they want to not only monitor it but also run it.
The crux of the issue is regarding governance. Who runs the Government? Is it elected representatives aided by executive or the NGO’s. If it is later then there are many questions regarding their accountability and responsibility. Interestingly many of these NGO’s are not even Non-Government as claimed by them since they get huge funds from the Government Indian or Foreign.
Actually more than Rs 65000 crore was received from abroad during 1994 to 2007. Annual receipts have gone up from Rs 1865 in 1994 to Rs 12290 crore in 2007. More interestingly around 50 % of the associations do not file reports. These are those received from abroad and millions more is generated locally. It is possible that some global corporations may be financing some of them to prevent setting up of plants by Indian competitors.
We have entered a dangerous zone in our national life wherein unelected and unaccountable jholawalas are trying to hijack the state apparatus supported by bleeding heart liberals [BHL’s] in the print and electronic media.
India under its current constitution should be run by elected law makers assisted by bureaucrats. Lawmakers may be illiterate or corrupt but that is the system we have decided to have and that is the system which should be strengthened and reformed. Unelected NGO’s substantially funded from unknown sources –many times foreign–whose balance sheets are secret will not facilitate the growth of democracy. It will only result in public exhibiting their anger at these forces as seen at Mysore and Dantewara. Sooner the Government reins in the NGO’s by bringing them within the ambit of RTI the better for the social cohesiveness and economic development.
Since they demand transparency from all and sundry let them publicize their comprehensive audited balance sheets and sources and uses of funds in their websites. They must be compelled to declare their foreign sources of funds and other affiliations.
Let the laws of the land be made applicable to the self proclaimed civil society activists.