What role do NGOs play in India?
Non-governmental organisations are often setup to plug in the gaps left by the government. India as a nation still has a large population that is vulnerable – in terms of health, education, jobs and opportunities in general. This has also seen a large proliferation of NGOs. By some estimates, India has 3.3 million NGOs, or one NGO for every 400 individuals. This may seem like a large number and it is. A lot of NGOs setup in India are either dormant or fraudulent, used for a wide range of illegal activities such tax evasion and misappropriation of government funds. Regardless, there are still a large number of credible NGOs that do genuine work for the people, providing important services – from education to health to disaster management to pet care, these NGOs play a positive role in virtually every sector of the economy.
In India, there are NGOs doing brilliant work in different fields. In the education sector for example, some of the most prominent NGOs would include Pratham (research on educational outcomes, famous for the Annual State of Education Report), Teach for India (direct intervention in low income classrooms) and Akshya-Patra (involved with the mid-day meal scheme). Others such as Goonj are involved with other problems having the poor. Goonj specially focuses on clothing and believes that merely by reusing the existing clothing in the nation, one important characteristic of poverty can be eliminated. Moreover, a substantial number of NGOs are involved with one of the most important problems facing the poor: Lack of quality skills and employment opportunities. These NGOs focus on skill development and livelihood creation by creating entrepreneurial opportunities for them.
In the long term, NGOs will continue to play a larger role in nation-building. Increasing prosperity and increased focus on Corporate Social Responsibility spending will definitely help in increasing the focus on the disadvantaged sections of society. Those NGOs that are able to adopt best practices and bring about the maximum transparency through auditing and reporting will be best placed to receive a larger chunk of funds in the coming years. NGOs such as Akshya-Patra have grown enormously in scale by consistently delivering results year after year. CSR spending will benefit only the most credible organisations and allow them to grow in scale. This is a good trend, larger and more accountable NGOs will be able to deliver more effectively and efficiently, making best use of resources.
Thus, NGOs will continue to play a larger role in Indian society, but it is also essential for NGOs to open themselves for auditing and reporting.