replicate and scale up.
Civil society is riddled with defeated politicians and retired bureaucrats who, having lost their power, influence and privileges, have started NGOs. While they were in power, they did not lift a finger to help them. When these has-beens have nothing better to do, they start NGOs. They give genuine small civil society organisations a bad name. Maybe it is time to revive the debate of the 1980s on the need for a code of conduct for NGOs. The code would expect them to have a simple lifestyle, take a living wage instead of a market wage and observe the laws of the country.
If we are fighting against crony capitalism, we should also fight against cronyism in NGOs. When the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) was closed down and replaced by a Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF) in September 2013, it was done in complete secrecy. The BRLF was never widely publicised and civil society was never invited to contribute to its formation. It is designed to benefit a handful of select organisations — cronyism of the worst kind. It was so much in contrast to the open debate that galvanised the voluntary sector over the code of conduct and which preceded the merger of the People’s Action for Development India (PADI) and the Council for Advancement of Rural Technology (CART) to form CAPART in 1986.
What needs to be done? Replace the national advisory council (NAC) with a voluntary action commission (VAC). The mandate of the VAC should be to identify the thousands of genuine grassroots groups who have an FCRA registration and submit their report to the home ministry. It is not the job of the home ministry to judge the incredible work of community-based organisations. A lot of effort has gone into the formulation of the BRLF. Let it remain. But demand of the existing management if they have theself-respect to resign en masse and let the new government bring in new members.
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