Targeting NGOs

Overregulation will stifle the voluntary sector. The lokpal act provisions need a relook.

By: Editorial | Updated: July 28, 2016 12:50 pm

The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013, legislated by the then UPA government overzealously included senior management personnel working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the definition of “public servants” requiring them to disclose their assets and liabilities if their NGO receive foreign donations and funds from the Union government. It didn’t stop there. The personnel’s spouse and dependent children too were required to furnish such details.

These persons, now that they are public servants, could be prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act for non-compliance. The act kicked in following a June 24 notification by the government, and requires disclosures by July 31. This is perhaps the worst case of a public policy swinging between extremes when legislated in a hurry and in an environment of distrust and anger. A perception of rising corruption during the UPA’s second term and the consequent high-decibel protests led by Anna Hazare forced the government to legislate the lokpal act.

Unfortunately, in a bid to be seen as cracking down on those who swindle public money or resources, it introduced provisions which are draconian.

A clear and irreversible course being followed by India since the beginning of economic reforms in 1991 has been to do away with the tyranny of red tape and inspector raj. In as much, the direction has also been to encourage enterprises and individuals alike to invest their precious and finite resources — time and money — in areas including health and education where the government has not met the needs of the country’s poor. Nobody disputes the need for transparency and adequate disclosure by organisations that are recipients of public money.

WATCH VIDEO: Govt Introduces Bill To Amend Lokpal Act Clause Pertaining To NGOs


The lokpal act brings under its purview any NGO wholly or partly funded by the Union government to the extent of Rs one crore or more and has received Rs 10 lakh or more in foreign donations. But the provisions of the act stretch in a manner that not only intrude into the privacy of individuals, but also provides the leeway for officials to harass people. Overregulation may not only stifle the voluntary sector but also force volunteers and donors to stay away. Many trustees, directors and professional managers in NGOs, who could be philanthropists, experts and eminent persons from different walks of life, wouldn’t want their assets and liabilities loosely posted on government websites.

A group of parliamentarians cutting across party lines met the prime minister on Monday, who has promised an extension of the July 31 deadline. But the prime minister must also ensure that the lokpal act does not end up smothering a vibrant civil society when the government sets out to monitor and regulate NGOs that receive huge funds.

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  1. D
    Dr. SP
    Jul 31, 2016 at 7:23 am
    Sir, this is a clear case of regulation and certainly NOT of over regulation ! Many NGOs exercise no restraint in castigating the Government and public servants. On the contrary, they enjoy the liberal funding from many a foreign agencies and some from governments too. There are many a Setalvads under a sheep skin. Civil society owes a duty to an accountability and financial probity. Some of them are doing a salutary work and they will not object to the said inclusion as a public servant for the purpose of PC Act. It is other category of NGOs not used to any fictional and financial discipline for whom this Amendment is presumably brought; rightly so.
    1. D
      Dr M
      Jul 27, 2016 at 5:42 am
      What to speak of (over) regulations the w gamut of N G Os should be disbanded in India;br/gt;This counter productive and un-accountable sector has become so vast, diverse, mischievious,indulgent, self serving and anti Government that it is beyond the capacity of any authority to control their activity.this activity drew oxygen when late Narasimha Rao as prime minister called upon on N G Os to forward the nation's progress. However it so happened that there has been negligible /sustainable growth in most sectors under N G O activity for decades .The only positive thing happened that these organizations got a chance to fatten their purses with Indian nd foreign funds,threw crumbs at the vast un/under engaged youth, decided their own agenda and field of activity as per their choice and;br/gt;They neither worked with the real conditions prevailing nor have any proof of improvement after years of so called social work except doctored reports for donor's consumption and untrue certificates from accounts/;br/gt;Most have been alleged to have engaged in un-healthy activities like conversions, anti social teachings, working against social norms and traditions thus putting the delicate social balance in;br/gt;It will be worthwhile to note if any state /central govt has any statistics of real development through decades long activity by literally thousands of N G Os in all;br/gt;If at all the Govt/s wish to still engage the services of this sector then all domestic and foreign funds must be received/disbursed for specified time/result oriented development of deserving areas on outsourcing basis with strict monitoring by Govt departments.Even Govt functioning with its in built checks often goes haywire, how unaccountable people/organizations can be entrusted with un accounted funds for national development?
      1. Raman Govindan
        Jul 28, 2016 at 1:10 pm
        rif a rule is framed that NGOs should declare disclosures , it should be strictly followed. if a date is is given, it cannot be cvlified as the worst case of a public policy swinging between extremes when legislated in a hurry and in an environment of distrust and anger! every NGO without prodding by government should have had the details of its receipt from foreign sources readily available at any moment.