Ngo History On India Essay

1307 words - 6 pages

The changing face of volunteering in India 26 September 2006 by Patralekha Chatterjee

Stepping carefully around the pits and mounds, four men approached the only source of light to be seen - a small kerosene lantern burning inside a mud and grass hut. There were four residents inside - a couple and their two children, 10 and eight. They dug the pits, cut the rock and hauled it to the trucks, all without salary. They were bonded labourers, bonded for life and for generations to the owner of the pit because some ancestor sometime had borrowed money and had been unable to pay it back. Two of the four men who visited the hut that night in 1985 were from a ...view middle of the document...

In independent India, the initial role played by the voluntary organizations started by Gandhi and his disciples was to fill in the gaps left by the government in the development process. The volunteers organized handloom weavers in villages to form cooperatives through which they could market their products directly in the cities, and thus get a better price. Similar cooperatives were later set up in areas like marketing of dairy products and fish. In almost all these cases, the volunteers helped in other areas of development - running literacy classes for adults at night, for example. In the 1980s, however, the groups who were now known as NGOs became more specialized, and the voluntary movement was, in a way, fragmented into three major groups. There were those considered the traditional development NGOs, who went into a village or a group of villages and ran literacy programmes, crËches for children and clinics, encouraged farmers to experiment with new crops and livestock breeds that

would bring more money, helped the weavers and other village artisans market their products and so on - in short became almost a part of the community in their chosen area (usually in rural India) and tried to fill all the gaps left in the development process by the government. There are many examples of voluntary organizations of this kind running very successfully in India for the last five decades. Perhaps the most celebrated example would be the treatment centre for leprosy patients run by Baba Amte in central India. The second group of NGOs were those who researched a particular subject in depth, and then lobbied with the government or with industry or petitioned the courts for improvements in the lives of the citizens, as far as that particular subject was concerned. A well-known example of an NGO of this type is the Centre for Science and Environment. It was a CSE who picked up that sample of well water and then submitted the results of the chemical analysis to a court because the organization had not been able to get the factory to change its polluting practices in any other way. In the third group were those volunteers who saw themselves more as activists than other NGOs did. Of course, all NGOs undertook a certain amount of activism to get their points across - they petitioned the bureaucrats, they alerted the media whenever they found something wrong and so on. But this third group of NGOs saw activism as their primary means of reaching their goals, because they did not believe they could get the authorities to move in any other way. Perhaps the best-known example of an NGO in this category is the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Campaign), an organisation that...

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