‘Nothing Going On—NGO’

All this Welfare Business

Harasankar Adhikari

A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a nonprofit and a political organization engaged in a wide range of activities, and take different forms in different parts of the world. It particularly works in the fields of humanitarian assistance and poverty alleviation. The term "non-governmental organization" was first coined in 1945, when the United Nations (UN) was created. It is estimated that about 2 million NGOs (just over one NGO per 600 Indians) are in welfare services.

It was observed that Government of India puts its attention for the rehabilitation of children in difficult circumstances aiming to build up strong future of nation under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Similarly, the Ministry of Labour and Employment and Ministry of Human Resources Development introduced National Child Labour Project and Programme for Urban Deprived Children under Sarva Shikshya Abhijan respectively. The street children (i.e. pavements and slums dwellers, children of sex workers, and child labour, and so forth) of Metro cities like Kolkata had priority. For their rehabilitation, the Ministry of Women and Child Development of Government of India introduced the Integrated Programme for Street Children in 1993-94 and it was implemented in association with NGOs. This scheme included education, nutrition, recreation, counselling services for both street children, for their psychosocial development, and their parents, for their attitudinal changes towards care and attention for their children's upbringing, and vocational training for street children between the age group of 6-14 years. Another two programmes as mentioned above targeted the restoration of lost childhood and the promotion of healthy childhood development. Interestingly after almost 10 years of services, the problems of children were in a static position because of faulty service delivery system and the members of NGOs who were basically nonprofessional and pursued their own profit and the preservation of their prestigious life style and life choices. Secondarily, government authorities were also responsible because of weak monitoring and evaluation of the programme.

To know the status of street children after 10 years of intervention an evaluation was conducted. For this purpose five hundred children of both sexes considered as street children living with their parents/guardians at authorized/unauthorized slums ('jhupri' at canal side) or at pavements or at brothels of Kolkata, were selected randomly. These children were the beneficiaries of different child welfare schemes (i.e. Integrated Programme for Street Children, National Child Labour Project and Programme for urban deprived children under 'Sarva Shikshya Abhijan') run by different NGOs for at least 10 years. For the purpose of this evaluation, these children were categorized in three groups in a ratio of 2:7:1—children of sex workers (n=100), slums and pavement dwellers living with their parents (n=400) and orphan (n=50) respectively. (Total no. of children=100+350 +50=500). They were from poor families and they were out of proper parental care and attention needed to be productive citizen. Their childhood was considered as a lost one and they were in a vicious cycle of deprivation that would pattern themselves after their parents.

After 10 years of service delivery, there was no significant change achieved to revive these children's situation. It revealed that only 2% of them attended higher secondary and above education. Among them, 50.6% dropped out at primary level and 38.2% of them attended class V-VIII standard education. They shared that 32.8% of them left their education due to parental pressure for domestic help and earning. Twenty three percent (23%) of them were due to poor performance and 21.8% of them were not getting support from their parents. Even 6.8% of these girls were got married. Their occupational status revealed that 30.4% of them engaged as labour at their locality, and 26% of them were assisting their parents. In truth intervention strategies/service delivery system under these programmes failed to bring attitudinal change among the parents of the children. Parents were dependent for their children's care and attention. These programmes failed to educate or to sensitize the parents that the children's up-bringing was their own duty and responsibility and government or other development agencies would only be a facilitator. The informants shared that these programmes were a childhood security to them and to their parents. These programmes helped to get place for a certain period which was urgently needed in their environment and other benefits were their demand for attendance. They did not take as their change agent. The intervention failed to bring psychological changes among these children. Thus, their behavioural status shaped according to their residential background.

NGOs' services were more professional in nature. It would not only deliver relief services or welfare activities, it would dedicate to perform social work which would be a step to resolve one's problem from the root forever. Making a person self-reliant was its prime goal. The act for registration (The Societies Registration Act 1860) of a NGO had not any strict rule because any group of citizens could form it with some basic objectives and its services would be voluntary in nature. No remuneration or benefit would be enjoyed by any member of the registered NGOs. But human resources of any nature (professional or non-professional) appointed by the managing committee would be eligible to get their remuneration from the NGOs. But the situation had changed. People used to form a NGO with an aim of an alternative earning source. It used to fulfill dual purpose of social prestige in the society and earning money. It was due to the problems of unemployment and disadvantages of earning in Indian society. So, they used to earn alternatively through NGOs—it was a process of deprivation of downtrodden. They behave as 'rakshak e bhakhak' (a person as protector is promoting atrocities instead of eradicating them). The problems of downtrodden were deeply rooted and it ran into vicious cycle. The NGO's personnel involved in corruption and they used to siphon the money which was received as grant/donation from both government and other sources. They made a self-ruled system to adjust with the agencies personnel by sharing of bribes by which the particular grant/donation would be safely dealt with its possible continuation. The leadership of the NGOs indicated that either they had little educational and personal background or they were from a so-called prestigious background. But the mission was the same, to enjoy benefits from a non-profit making affair.

The concerned ministry of India's government sponsoring this scheme had appointed two parallel agencies—i) department of women and child development and social welfare of state government of West Bengal and ii) another agency under control of a social work institute known as 'Child Line' which was also sponsored by the same ministry for monitoring of this programme. The deputed officials of the two agencies monitored the programme once in the mid of each year using same set of questionnaires. Both the agenda did not follow any techniques of supervision and monitoring according to the methods of social work administration! They used to investigate the programme quantitatively within a short period (hardly 3 days for 500 beneficiaries). They just filled up the questionnaires in consultation with the NGOs and enquired some documents. Sometimes, (s)he used to complete the job at the office of NGOs. If (s)he visited the drop-in-centres, (s)he used to only overlook the attendance register and to count the beneficiaries attended on the particular date of visit. Sometimes, they asked whether the beneficiaries were getting the services laid down in the scheme or not. They hardly interacted with the beneficiaries and their parents/guardians as well as community members. They did not overlook the qualitative progress and achievement which might lead their rehabilitation. Their investigation was a routine job to expedite the release of grant-in-aid. Consequently, it might be insignificant in relation to the problems and its solution.

Vol. 50, No.5, Aug 6 - 12, 2017