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   Foreign Aid for Indian NGOs
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
15 Feb 2010

Whose money is it, honey?

Despite foreign direct investment driving the stock market, the issue of foreign funding to the civil society organizations is seen at a tangent. Not long ago, foreign funding was used as the basis to question the credibility of Narmada Bacchao Andolan. In effect, the petitioner's hidden intention has been to tarnish the pro-public image of the two-decade old social movement, with an aim to establish that NBA's anti-dam agenda was driven by the donors. NBA had come out unscathed but popular perception about foreign funding was nevertheless reiterated.

With three decades of experience in the field of development, Pushpa Sundar traces the history of developmental assistance and the emergence of civil society as its formidable exponent. Interestingly, over the years the levels of overseas development assistance to the government has become insignificant while the amounts going to the civil society has increased significantly. The recipients of foreign funds may have come under the home ministry's scanner; the quantum of development assistance remains miniscule in comparison to government's development portfolio.

Why does the government feel threatened and why is popular perception on foreign funded organizations' tainted? The answers to such questions are hard to come by because there are shades of grey in the developmental picture. The lure for foreign funds is of government's own making; its support mechanism smells of nepotism and its monitoring mechanism is increasingly laced with corruption. If the government's development support mechanism to civil society could clear itself of such ambiguities and be more liberal in its outlook, there is little doubt that the dependence on foreign funds and the ideological baggage it brings along would decline.

However, this should in no way mean that all is well with the recipients and that the resource utilization is objectively focused. Conversely, the fundamental question is who will decide what is development? Far from tightening the noose around foreign funds, the state could do well by redefining roles through mutual trust on the capacity and capability of the voluntary sector in delivering change. There is a complementary task at hand for the civil society too; to become creative and acknowledged in setting locally appropriate development agenda.

In her in-depth analysis, Pushpa Sundar examines the multiple issues of foreign funds from a historical prism. Foreign Aid for Indian NGOs is well researched treatise that should act as substrate for future discussions on the political economy of development assistance.

Foreign Aid for India NGOs: Problem or Solution by Pushpa Sundar, Routledge, New Delhi, , 363 pages, Rs 796

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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