Thursday, 3 July 2014

Who sets the Agenda of Foreign Fund receiving Indian NGOs?

This post will be different from my earlier ones. Here, I will try to give my understanding of the "ownership" of Indian NGOs who are registered under FCRA and receiving foreign funds.

If you are in a hurry, you can read the Summary at the end of this Post.

This post is a formal rendition of a series of tweets that I had written on 7th June 2014; Those tweets can be seen at https://twitter.com/indianreagan/status/475153291492347905 ; I thank @indianreagan for considering it to be blogpost worthy and asking me to do it.

If you are unsure of what I am talking about, (or even otherwise), it may be useful to go through my earlier posts which have analyzed tonnes of publicly available data (gleaned from Government of India website, mha1.nic.in/fcra.htm).

So, who "owns" Indian NGOs which are registered in FCRA? Legally and technically, there will be some owners who are all Indians (have to be, according to FCRA rules). However, what matters is who the donors are.

Just as a (wo)man is known by the friends (s)he keeps, a NGO is known by its Donors.

Which is why I found (still find) it strange that GoI has a Portal for NGOs at ngo.india.gov.in . This Portal covers NGOs which receive funds from GoI. Yes, let us expand the acronyms to appreciate the irony.

Non-Governmental Organizations receive money from Government. 

I wish I could put a sly-smiley here the way Jerry Seinfeld used to.

I digress. In my understanding of Indian NGOs, two categories exist. Ones receiving money from Indian Government (covered under ngo.india.gov.in above) and another receiving money through the FCRA route (listed in http://fcraonline.nic.in/fc3_amount.aspx). To my knowledge, the intersection of these two sets is Null, i.e., there are no NGOs which are common to both (there might be one or two here and there, so don't break my happiness by pointing out such exception(s)).

This post is about Set-B, the ones registered in FCRA.

Set-B has a good mix of NGOs. While all FC (foreign contribution) receiving Orgs have to register themselves with the FCRA wing on the nature of their organization (social, religious, economic, educational etc..), I have often found that this distinction is notional. In certain religions, there may not be any distinction between these domains. And, if the founder of the NGO happens to be guided by such a religion, he/she may call the NGO a social/educational one, but may actually be using it to propagate his/her religion.

Thus, let us discard examining the stated nature of the NGO.

How else do we understand the nature of a NGO receiving foreign funds? Repeat:
Just as a (wo)man is known by the friends (s)he keeps, a NGO is known by its Donors.

How do we see the donors? Check their FC6 returns filed with GoI. You can click on any name you can find in the State-wise Top-20 list that I have compiled here 
 


In the following, wherever I use the word NGO, consider it as pointing to NGOs registered under FCRA and receiving foreign funds, unless stated otherwise.


Since the stated nature of the NGO may be at variance with what it practices, let me give you my understanding of the proportion of NGOs of certain types. By far, RoL (Religion of Love) based NGOs rule the FCRA landscape. How much? My estimate is 65-70%. i.e.,out of the Rs. 11,000 Crore being received in a year, approximately Rs. 7000 Crore could be destined to such NGOs. Non-denominational NGOs such as those working for rural/urban development etc.. could be receiving about 10%. An equal amount, say 10% to 15% could come for Hindu NGOs. The rest is accounted for by Government Organizations (yes, even IIT-Kanpur can and has received money through FCRA).

A feature of Hindu NGOs is that their donors are to a large extent, individuals. As the population of NRIs and PIOs grow and as they increase their wealth, and as they long for their Janmabhoomi, their yearning is translated to remittances via FCRA. Typically, such individuals send money to the leaders of their sects (or Mathas or, in bad English, Mutts), say Swamijis or Sadhvis or Ammas or Adigals or Babas. Thus, I would characterize these remittances as Guru Dakshina. In rare instances, for operational reasons, where NRIs/PIOs are organized, the donations of individuals could be aggregated and remitted to the Indian NGO. However, the character and conduct of the Indian NGO remains truly Indian. Due to the disaggregated nature of reciepts, the agenda is set within the Indian soil. Furthermore, the spiritual leader (Sadhu/Sadhvi ...) lives in India to decide and guide the activities for which the money is spent.

In contrast, NGOs with RoL complexion receive money largely from institutions established abroad. I can reel out examples where such one-to-one mapping exists, but that might bore you. It will not be far-fetched to say that the Indian NGO was established by the foreign donor for the express purpose of sending money into India. Again, in contrast, very few individuals (as a fraction of the total money remitted) from abroad contribute to the Indian NGO with RoL complexion. Thus, the one-to-one (or, few to one) relationship between the foreign Organization (called as Charities/Non-Profits in such countries) and the Indian RoL NGO ensures that the Agenda is set by the foreign Organization. This is what led me to coin the slogan:

The Decade of Decay is marked by the NGO-isation of Governance and the BPO-isation of Proselytization

The Indian NGOs are foot soldiers. Committed they are, no doubt; however, their activities are guided by foreign charities if such charities are the large donors. Having said that, I would like to sound a note of caution. As I have remarked on my twitter timeline, there exists a non-zero number of RoL NGOs in Kerala and Tamil Nadu (and, to a very small extent in Hyderabad as well), who have gone International. However, a cursory glance of their websites and pronouncements provide the unmistakable notion that their agenda is harmonious with that of several foreign RoL organizations.

P.S.: I am analysing the FCRA data to see how well the data fits the above conjecture. Once I am done with that, I might present that in a separate post.

Summary: Hindu NGOs in India receive foreign funds from individuals settled abroad, while RoL NGOs receive foreign funds from foreign institutions.

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