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NGOs needs to broad base fund raising, say activists

Mar 12, 2017

NGOs believe that they also need to take support from individuals from middle class for both volunteering and raising resources.

New Delhi:  According to development practitioners in India, the poor in third world countries are so because of the policies in developing countries and the situation is not likely to change for better because most of us have stopped questioning.

These views were shared during a panel discussion on Changing Landscape of India: Role of Philanthropy, Media and Civil Society during the silver anniversary celebrations of the National Foundation (NFI) for India in New Delhi. NFI has-been doing philanthropy for the past 20 years.

According to representatives of nonprofits there is a need to distinguish between CSR and Philanthropy. “CSR is not philanthropy. We are confusing Daan or charity with Philanthropy. In charity we forget about donation. But, in philanthropy we talk about a longer impact,” they said.

While the civil society actors agreed that philanthropy was a very old practice globally, they argued that at present NGOs need to take support from individual from middle class both for volunteering and financial support.

Neera Chandhoke, Political Scientist and Former Professor, Delhi University said that NGOs are called civil society because of their apolitical nature, as they don't belong to society. “Civil society emerged with emergency and it is about freedom. Civil society assembles on roads and streets for their rights. We have to stop categorising like referring to NGOs as civil society,” she said.

Neera regretted that civil society is being suppressed these days. According to her, civil society is primarily about grassroots activism. “We are just asking what has been promised to us in the preamble of Constitution, justice- social, economic and political.”

Neera cautioned against looking at the poor as victims like feminists refuses to see women as victims. “Stop seeing poor as victims. We should not do philanthropy in the name of compassion. Why do we talk about charity? Why don't we talk about sharing,” she questioned.

Neera said that poverty should not been seen in isolation. People are poor because the society is like that. “We do philanthropy and charity in the name of poor. What is the face of that poor we are talking about,” she said.

Arun Maira, Management Consultant and Former Member of Planning Commission of India, remarked that civil society is not only about holding things to account but also to work together. “Mobilisation is effective if people are disciplined and show sacrifice to shame the powers that be,” he said.

Amitabh Behar, executive director of NFI said that sometimes philanthropy is being criticized because it legitimises capitalism. Amitabh believes that civil society is grappling with the challenge of resources. “A movement like Amnesty will have to depend on individual solidarity,” he said.

Amitabh feels that the idea of representative democracy is in deep crisis, and that is the reason why civil society is rising. He asked businesses to have a bigger role for ensuring social justice.

Amitabh said that people don't want charity, but dignity. “The CSR law says that 2 per cent of profit should be shared. But the rest 98 per cent of profit comes at the cost of someone's land and someone's livelihood. Your work should not be profitable to only your shareholders but the larger shareholder group,” he said.

Some of the participants at the discussion opined that the so called civil society is taking over the voice and opinions of ordinary citizens like wives, old people. There were speakers according to whom the present state was moment of introspection for the funded civil society.

Aakar Patel, Senior Journalist and Executive Director, Amnesty International India, recalled that India has had very successful mobilisation moments.

According to Patel, India is not an easy country to raise money for human Rights.  “One of the problems that Amnesty has is lack of branding,” he said.

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