‘தொழில்முறை’ தன்னார்வ நிறுவனங்கள், வெளிநாட்டுப் பணம்…

19/12/2012

அல்லது  >>> foreign aid (for NGOs) considered harmful வெளி நாட்டுப் பணம் பெற்று (= யாசித்து),  நம்மூர் தொழில்முறை நடிப்புச் சுதேசிகள் நடத்தும் மானாவாரி  ’தன்னார்வ’ நிறுவனங்களைப் பற்றியது இந்த இடுகை. ஜெயமோகன் அவர்கள் இது பற்றி நிறைய எழுதியிருக்கிறார் அண்மையில் –  எதிர்வினைகளில், விவாதங்களில் அது எம்டிஎம், எஸ்வி சேகர் ராஜதுரை, விடியல் சிவா என்று ஒரு சுற்றுச் சுற்றி வந்ததும் கூட; இந்தப் பொங்கல் விடுமுறையின் போதுதான் – இவற்றையும், இது தொடர்பாகவும், தொடர்பில்லாமலும் – தன்னார்வ நிறுவனங்கள், நீதிமன்றம், அவமதிப்பு, அவதூறு, வக்கீல் நோட்டீஸ், வியாஜ்யம் என எம்டி முத்துக்குமாரசாமி அவர்கள், விமலாதித்த மாமல்லன் அவர்கள் போன்றவர்கள், எழுதியவையையும் ஒழுங்காகப் படிக்க வேண்டும் – இந்த விஷயத்தில் தமிழ் நாட்டின் கட்சிசாரா, தற்சார்பும், தனித்தன்மையும் உடைய சிந்தனையாளர்களின், அவர்கள் இணைய எழுத்துக்களின் ட்ஸெய்ட்கெய்ஸ்ட் (zeitgeist)  பற்றிப் புரிந்து கொள்ளவேண்டும் – அதாவது, எனக்கு! (அக்கப்போர் தானோ?) ராபர்ட் ஃப்ரோஸ்ட் சொன்னார்:

“We dance round in a ring and suppose, But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.”

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1995 வாக்கில் USENET-ல் பல விதமான உரையாடல்கள், அனுபவங்களூடே எழுத ஆரம்பித்து, 2001-ல் முடிக்கப் பட்ட கட்டுரை இது. பழைய குப்பைகளைச் சென்றவாரம் கிளறிக் கொண்டிருந்தபோது இதனைத் திருப்பிப் படிக்க நேர்ந்தது. பதினைந்து வருடங்கட்குப் பின், இப்போது யோசித்தாலும், இதில் உள்ள எந்த விவரத்தையும், விவாதத்தையும் (கொஞ்சம் இடதுசாரிப் பார்வையை மட்டுப்படுத்துதல் தவிர்த்து) நான் திருத்த வேண்டிய அவசியமே இல்லை எனத் தோன்றுகிறது. … இது எழுதப் பட்ட சமயத்தில், பலவிதமான எதிர்வினைகள் வந்தன, பெரும்பாலும் திட்டல்கள், எதிர்பாரா மனிதர்களிடமிருந்து சில ஷொட்டுக்கள். (திட்டல்கள் தமாஷாகவே இருந்தன – ‘முதுகில் குத்திவிட்டாயே, துரோகி’ போன்றவை அவை, அவைகள் கிடைக்கவில்லை, தப்பித்தீர்கள்!) ஆக, நீங்களும் இதனைப் படித்து இறும்பூதடைக. ( நான் இதனைத் தமிழ்ப்படுத்தியிருக்கவேண்டும், என் நேரமின்மை (=சோம்பேறித்தனம்) காரணமாக, அதனைச் செய்யவில்லை, மன்னிக்கவும்.)

foreign aid (for NGOs) considered harmful

Version information: I have been writing this document  for more than 3 years now and it has gone thru revisions many-a-time. Anyway, the time has to come to toss it out to the external world. This is ver 4.1 – uploaded on 6th June, 2001. __r. Claimer: I have had only minimal and tenuous associations with the so-called NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations). But I have known quite a few individuals associated with them; and have been observing the goings-on with NGOs (for the past 15 years or so) & the fund raising processes and have been thinking for quite a while about them. Why am I writing this? I have been observing certain tendencies in NGOs and it looks  like many of the points that I have raised here are indeed shared, even by some NGO activists. I am recording my view points here because there is a definite against-the-grain pratiloma streak in me, which makes me look at the contrarian view points – as also because I don’t find anyone else indulging in this sacred-cow-bashing. I also know that a significant percentage of the NGOs/associates would not agree with most/all of my views. That’s another reason I am writing this; if everyone would agree with these points of view, then obviously there won’t be any necessity for me to air them in the first place. And, please note that I have not received any *foreign funding* for this effort! ;-) I would love to be proved wrong about the following anyway, and welcome contrarian views / critiques on this write-up. /* Rant begins */ I feel that in the short and the long run, the net contribution of the process of NGOs seeking foreign funds is very much negative. Though the ‘ends’ are good for most of the NGOs, the ‘means’ employed to get funding are often times counterproductive.

  1. The NGOs appeal to the ‘guilt’ of the funding agencies. For example, in a routine manner, photographs of emaciated children / rag pickers etc are sent by the groups working in these areas. So, in a sense this tantamounts to begging-once-removed. However, with the urban-elite that are mainly involved in these sagas of pseudo-beggary – the entire process gets a self-righteous and sophisticated sheen so much so that – we, the outsiders, genuinely start feeling for these ‘individuals’ who are out to make a ‘difference,’ in the process, ‘sacrificing’ their ‘careers’ etc! Nothing can be further from truth.
  2. Like Catherine Mayo, some of NGOs in India look at the gutter from an elitist perspective with a lot of preconceived notions, closely examine its contents with truth_filters on, sniff at the stench of the effluents, project the Indian image as found direly wanting in all respects and then worst of all, enable the funding agencies to conclude that the whole community is filth and therefore it requires some external assistance. The NGOs thus reinforce the stereotype of the imageries that a western funding agency would have. By projecting the distorted reality in terms that are palatable and agreeable to the stereotypical notions of the fund-providers, most of the fund requestors present a decontextualized scenario; this helps the agencies make ‘philanthropic’ decisions.
  3. A significant number of would be and current beneficiaries are willing to change their foci only to enable them to get funding, even though apparently, the born-again-NGOs would not have *any* expertise on the ‘changed focus areas.’  This is a manifestation of a typical tendency to work for one’s paymasters. And not only that, raising funds becomes an end it itself – and *not* a mere means to a paramount objective.
  4. There is a definite degradation of self respect with the establishment of a clear symbiotic  relationship in terms of donor & the alms seeker and this grows like drug-addiction; at no point of time, the alms seeker even thinks about breaking out of the relationship, and is safely cocooned in his set-up, milking the guilt of the donors.
  5. In this stultifying and degrading process, everyone concerned does the expectation management properly and displays the proper signals expected of their roles. It is even worse with the ultimate so called ‘beneficiaries’ of the system. The self-sufficiency and co-operative voluntarism that were the hall marks of our community at large in the yester years, are forced to be forgotten – and instead the ‘beneficiaries’ start to look up to the funding agencies / NGOs for survival, forever.
  6. Since there is no financial / personal stake for the ‘activists’/NGOs concerned, the tendency to splurge (and misuse) the available funds becomes significant. If the sums raised are *not* grants but are loans (with a probable interest concession), that too with some personal stake from the main ‘activists’ – it can even be as low as 5 to 10 % – then it is possible that there will be course corrections. But then, this is not the case by and large. The funding agencies want to give funding (just like the asinine VCs who funded quite a few Internet idiocies in 1999-2000) and get periodical press and papers from the assisted NGOs. The funding agencies are also vary of ‘upsetting’ the NGOs, which they would, if they poked too much into the latter’s financial statements.
  7. There is neither responsibility nor proper management of the expenditure items in many of the NGOs. For example, some organizations, with the release of first tranche of funding go in for Jeeps etc (one of the negative, but vivid images that I have is of a primarily urban_elite, non tamil_speaking group based in South Madras, that was known to me and was supposedly doing ‘developmint‘ (minting thru the development process, that is!) work, that too a campaign for adult literacy, with basically tamil (only) knowing rural population. They even had a local recruit whose aim it was to tell the group what is going on in the ‘assisted’ villages. The group members would occasionally visit the ‘villages’ when the auditors/visitors from the funding agency arrive for routine inspections. This was the level of involvement of the core members! But then, all this was about 10 years back!); another organization that I knew about, on receipt of the first cheque, immediately went in for a costly handycam just with a view to taking more tapes of ‘needy_groups or targets’ – so that more of funding could be obtained using newer tapes. Of course, it’s all a sham. Sitting in a remote location, the funding agencies / bodies can feel happy that the money is going towards meeting some ‘objective!’ So, their conscience is clear about having robbed most of the third world in the past, as they have made ‘amends’ for it now… This is truly a win-win situation for the NGO-funding_agency symbiotic relationship.
  8. The point is that, unlimited irresponsibility of people dabbling with the development processes cannot be allowed to masquerade as the true NGO spirit. The costs of administration of an NGO cannot be allowed to eat into a significant part in the funding scheme; the so called ‘corporate’ NGOs invariably have significant costs of administration – and are staffed with people at the top with obscene salaries working in real plush environments (one has to see for oneself to believe it); whereas, the ‘grass-roots’ workers, who are the *real* volunteers mostly get insignificant salaries.
  9. I am inclined to believe that a fund_seeking run-of-the-mill NGO has to expose two kinds of interfaces to the outside world; one is for interfacing with the funding agencies, which would be facilitated if this interface and and the agency are from similar elite cultural backgrounds with a similar, recognizeable ‘office’ environment etc with which both can relate to – I call this the creamy-layer-interface (CLI). The other interface is exposed to the ‘beneficiaries’ and is done thru the ‘grass-roots’ volunteers – I call this, the grass-roots-interface (GRI).
  10. The main problems here are that:
    1. CLI has no clue apart from providing a layer of opinions couched in a language and sub-text that is aggreable to the funding agencies – and is satisfied as long as it can have plush offices and jeeps to roam around the country-side.
    2. Traversing from CLI to GRI, the funnel of funds availability gets significantly reduced – by way of administrative costs etc.
    3. GRI usually has no say in the policy matters, though it has the best vantage point to offer insights.
    4. Over a period of time, GRI works only for salaries as it does not see itself as a policy maker / shaker.
    5. The target population or the ‘beneficiaries’ of-course don’t have a stake in anything and are forced to be happy with whatever they get.
    6. Therefore, the funding agency is THE only powerful entity here, if it were not obvious till this point!
  11. So, as long as the CLI and GRI are from different classes (which is true of most  of the NGOs), things get reduced to a sham. Even if they belong to the same class,  the NGOs concerned could really succeed if they are also from the groups of ‘beneficiaries.’ In my opinion, even if they are, if the activities do not result in some internal cash accruals / surplus generation towards being self sustaining efforts, they  cannot sustain the tempo for long.
  12. The problem with the CLI is that – because of the apparent power over the foreign money it has, it does not want to let go of its control. To this extent (but for a few very notable and stellar cases that I know of) most of NGOs don’t have a mechanism for the graduation of the ‘beneficiaries’ into GRI and then into CLI. So, once again the myth that the leadership for the ‘beneficiaries’ cannot come from its own ranks – and that the elite has to provide the leadership – tends to be propagated. I don’t understand this concept too just like I don’t understand the european/north-american-superiority to provide leadership – in any and every sphere of life!!
  13. Because of the same, primarily pecuniary reasons, the CLIs belonging to different NGOs act as if they are the ‘lords-of-what-little-they-survey’ and zealously guard their turf and terrains; it is therefore not surpisring that, more often than not, they refuse to act in a group or a federation. To this extent, these tendencies prevent the ‘beneficiaries’ from becoming a part of mass movement(s). Added to it, is the fact that most of the CLIs don’t have any ideological moorings and are not politically aware. This helps their blinkered vision immensely by enabling them to see an ‘issue’ as one isolated problem, shorn off its context and associated under-currents. This is reminiscent of the statement – ‘let ’em eat cake!’ It is a happy situation for every one concerned except probably for GRI and the hapless ‘beneficiaries!’
  14. In retrospect, I feel that the funding agencies have been spectacularly successful in the abortion of would-be-mass-movements and am inclined to think that this is their primary hidden agenda.
  15. The availability of external funds (obtained gratis) discourages the local sustainability and the sound principles of the generation of internal surplus. The NGOs as well as the ‘beneficiaries’ – once they have gotten used to the crutches of the aid, do not want to let go of it. There could always be some other real/imaginary ailment – which obviously could *only* be solved using these crutches. The self-esteem of the ‘target’ population gets thus reduced in a major way, which is deleterious to the psychological fibre of the ‘beneficiaries.’
  16. Another annoying thing with the provision of external funds is that – in important sectors like primary education, primary health care etc, the tendency of the Government to let go of its involvement is encouraged. If I recollect properly, the World Bank had even recommended toning down of Govt investment / involvement in these sectors so that they can be handed over to the NGOs. The problem here is that the Govt is already collecting taxes and various levies with which it is (at least partly) supposed to be carrying out these primary activities… If even these minimal responsibilities were not going to be discharged by the Govt, then the money would obviously go for more of nuclear and other unclear bombs. The point here is that, at least some of the benefits of centralization (which is basically anti-people) should reach the people, who are anyway supporting the edifice. So the undermining the plow back mechanisms in terms of social welfare is encouraged by the mushroom growth of superficial NGOs – which trend needs to be vehemently opposed and fixed.
  17. Some NGOs (I am not considering the ‘corporate’ NGOs here, and I agree that they have ‘world-class’ (!) systems and procedures)  feel that they have a right to be shoddy or amateurish –  in whatever they do – say, from making documentaries to documents – because,  tick whichever that is applicable:
    1. Not much money is available;
    2. Our efforts are better spent on pursuing our vision, rather than on book_keeping or making best use of the resources;
    3. Why do *you* ask?
    4. All of the above.
  18. The problem is that, at one level, the rankling self-righteousness, which is put on as a facade, does not really work for a positive discussion amidst the NGOs and the meek_questioners. In such a discussion, inevitably, discourse veers down to ‘what have you done, anyway?’ kind of questions.
  19. I feel this is beside the point. This is tantamount to saying that, in order to criticize the Prime Minister, one has to a Prime Minister – which is plain ridiculous. I feel that, if an individual takes up an avocation (which incidentally gets funded from abroad), he had better do it conscientiously and professionally – because he is essentially meddling in the affairs of development, leave alone the facts that he is playing into the hands of the motives of the funding agencies *and* is enriched (including monetary terms) by the experience.
  20. Most NGOs have a feeling of superiority – in that, they feel that they have to ‘teach’ the rural folks / whatever the target segment is. This is evident from the grandiose terms like ‘upliftment,’ ‘development,’ ‘rehabilitation,’ ‘positive intervention,’ ‘community building,’ ’empowerment’ ad naseam. Why doesn’t anybody get surprised that India (or for that matter, any other country) has been doing without these NGOs for a few millennia? I think, the ‘targets’ can very well do without the largesse of the NGOs/funding agencies, especially when it is a condescending one, at best.
  21. What are the funding agency backgrounds? For example, in Nigeria – Shell is laying waste a significant amount of rural areas and population by it’s natural gas flaring and interference with political systems; at the same time, it is also giving away paltry sums for rural development etc. So, any money obtained from Shell, by Nigerian or any other NGO, even for ‘development’ etc is at best a cruel joke. In another context – I recently saw pictures of a lot of tents in the kutchh in the aftermath of the Jan 26/2001 earthquake, marked ‘Shell’ which also carried a significant amount of press with titles like ‘only Shell is their saviour’ in Indian magazines. I don’t watch TV but am sure that the images that were propagated by the satellite channels must have sure carried a lot of pics of them. This is sure a low cost advertisement for Shell, as also a significant image_building / goodwill_creation exercise to the effect that ‘Shell really cares!’ Am now wondering whether Shell is drilling or planning-to-drill for oil/gas in Kutchh or in other areas – with the roadmap being – replication of Nigerian experiences? I am not being a conspiracy theorist here, but feel that the NGOs should be aware of the hidden agendas and take appropriate corrective steps, instead of forever reaching out to any donor with a begging bowl.
  22. What are the dominant ideologies behind funding- are the moneys used to reinforce the status-quo or is there a hidden agenda? For example, “structural adjustment” as propounded by international usury agencies (like IBRD) creates significant reductions in the standard of livelihood. There is a linkage between the countries that are getting structurally adjusted and the spurt of grants-in-aid to NGOs. In this context, is the financial aid being used as an antidote to pacify the bitter moods of the people? The NGO efforts suitably publicized, have an ameliorative effect with respect to reducing social tensions by ‘working for’ some results. In effect, are the deep-seated cancerous growths being treated with mere NGOish cosmetic skills of dermatology? It may be pertinent to add that not many NGOs willingly distance themselves from these tendencies or question them; rather, they ignore them – not at their peril, but that of the population-at-large.
  23. What are the motives behind funding – for example is there a overt/covert fillip towards funding some religious denominations to the detriment of other denominations / communities? If so, for the NGOs concerned and the population-at-large, funding from these agencies results in a wrong pattern of investments. Though there may be some real trickle down effect leading to some benefits – it is like a typical argument of sustainable, traditional practices in agriculture Vs pesticide-fertilizer-monoculture-‘modern’ agricultural practices.
  24. In some cases of NGOs’ area of operations, the funding happens in segments wherein fresh markets have to be created. This invariably results in the decimation or marginalization of local traditions and customs, that too – in spite of the latter being low cost and very appropriate approaches. To cite an example, the evangelizing christian missionaries have been propagating  for a few centuries now, medical and education systems of occidental origin,  to the detriment of local health traditions and locally relevant educational  practices; this went thru the typical path of delegitimization of several  vibrant structures, declaring Indians unscientific, superstitious and resistant  to change etc; in these earliest cases of NGOism (though missionary organizations  would not think about themselves being an NGO at all, in spite of the fact  that most of them continue to get foreign funding) they have created a whole  market for ‘english medium’ schools and monolith medical centers – not to  speak of the extensive invasion of India by pharmaceutical giants. I am not  trying to downplay the role played by a small minority of  a zillion missionary institutions in the current scenario – but am merely pointing out that as a target population, we have to be aware of the overt/verbalized and covert/non-verbalized agendas.

I came upon an interesting clueon in the international ‘aid’ scenario some time back – in a Business-India issue (June 14-27, 1999), quoting an FTC survey:

“Proportion of requested aid that was actually received by Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998 in %: 4.3 and 0; proportion of requested aid that was actually received by Kosovo in 1998 because ‘their children look like the children of principal donors and are on TV every night’ in %: 92.6

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Oh, well – I would love to be proved wrong / incorrect with respect to this write up… PostScript: I really respect the organizations and individuals – who, in principle do NOT accept grants/aids from external funding agencies. The list includes:

  • — Manushi Trust / Delhi.
  • — Tamilnadu Science Forum.
  • — Center of Science for Villages / Wardha, Maharashtra.
  • — Narmada Bachao Andolan
  • — Swadeshi Trust / Venkatramapuram, Chittor, AP.
  • — /fill-in your favourite NGO here/

… and also those individuals and organizations that have made the best use of the grants… Considering all the ‘harmful’ effects of foreign aid that I have tried to take stock of, I may be able to fool myself that all NGOs/others who receive the same are into many of these problems. But then, the truth is that there are some very good NGOs / organizations / individuals who are very genuine – though, they may have felt it necessary to go in for the aid for some specific and valid reasons of their own. /* Rant ends */ ஹ்ம்ம்ம்…  நீங்கள் என்ன நினைக்கிறீர்கள்?

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