Taming the shadowy world of NGOs

Indian NGOs are organisationally and financially opaque. Many of them use multi-layer financial channels to hide their real money messiah.
Taming the shadowy world of NGOs
Express illustration | Sourav Roy

The conscience industry is one of the pillars of India's crumbling Left liberal edifice. There is nothing like a good cry to get the tears and dollars flowing for poverty propagandists. The elite NGOs who haunted the corridors of power—wooing munificent ministers and beneficial babus with the best vol-au-vent and five-star grub for unsuspecting whites with deep pockets and a cultural guilt about being rich while Acche Din is on the agenda—are quivering under their muslin dohars in Lutyens’ Delhi mansions after the Modi government emptied their wallets and froze their bank accounts.

The neo right wingers call them Nasty Greedy Operators (NGOs) who claim to promote the mirage of championing a clean environment, demolishing both economic and gender inequalities, empowering marginalised masses and converting the sick into healthy go-getters. However, close scrutiny and audit done by various agencies in India and overseas reveal that most heavy-hitter NGOs are a cabal of malicious mercenaries who collect moolah to sustain their luxe lifestyles, while the legerdemain of hypocrisy launders their generous reputation.

Last week, the Union home ministry cancelled the Foreign Contribution Registration Act (FCRA) licences of five NGOs: CNI Synodical Board of Social Services, Voluntary Health Association of India, Indo-Global Social Service Society, Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action, and Evangelical Fellowship of India. The charges were indulging in religious conversion and misuse of foreign funds. A couple of them had been raided by agencies last year and their accounts were audited. They have been getting big money from the US, Germany, Sweden and other European countries, foundations and trusts with controversial pasts.

The latest round of suspension and taming of NGOs is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mission to neutralise all institutions which his party believes undermines the cultural, social, religious and unique identity of India. Purging the NGOs of all illiberal elements and choking their financial pipeline is an unwritten part of BJP’s manifesto. The revocation of Article 370, construction of Ram Mandir and Uniform Civil Code have been its primary missions, as well as demolishing hostile and phoney civil society groups. It is not a coincidence that in 2023 alone, over 100 (in)famous think tanks and NGOs were banned from raising foreign funds.

The home ministry has identified more than 1,000 poverty pundits who would perhaps have easy access to a combined corpus of over Rs 25,000 crore in CSR funds. A-lister think tanks like the Centre for Policy Research, a habitual habitat of retired senior bureaucrats and defence officers, and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation have been denied permission to canvas for foreign donations because the government thinks they use money and mind power to undermine the legitimate authority of the state and its institutions by influencing policy.

These deluxe charity collaborators and cultural criminals parade with glamorous titles for their charity-for-self initiatives and call themselves “problem solvers”, “innovators” and “creators of pipelines of social leaders”. Most of the ex-bureaucrats were associated with the UPA regime; they designed the narrative against the Modi government. The troika comprising the PM, Amit Shah and Nirmala Sitharaman are constantly monitoring their activities and connection with ideologically opposed sections in business, Bollywood and civil society.

The FCRA registration of over 7,000 NGOs have either been withdrawn or allowed to lapse in the past five years after close financial scrutiny by agencies. Modi’s visible hatred of NGOs stems from their vicious shellacking when he was Gujarat CM during 2002-2014. All the high-profile NGOs promoted by celebs in the media, Bollywood and civil society targeted the state as the hellish haven of Modi, a merciless monster. They filed cases against him, pressured foreign governments to deny him visas for official visits, and even tried to get him arrested. Later investigations uncovered their dastardly designs of using dollars and euros to promote their political agenda, which is to serve disempowered children and women.

Various Sangh parivar affiliates have been complaining about objectionable anti-Hindu and anti-India NGOs operating in parts of India. The Sangh parivar was also peeved over the massive infiltration of NGO-sponsored Leftist intellectuals in the establishment pushing an ‘anti-Hindu’ agenda. While the BJP’s detractors have charged the central government of indulging in vindictive actions and injecting a divisive virus in the system, the saffron group claim that foreign-funded NGOs have to be hunted out to extract Bharat from the Westernised slave mindset.

Modi, soon after becoming PM, trained his merciless lens on their workings. He was shocked to learn that India has the maximum number of NGOs: three million, which means every third NGO is run by an Indian. Delhi alone houses over 75,000. Modi was dismayed to discover that less than 10 percent of them submit their annual reports or balance sheets to the government. Their collective treasure chest comprising foreign largesse holds over Rs 12,000 crore annually. According to information given to parliament, “during 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22, a total of Rs 55,645.08 crore was received by Indian NGOs as foreign contributions”.

Modi swung into action, using the restructured Niti Aayog to introduce the NGO-Darpan platform as an interface between the sarkar and civil society. Over 1.8 lakh NGOs are registered on the platform. The PM’s idea was to monitor their activities and realign them with his agenda and mission. Previously, NGOs were subverting Indian culture and Modi’s dream of Bharat as the Vishwaguru. An unwritten global code of conduct mandated for all NGOs is that they must pass the triple test of transparency, impact and accountability. All genuine NGOs worldwide strictly stick to their code. Nearly all Indian charity charlatans floated by corporate giants or fraudulent altruists ignore these rules. When exposed, they simply float another NGO under a different name.

Indian NGOs are organisationally and financially opaque. Many of them use multi-layer financial channels to hide their real money messiah. They rarely disclose the full details of donors and the terms and conditions on which funds are received. Since these exclusive poverty industry projects are floated and run by well-connected chatterati and glitterati, all accountability is ignored. They hire ideologically compatible employees or individuals nominated by their funders. Most NGOs have been spending more on administration, foreign jaunts, travel and other expensive projects while paying lip service to the causes they officially espouse. Protected by the shroud of secrecy, their impact report isn’t made public; only purple prose papers are issued to pacify their Indian and videshi patrons.

Charity begins at home. Modi is ensuring it ends at home too, by incapacitating anti-national kahunas from crippling BJP's brand of nationalist ideology.

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