It is increasingly
being recognized that the voluntary sector has an important role to
play in socio economic development and poverty eradication. The
strength of the voluntary sector lies in the flexibility of its
operations, its people sensitivity and ability to respond to field
realities, its freedom from bureaucratic restrictions and its
ability to attract committed people. The main weakness is the
absence of support infrastructure and institutions. If the voluntary
sector is to play its rightful role in the rural areas of the
country there is need to put in place the support infrastructure. It
is in realization of this that a group of visionary social workers
set up the Society for Service to Voluntary Agencies (SOSVA).
Maharashtra has been on the forefront of social development for the
last two centuries. Voluntarism and social action movements have
originated in the State. Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
represent the most familiar and well known form of civil society.
NGOs are more flexible, people oriented and innovative. They have
the ability to reach the root of the issue that plagues the poor.
Over the last few years there has been an increasing feeling that
NGOs have been under-delivering through their performance. Some of
the reasons for this have been identified and include (1) lack of
institutional infrastructure support that the other sectors enjoy,
(2) erratic funding, (3) imbalance in the relation with government
and (4) lack of access to good quality human resource.
In many spheres such as industrial development, transport and
communication services, and the co-operative sector, Maharashtra is
among the leading states in the country. The per capita income is
the highest in India. However, as far as social development
indicators are concerned, while the State performs well in
comparison with other states it still has a long way to go.
Maharashtra has a long and illustrious tradition of voluntary
service to society. Many of the social reform movements of the
country in the 19th and 20th century came from Maharashtra. This
include movements lead by Mahatma Jyotiba Phule (women's education),
Annasaheb Karve (widow remarriage), Justice Ranade (Prarthana Samaj),
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (dalit rights and freedom from caste based
bondage) and Acharya Vinoba Bhave (Bhoodan and removal of inequity).
Other great contributions came from Vikhe-Patil and D N Gadgil
In the past few years the voluntary sector has emerged as a major
force in the field of socio-economic development and today it
carries a fair share of the State's welfare responsibilities. The
advantages that this sector has are its flexibility, its
people-sensitivity and the consequent ability to respond to field
realities, its relative freedom from bureaucratic restrictions, easy
accessibility and the capacity to attract committed people and
funding from the community. Today, Non-Governmental Organisations
(NGOs) are working in various fields of the economy such as health,
rural development, environment, women's development, micro
financing, water supply and sanitation and so on. Though their
contribution to the economy is not fully recognised, the Government
expects the sector to develop and play an increasingly larger role,
particularly in the upliftment of socially and economically
disadvantaged sections of rural and urban communities. their most
important contribution is that they assist people, the
beneficiaries, in taking charge of their own responsibilities and
therefore their destinies.
The growing realisation that the Non Governmental Organisations
(NGOs) can play a major role in fulfilling the state's goals of
development has come about due to the renewed emphasis on Panchayati
Raj and democratic decentralization (for ensuring people's
participation in decision making in matters of their immediate
interest). The need for supporting local initiative in developmental
activities particularly the anti-poverty programmes is also now well
recognised. In all such programmes the need is to extend the State's
support in flexible, people sensitive and innovative ways.
There are thousands of small and large NGOs registered in the state
of Maharashtra. They work in the remotest corners of the State. NGOs
also work on diverse issues. There is scarcely an issue in the
development world that is not tackled by NGOs.
Much of the true potential of the NGO sector overall has
remained untapped because of the problems it faces, some of which
are described below.
tapping is weak
NGOs can rarely, if at all, match the private or public sector
either in the pay scales or careers they offer; as such they face
severe problems in getting suitable personnel. NGOs therefore tend
to have poor management skills, which need substantial upgrading.
Human Resource Development (HRD) is an acutely felt need in the
voluntary sector. It flows from the lack of organised recruitment
and other factors such as the scale of operation (most NGOs are
small social enterprises). As a result, in this sector, often,
personnel policy is either absent or is not clearly articulated.
Only a few NGOs consciously promote staff development measures.
Efforts made so far to provide training for professionals are mainly
two fold. On the academic side, institutions like Tata Institute of
Social Sciences, Nirmala Niketan and some of the Universities
started degree and diploma courses in Social work as a career (There
are 56 schools of social work in the country of which eight are in
the State of Maharashtra). Most of the students passing out from
these institutions, however, join the organised sector for managing
its welfare programmes, very few of them join NGOs availed
themselves of this academic opportunity in mild-career. Another
effort is the non-academic training programmes started by some of
the Governmental Organizations like NIPCID, New Delhi and NGOs like
CHETNA, VHAI, RHUSA, IHM and Leslie Sawhney Training Centre. They
organize workshops, seminars for orientation or formal Training
Certificate, of duration ranging from a few days to two years. These
courses are mostly residential courses, where the participants are
required to come from all over the country. These courses do not
seem to have the same standard as that of formal education in
T.I.S.S. etc. The response to these courses from Voluntary Agencies
is not very enthusiastic. Their capacities are under-utilized and
because of the expense involved, very few voluntary agencies take
advantage of these courses, except well established NGOs.
Unlike the three sectors namely : public, private and co- operative,
the voluntary agency sector is singularly bereft of institutional
infrastructure. There is no source of institutional finance or
technical assistance, and no apex body for advocacy of the sector.
Additionally, the legal and taxation environment for this sector are
hostile to its growth.
There is no reliable source of institutional finance (banks,
financial institutions, the stock exchange), in private sector
co-operative sector or public sector. NGOs for the most part depend
excessively upon an inadequate and varying supply of grants from
Government or donor agencies, which are painfully unreliable. The
NGOs have neither systematically diversified fund raising to tap
sources such as community participation, cost recovery, or asset
management, nor have they built sizable corpuses whose income could
fund their operations.
Interaction with government
Interacting with the Government and receiving grants poses a number
of difficulties to NGOs, viz,(i) multiplicity of dealing departments
(ii) lack of information about criteria of funding, availability of
funds and procedures, (iii) rigidity of rules, (iv) lack of openness
and transparency of project appraisal.
There has been in general a tradition of collaboration between
Government and NGOs. NGOs also find it difficult to reach out to
government for advocating any policy change. The might and rigidity
of the bureaucracy hinders all these efforts.
Few new &
professionally managed NGOs are coming up
There is very little procedural support provided to the NGOs either
through official or unofficial channels for their promotion and
nurture. Simply exhorting the NGO sector does not promote it; only
out-reach work can. This out-reach promotion has to be through
strong objective identification of new NGOs and NGOs for expansion,
nurturing through various support services and the removal of
obstacles to their growth. Special training programs such as "How to
start a NGO", coupled with seed capital provision focusing on
creating new NGOs, could help in this promotion. Similarly, the
diversification of small single purpose NGOs to diversified NGOs
serving small communities would expand their scope of services.
There is an understandable need for promoting large NGOs or
expanding existing NGOs so as to meet the needs of service delivery.
However we need simultaneously to pursue a strategy of promoting a
large number of small NGOs because : (a) they constitute the basis
from which the larger NGOs will be grown, and (b) they constitute a
large decentralized sector, which would protect the growing NGO
sector from a bureaucratic bias.
Accountability in the sector is lacking
6 NGOs are part of a system where accountability is relatively poor
and the chances of misuse of funds can be high in some situation. A
few such misuses or frauds can give the sector a bad name. There is
a need for enhancement of Credibility of voluntary sector.