Civil Society organizations (CSOs) refer to collectives that are separate from the state, government and business. These are organized by individuals for their private interests. A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a private, non-profit, voluntary, citizen-based group which functions to serve a specific social or political purpose.
Utility of CSOs and NGOs as alternative model of public service delivery:
- Civil society organizations can provide a ready pool of volunteers and resources that the government can tap into. Issues of inclusion-exclusion error can be addressed through verification by independent teams of volunteers.
- Gaps in last-mile delivery of public services can be addressed. For example, during covid lockdown, a number of NGOs, voluntary groups distributed food, ration and vegetables for the homeless and the migrants.
- Skill enhancement and livelihood support schemes like National Rural Livelihood Mission can be made more effective through involvement of CSOs. For example, in quality control and marketing of products made by SHGs.
- CSOs are better placed to render services and assistance in issues like domestic violence, administrative and legal assistance to marginalized sections, undertrials, sex workers etc.
- CSOs and NGOs can play the role of effectively communicating the needs of people to the government. For example, PM Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan was launched in response to Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan’s petitioning for distribute food grains to everyone.
- Dissemination of trusted information to people and countering propaganda and disinformation can be done through partnership between government, CSOs and NGOs. For example, Oxfam’s partnership with Poorvanchal Grameen Vikas Sansthan.
Challenges in use of CSOs and NGOs as alternative model for delivery of public services:
- Ad-hocism and lack of continuity that NGOs face in dealing with the government undermines long-term engagement and testing of development models.
- The ‘big brother attitude’ of the government officials and their mindset of construing NGOs simply as contractors fulfilling staffing requirements is not conducive.
- There is also issue of mis-appropriation of funds by NGOs. Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology found various NGOs swindling government funds for personal use. As per CBI, less than 10% of the NGOs registered under Societies Registration Act, file annual financial statements.
- Enforcement Directorate had zeroed in on some NGOs which were working as front organizations for the banned Communist Party of India and were suspected to have funded Naxal operatives.
- Some NGO are accused of using foreign funds for provoking protests and stall governmental projects. For example, the protests against Kudankulam nuclear plant, Narmada Bachao Andolan, etc.
- There have been reports of NGOs lobbying with parliamentarians and using the media to manipulate issues in their favor. Undue effect of NGOs on policy creates issue of democratic legitimacy.
CSOs and NGOs must be made an integral part of development process in the country. But there is no alternative to administrative channels for delivery of public service. Administrative reforms must be carried out in interest of efficiency, effectiveness and good governance.