Vol-CV : February 3, 2013

Dear Colleagues

Here is another round of for your perusal:

1.  A curious case of two ministries of the government fighting each other has emerged in India. Ministry of Transport has filed a case against Ministry of Forest & Environment in the Supreme Court of India in respect of delay in granting of clearances for roads projects. Both Ministries are headed by parliamentarians from Congress Party; Supreme Court has an already huge back-log of cases; the cost and delay in litigation will further cause economic hardships to the country. In a private institution, such a situation would not have arisen as the CEO would have either ensured conflict resolution, or the Board would have fired the CEO. In this case, neither has happened; the Prime Minister continues un-perturbed; the public bears the cost of litigation and delayed development!

2.  The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has just announced that both Congress and BJP (the two largest political parties) have been found violating the rules of FCRA (the Act which prohibits receipt of foreign funds by any political party in India). This is the second publicly known incident of this kind; in the mid 1990s, when SitaramKesari was the Treasurer of Congress Party, a similar case of violation had emerged. When Ministry of Home Affairs seals the bank accounts of NGOs and takes their CEOs to court with threat of imprisonment in case of similar violations, why is it that such action is not being taken against the leaders, Treasurers and accounts of these two political parties? No ‘rule of law’ will prevail in India if the mighty and the politically powerful do not face similar treatment as ordinary citizens!>

3.  During the days of Taliban regime in Afghanistan, media reports had suggested destruction of Buddhist statues in Bamyan. Now, Bamyan is one of the safest provinces in the country, though one of the poorest too. Its university is now flourishing with new faculties and students; nearly a third of its 2500 students are women, and many have come from other locations. The desire for learning and good quality education seems to be pervasive in the society. Provincial governor’s office is supporting ways in which the young generation can become more educationally qualified. Building local human and institutional capacity seems to be the only relevant long-term strategy for this society; continued reliance on expatriates and foreign experts tends to ‘undermine’ local human development.

4.  A recent study of government funding of NGOs in India has revealed massive corruption, a reality that most serious development NGOs have been experiencing for quite some time. Conducted by ACHR, it revealed that Rs 1000 crores ($ 200 million) on average was given out to NGOs over the 2003-08 period; between 15-30% of grant amount was ‘received’ as bribe; most corrupt ministries were Ministry of Forest & Environment and Social Justice & Empowerment; most NGOs involved in such corruption cases were related to officials or political parties (recall the current story of Salman Khurshid’s Trust in UP); funds were released even after ‘black-listing’ of some NGOs by the same ministry. When corruption (and the latest fashion of lowest quotation in tender bids) is the basis of selection of NGOs, competence, track record, accountability etc are meaningless words. Of course, no official from any of the grant-giving Ministries has been charged with any neglect of duty in this regard!

5.  A few days ago, streets in Delhi have been plastered with posters ‘Volunteer for India’ with Sri Sri Ravi as the spiritual guru blessing this movement; today, all have been invited to sign up and get blessed. In the same week, VANI (Voluntary Action Network of India) sent out invitations for a national convention later in the month on the theme of ‘strengthening voluntarism’ in the country. Perhaps, VANI needs closer partnership with spiritual leaders; perhaps, all civil society in India needs to ‘acquire a guru’ for their long-term survival (since you get funding and blessings)!

All the very best

Rajesh Tandon