Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Where do Indian NGOs show expenses? You’d be surprised!

One thing that merchant shipping exposes seafarers to, by the aircraft carrier load and more, is war zones globally. Before, during and after. It comes with the job, usually at triple pay or more, and often co-exists with dangerous cargoes of all sorts in the holds and tanks. The history of how oil kept flowing to India in the midst of the Iran-Iraq wars, for example, has never really been told. 

But what one also sees globally, especially after the wars or regime changes, are humanitarian efforts of the sort that make you wonder – what sort of people are these, who leave the comfort of their homes or head out seeking livelihoods, to work amidst destruction and danger? Minefields left active are just one part – there are so many other risks.

By and large, this sort of work is done by a variety of NGOs or Non Governmental Organisations, usually allied with a country, a group of countries, a religion or similar. Sometimes there will be different ideologies at work, more or less together in the midst of the confusion of post-war scenarios, concentrating only on what they came there for.

This was explained to me time and again by different people working on the ground for different NGOs – we are here only for this specific purpose, whatever it may be – child nutrition, prosthetics, re-building houses, basic education,re-starting agriculture, medicare, distributing food. Anything and everything to enable people to get back on their own feet. 

Seldom did I see any of these NGOs on the ground getting into “policy matters” or “lobbying”. That was left to commercial entities and was as well as is a fact of life. We all learn to live with it. The NGOs globally had minimal interference with “policy” and directions therein.

Except in India. Over here, NGOs, typically the sorts which have 25% to 40% of their receipts as “admin costs”, openly take positions on matters of State Policy as well as work actively against the interests of the Nation State. “Policy Research” is the all-encompassing tagline used when they actually mean “interference”.

And “interference” in the name of “policy research” translates directly into higher admin costs. Apart from indirect gifts to the key policy makers in governance – the most popular “gift” being phoren educations for the progeny.

Living in Delhi, which is like Grand Central for NGOs in the policy and lobbying spaces, one comes across these High Admin Cost type NGO leaders at different events in life. They can, mostly, be recognised by their fine taste in (imported) wines and their talk down of anything and everything Indian (“we went for passport renewal and you should have seen the sort of people applying for and getting passports. No wonder India etc etc”) whilst discussing which new car they will be getting next.

One of the better ways to observe typical Indian Upper Class NGO mentality is to tell them you live in the nearby Lal Dora Urban Village or Chawl area, instead of your fancy South Delhi or South Bombay or high Gurgaon address –  and that you drive a 10-year old small car.

After that they will leave you alone. Then you eat & drink properly & you also don’t get into arguments about KASHMIR FILES with morons who are in denial because their NGO/Media funding depends on finding fault-lines of their choice only. And their what-aboutry.

You can always say—what about dessert?

The Indian government should, as soon as possible, ensure that admin expenses of any sort for all NGOs are brought down to a sensible level—say 5%. And the rest goes into the actual work that the NGO was formed for. 

(Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.)

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