Role of NGOs in the Process of Development

Sandarbha Desk
Sandarbha Desk

NGOs or Non-Governmental Organizations are citizen based not for profit associations operating independently of the Government for the purpose of social service.


Evolution Of NGOs in India

  • During the Pre-Independence period, both individual as well as group based action groups existed and worked for social empowerment, reforming the education system and orthodox social customs, and for independence from the British rule. But they were rooted in religion or caste.
  • In the Post-Independence period, rebuilding a new India was considered to be the responsibility of the Government and NGOs were not well developed.
  • During the 1960s and 80s, the idea of a socialist state began to decline on both economic and political fronts. The disenchanted youth moved away from mainstream political process and went to rural areas to work for the poor. This period also saw the radicalization of youth and the rise of Naxalbari Movement in Central India and Christian Organizations in South India.
  • In 1990, with the advent of the Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG) reforms, the Government started outsourcing developmental activities to NGOs in the name of State Minimalism. In a way, NGOs started becoming mediators and managers of developmental processes.

Classification of NGOs in India

  1. Action Groups for depressed classes/ victims/ any cause – For example, NGOs for women, children, disabled, elderly, dalits, orphans, prostitutes or for a cause like construction of dams and nuclear reactors.
  2. Support Groups – Those spreading awareness using journals, research and documentation. For example; .
  3. Developmental and Charitable Groups
  4. Political Groups/ Organizations with Political Goals – For example, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
  5. Pre-party political formation

Positive Role of NGOs in the Process of Development

  • They work more professionally than political parties and pressure groups as they are more concerned with delivery of services than power and politics.
  • They have proved themselves a number of times. Amnesty International and The Red Cross have in the past won Nobel Peace Prize for their good work.
  • The United Nations has also allowed various NGOs to participate in various agencies and organizations of the world body. It has recognized their ability to reach more and more people in order to spread awareness.
  • In the LPG era, the government has outsourced a number of welfare and developmental activities to the NGOs in order to narrow down its fiscal deficit. As a result, they receive contributions from the Central Government and foreign donors like the World Bank.
  • This will provide employment opportunities to a large number of people.
  • These NGOs work as agents at the grassroots level in negotiating with the Government when the victims of say, land acquisition, do not have the time or resources to seek redress.
  • They also work as the agents of voiceless people like prostitutes, LGBT, HIV victims, victims of custodial torture etc to fight for their rights. Usually NGO offices have a ‘Gender- desk’ while government offices do not have it.

Negative Role of NGOs in the Process of Development

  • Many a times, NGOs play mischief by running a PIL industry and file bogus affidavits and PILs. They indulge in provoking the victims to seek larger compensation from the government.
  • NGOs operating in the Red Corridor often tend to have a soft approach towards Naxals, insurgents and terrorists. While working to protect their human rights, they can potentially harm the internal security of India.
  • Animal Rights Organizations often work in favor of animal rights while neglecting human rights.
  • Many NGOs work for a cause which are the priorities of their donor organizations. For example, French funded NGOs tend to have a softer stance towards Maoists.
  • An Intelligence Bureau Report in 2014 stated that foreign funded NGOs are stalling the process of development in India. These stalled projects have led to a decline of 2-3 percent in the GDP. This is hampering the national integration of the country. For example, if a mining project is stalled in the North-East India then a private company will have no interest in investing there.
  • Tax avoidance, transparency and accountability are some of the issues ailing the NGOs today.
  • Large NGOs have a bureaucratic structure. They are neither accountable to the government, people nor their foreign donors.
  • Large NGOs are always focused on lobbying-advocacy rather than on working at the grassroots level. Those NGOs actually working at the grassroots level are deprived of funds as most of the funding from foreign donors goes to these large NGOs because of their popularity.


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