Thursday, February 22, 2018
Thursday, December 21, 2017
At large, we are a 'stuck' generation with nothing more to ask and nothing new to answer that one has not already heard of... we are just one stuck generation with all the questions and solutions and with nothing new to find...
Sunday, December 3, 2017
titled, ‘A curriculum for peace studies’, published by WCC, ISBN: 978-93- 5288-704-
0, October, 2017
Title: Identity and conflict as obstruction to peace
“In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity.” Erik Homburger Erikson, Psychologist and proponent of the Psycho-Social Theory of Development
Identity as a multi-dimensional concept may be understood at a psycho-social level in which a person takes up his/her chances to relate with the characteristics of a group or certain groups - more as an attribute to choice than any that can be contributed to discovery. Conflict, on the other hand, is described as a serious disagreement or argument, a clash, a strike, a confrontation, a collision, a fight or perhaps a struggle that can break instantly or over a period of time. Either way, identity and conflict stem from an emerging tryst of violence and parts connected therewith that this essay shall attempt to elucidate.
This essay aims at deconstructing the conceptual framework of identity and conflict to understand the disenfranchisement and breach of rights and its process continuum leading to inequality, injustice and exclusion that has moved through history and has found its place in the contemporary scenario as obstruction to peace.
“The identity of an individual is essentially a function of his/her choices, rather than the discovery of an immutable attribute” Amartya Sen, Economist, in The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity
The challenge for humanity to find an order to set right a few basic needs for survival by hunting, gathering or searching for better grazing pastures, finding a place to safely rest before one could set forth to explore the very purpose of life - was the natural and normal sequence of life… once upon a time.
Over time, things have changed. We have others doing things for us - from the past to the present - with the pretext of making life easy for the next generation to continue, we have others who have thought for us, who have carefully documented for us what they thought, others who have taken care to even warn us of what to do and more of what not to; the ‘others’ from various spheres of life who have discovered and invented things that have influenced us that we have incorporated into our daily use and life - from religious notes to philosophies, from paradigms to theories, from materials to food - that flood through art, science and business that the generation to follow has to only improvise or customize to make life easier. All that one needs to do now is decide from a plethora of choices presented in front of them - from audio, visual medium to communication devices, from religion to political parties, from automobiles to even life partners - all made available to ‘surf, click and grab’ and that too with the best offer available being added to the tag.
As we decide what to take and what to let go, what to use and what not to, what to follow and who not to, we consequently choose a few as we set aside the rest and set on to proclaim (even if we are not called to do so) what defines us - an ‘identity’ we create in this trail of choices we make or forego. Subsequently, the one element that we have managed to save in this due process of attempting to make life easy is ‘time’; from the time saved through the development and use of better and quicker equipments and gadgets that perform with optimal efficiency to the availability of solutions to some of the most complex problems confronting life itself, everything available at our finger tips that calls for just a quick reference, we have saved a lot of time indeed - so much of it that we have enough time to think of problems and ways to create new ones in the meantime.
We have successfully moved our natural selection of settlements from an ‘egalitarian society’ - centered around ecology, humanity and a need that aimed at cooperation and unconditional support for peaceful coexistence to a ‘profitarian society’ - centered around economics, money and greed filled with expectations, conditions, stress and hypocrisy.
This movement nevertheless has had an impact especially in three dominant areas:
· our choice of values
· our idea of equal distribution of resources, services and justice and
· our way of life
The clash of systems
“The increasing tendency towards seeing people in terms of one dominant ‘identity’ (‘this is your duty as an American’, ‘you must commit these acts as a Muslim’, or ‘as a Chinese you should give priority to this national engagement’) is not only an imposition of an external and arbitrary priority, but also the denial of an important liberty of a person who can decide on their respective loyalties to different groups (to all of which he or she belongs).” Amartya Sen, Economist, in The Idea Of Justice
From the age-old hunter and gatherer groups to the modern white and blue collar groups, for centuries, humanity has learnt to stratify, divide and rule to exist - nevertheless survive. The existence of groups co-depended on establishing a ‘me-we’ bond with a group with what one saw familiar while at the same time excluding another by what it saw as unfamiliar or what it could not understand at that point of time; thus finding a reasonable justification to avoid, refrain, hate and eventually differentiate by labelling a group as ‘they’ or ‘the others’ breeding contempt, prejudice, bigotry and dogmatism established on the foundation of personal bias and shallow opinions in the process.
From the ‘master-slave’ relationship in the past to the ‘king-subject’ relationship a few decades back, to what we call the ‘state-citizen’ relationship that we claim to have now, we have always had the need to have the ruler and the ruled - a prerogative than a conditional clause for claiming our existence and a reclaim to understand the shifts in our economic and political systems as well. With more and more emerging trends of violence, betrayal and conflicts happening globally and regularly - combined with peoples’ apathy and display of the bystander effect, along emerges a pattern of people being connected on grounds of sharing a common enemy and a common target for hatred rather than a bond established on the grounds of peace and love.
At the political front, the concept of absolute freedom (Laissez Faire) gets criticized for the idea of self-exercised conscience that it relies on rather than a solid and tangible set of agreement collected from common conscience - Gandhi, a promoter of peace and non-violence had a conscience and so did Godse who killed him - the idea of conscience left to itself begs for clarity as to ‘whose idea of conscience is it anyway?!’ that we would follow as the very idea of conscience melts down to just a suggestion and nothing more and nothing less; while on the other hand, at the other extreme end lies the idea of ‘Absolute Control’ left to the hands of an individual or a group to decide that also suffocates people midway and corrupts the people in power and others around eventually as incidents from history like the inhuman atrocities that happened at UT 731 in China, the Concentration Camps in Germany or at the Abu Ghraib Prison in the US of A-occupied oil fields of the Middle East may point out.
While these incidents of power, corruption and violence strike a chord with similar results demonstrated through most psycho-social experiments conducted earlier like Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, Muzafer Sherif’s Robber’s Cave Experiment, Stanley Milgram’s Milgram Experiment, Hofling’s Hospital Experiment or Solomon Asch’s Conformity Experiment, the final learning still remains the same - power corrupts, good people are capable of doing the most evil things and people who must have stopped them usually allow violence to exist by conforming to authority and/or display the ‘Bystander Effect’ by which most watch incidents of violence sans response thereby promoting violence and submersing peace in the process.
Over time, grouping has been made a forced choice to be endured by many - forced ideas, forced mores and stricter codes of conduct, forced restrictions, forced choices, forced lifestyles and a life of forced conformity to authority and standards set forth by those who claim to be the guardians and the sitting elite of the group to monitor and control the rest and others according to their whims and fancies.
The Etic (external) and the Emic (internal) motivational factors that establish one’s identity emerge, operate and configure conformity to authority and the reasonable justification that helps one to understand ‘why so?’ is unclear until ‘I become one with the affected’ or usually never until ‘I am the affected.’ This violence that destroys the very fabric of our social connections, ironically, also plays a role in reconnecting at a closer yet closed level victims of hatred, violence, betrayal, inequality, poverty, exclusion and injustice with yet another group and yet another established identity.
Meeting midway and accepting the decision of the majority as binding and normal by implementing the idea of democracy is also seen having its own flaw – filth doesn’t become food just because we would consider that by statistical majority a million flies who devour it can’t be wrong - perhaps this analogy must resonate to draw a parallel to help us understand why many of the democratically-run countries have such lousy leaders though supposedly chosen by the majority in the most democratic way. So, ‘what do we have left if democracy - the suggested remedy for all world disorder - is out?!’ still remains a favourite topic for intellectual brainstorming during coffee-table conversations.
Instability of congruence
"Poverty too, like feminism, is often framed as an identity problem. As though the poor had not been created by injustice but are a lost tribe who just happen to exist, and can be rescued in the short term by a system of grievance redressal (administered by NGOs on an individual, person-to-person basis), and whose long-term resurrection will come from Good Governance — under the regime of Global Corporate Capitalism, it goes without saying." Arundhati Roy, Writer and Activist, in Capitalism: A Ghost Story
We are simple creatures vulnerable to suggestions and a clever manipulator works these suggestions at the right time in a right situation for every wrong reason. We become vulnerable to suggestions to take up an identity imposed upon us, especially in troubled and testing times in situations like trauma and grief especially if it is in mass scale - times that are carefully monitored and optimally used by people with cleverly masked identities - from the religious fanatic to the local politician who count their existence through the communal divide they are able to instil by tickling the most susceptible human emotions - fear, guilt and shame - as a means to an end to fulfil their own personal wants and vote banks. Many wars - from the Spanish inquisition to the one’s fought in Kashmir or Syria - have been fought for an imaginary friend over imaginary lines - visual and auditory hallucinations combined with persecutory and grandiose delusions indicative of madness.
With moral and self-righteous idealism that humans quote to control and kill each other that unwritten social mores provide with authority than written civil codes of conduct, the unseen cause for jurisprudence often finds a tryst with the visible laws existing within the limits of a jurisdiction. This reasoned display of madness often results in the unreasonable madness that overlaps and is seen in the world today that is being entertained with equally seeming acceptance of violence displayed - often fought over invisible superpowers in the name of God(s) and Goddesses and over invisible territorial lines in the name of protecting national security and promoting democracy - especially in countries where minerals and oil can be found for the self-righteous and sacrosanct western world to loot.
It is always fear, guilt and shame that stress people and make them compromise on their freedom and rights; giving perpetrators as well as hypocritic saviours of the oppressed an opportunity to recognize these primal needs and optimize the same for their own personal gains. At this point, it is hard to say if identity begets violence or whether violence begets identity - at a time when we see that one complements the other. Even when a person tries to shed his/her identity to escape a label, through international migration, trans-cultural assimilation or through inter-racial/caste accommodation, it only indicates a transition from one labelled box to another - in this case, from the conditional orthodox box into an unorthodox box with a set of other conditions. Identity, like a shadow follows us stubbornly – through the darkest alleys to spotlights – hardly giving us a chance to escape throughout our life. People seem to have a need for identities to help establish prejudices based upon biases and baseless opinions to accept or reject us – and to find valid reasons to do so – to take us in or leave us out – with ruthless impunity while expecting acceptance with stoicism.
The usual process of taking over an identity - at least theoretically, happens as a person goes through:
1. Formation of an idea through group influence
2. Affirmation of an idea through personal experience
3. Transformation of a person upon reflection
4. Confirmation of the transformation by the group to which one chooses to belong
5. Until the identity takes over the person itself
Marking of identity, on the other hand, is usually condensed to a few grounds:
· Physical Trait: Distinguishable physical features like hair, eye and skin colour or the very shape of face and/or body or gender
· Socio-Economic Factors: Occupation, dressing, asset holding - including land, automobile, value of possessions and liabilities including loans and debts
· Social Affiliations: Religion, nationality, family background, place of birth, language spoken and accent and dialect used, caste, tribe, memberships in clubs and associations, awards and accolades received, domicile and quality of neighbourhood, educational qualification(s) and school(s) attended, criminal record and sexual orientation
Imagine being labelled as an ‘invalid’, a 'marginalized’, a ‘minority’, a ‘migrant’ or a ‘victim’ - constantly reaffirmed and reminded of a memory one wants to shred - identities forced even if one refuses to accept or wishes to shred. How would we feel if our rights are to be decided by labels pasted on us by another and the identity we carry is based upon the scars left behind by our oppressors?
Being compelled to take the label on oneself like it were an honour offered in the form of subsidies, scholarships and opportunities it may bring… if only we don’t bargain and if we would just accept what is thrust upon us as is. After all, ‘this is traditional, this is how the system works, this is how it has been, is and will be,’ we shall be told; and given the unasked for right to be stuck with an identity - silently yet systematically removing one’s right to live sans an identity - even if one wants to. We shall find a cap of identity available and wear the dunce cap silently to fit in with the rest of the careless crowd in our regular pursuit to belong to the majority and to make our way to the top of the normalcy curve of mediocrity as we are always taught to adhere.
With that, identity being confirmed, more by others than by oneself, here we are as part of a larger group - a group that feels or that is relentlessly made to feel as the marginalized, a part of the minority, a migrant, the oppressed, the victim and as the violated. And now having worn the cloak, the appetite for justice must match the voices of what others wearing similar cloak with rules and roles to match command – and we march along - even if we do not understand why we march with the crowd to a tune for a naked parade of the king.
From a slightly different perspective – perhaps the right perspective - we are in a way bribed and lured by means of scholarships, subsidies, waive-offs, freebies and other said opportunities available to a few that make us and keep us ’a part apart’ rather than claim to welfare such as these and more that must have been made a right available to all by bearing us as a ‘part of the whole’.
Invisibility of the visible
We often undermine our capacity to hate rather than our capability to do so. As Prof Philip Zimbardo puts it, “Good people can turn bad and become capable of doing evil things bad people do, in overwhelming situations.” - A phenomenon he called ‘The Lucifer effect’.
Incidents of violence and persecution happen at the micro, mezzo and macro system at various levels. Other incidents that exhibit the ‘Bystander effect’ at a larger scale like our relative calmness as a witness to violence like genocides and acts of terror that attempt to erase clueless and innocent civilians across the globe - perhaps far from our television screens on which we gladly watch them as mute spectators - like what happens in Syria, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bangladesh, Philippines, parts of Africa, apart from North East India and elsewhere too from a safe distance - safe enough for us to be comfortable to be not bothered about anything happening at a distance far away from us.
Often when we hear about incidents of violence where a person is left to die on the road after being run over by a speeding vehicle or thrown out of one after a brutal rape, with no one to help, we are left to the wits of our fantasy to imagine, if at all they survive, what would they be thinking… Would they wonder why no one cared when they were left to die? Would they be so gracious to see and forgive the violence shown towards them (at times accidental and many times deliberate)? Or would they go further to reflect on why the disregard and apathy shown to them exists in the first place? Would they see an emerging pattern of prejudice, bigotry, stereotyping and attitude - a result of constant and continuous assimilation and accommodation of schemas within their frame of reference that concludes in discovering and reaffirming their identity to justify the injustice shown to them - a cognitive dissonance at any scale or level as a natural tendency to move on - nevertheless survive as a group of victims against a group of perpetrators - groups that often interchange their stance in accordance to time for survival’s sake. Perhaps the same questions rise from a point of reflection at a larger level as it does at times of bearing individual trauma - only that this time it is reaffirmation and reconfirmation of identities for resilience at a confirmatory scale.
The upward mobility of the downtrodden
The plight and fight of the socially (pushed) backward and traditionally oppressed communities is more like a life on the wheel. The victims of violence and injustice today being identified and recognized as such, command more than demand their special provisions for upliftment in the name of social justice - be it the Dalits from India or the Africans settled in America or the indigenous people who were devoid of their rights in their homeland like the Maoris of New Zealand or the Red Indians of America and every other colonized country like India that is yet to recover from the aftermath of the mad nightmare of the past.
This self-imposed need to be identified and recognized as one belonging to the victimized, marginalized and scheduled groups is a mandate to avail the rationed welfare from the stored loot of his/her majesty’s invasion supplied in the form of grants, aid and other concessions. This identity of the ‘receiver’ as an ever-marginalized group or as a forever-developing country at large, gets further cemented by the media and good Samaritans of the development sector who make and take sensational coverage for overseas broadcast carefully selecting the ‘target’ group to be showcased as dirty, humbled and always dressed up in rags; while at the same time, the ‘giver’ being shown wearing the cloak of superiority, authority and pride to break and throw morsels collected on behalf of the victimized, poor, vulnerable, voiceless, haplessly helpless target groups to fetch. In reality though, it is these non-governmental organizations from the west whose survival depends by straining majority of the loot for their own keep - collected in the name of the target group on whose behalf they beg.
On one hand, the people who carry the burden of the earlier oppressors and who are widely pointed to for the blunders committed once for which they have no rationale claim to be blamed, are subjected and go through the same level of human disregard and discrimination which once their predecessors (alone) had to be blamed for. This phenomenon is a turn of the wheel as we see the ones who were up yesterday being crushed by the ones who were down today - just for the simple way in which things have turned. Sadly, identities that were fought to be cast away have simply become more certain, defined, nurtured, wilfully promoted by many and unwilfully thrust on the rest - for the same reason it was earlier done - for survival.
A resulting paradox - an ingroup that fought against an outgroup for stratifying, discriminating and labelling it, now takes up yet another fight to belong and be identified as a group carrying its own marks and scars of identity - quite ironically that becomes the new identity the ingroup wants to establish – reaffirming and confirming its identity more strongly rather than finding opportunities to shed the same for which it has been fighting all the while.
The culture of reaction and response
As a recourse for the perpetual violence and a way out of the suburban drudgery to soothe the conscience and ever questioning superego - those that result as a collective - is established through international treaties and national policies in an attempt to provide damage control to protect the affected – thereby promoting rather than suppress identities in the meantime. Thus, in a pursuit of burying identities, we only end up finding grounds to breed the same instead.
Others who lack faith in the collective conscience numb their pain and suffer in silence. This systematic depletion of unity, even though sees the existence of issues, resists seeking solutions. Subduing dissent as an opportunistic stand tends to be uncalculated risk every oppressor and their promoters can postpone yet never completely douse. In the process of brushing issues under the carpet to showcase and promote a false sense of complacency among the masses, unaddressed problems lie repressed until they erupt at unforeseen places at the least expected time and situation. Every issue calls to be addressed; as often, the simple, neglected form of unaddressed abuse turns out to become more complex and irreversible when not mitigated.
Interconnection of the broken links
The chances of cultivating singularity in the case of identity, is not as much an easy task as the claim to success through plural affiliations. Just as impeding individual freedom by imposing regulations for preserving common good cannot be denied, exercising strata to advocate nation-building in the context of valuing inclusion and pluralism cannot be dismissed - though both remain contradictory and paradoxical in their approach.
If one calls for scrutinizing the prevalence of poverty, inequality in the distribution of resources, services and justice, it all stems up from a context of social exclusion that prevailed at a period of time or that prevails still. From racism, imperialism, structuralism, autocracy to the more recent technocracy, stratification, discrimination and class distinction seems to be the way of life set forth by some, widely accepted by many and consciously or unconsciously followed by all indiscriminately. In our adherence to belong, we ensure that we don’t fail to belong to some group or the other and consequently by doing so, render to fail some way or the other.
Excessive emphasis on attributes based on religion, place of origin, gender, linguistic-similarities and differences and so on as an ascriptive attribute to describe one’s belonging to a certain group is also the discriminating force that mutilates multi-culturalism and turns out to be counter-productive to the idea of peaceful diversity and the idea of coexistence.
Though there have been enough and more academic dialogues, debates, discussions and discourses on the idea of identity, chances remain that there have been more questions than conclusions that have opened up. As we show greater resistance to be discriminated on one hand, we get more and more wilfully stratified on the other – either for political or it’s associated socio-economic reasons. Even the decision to opt out of having an identity established for us, seems out of question as we find ourselves struggling to get out of one box only to find ourselves drop in and fit right into another - packed, labelled and compartmentalized to be exhibited for the rest of the world to see and recognize. Thus, a fitting conclusion to this essay would be the chance to reflect only even more on the identities we chose and the identities that choose us as we reach a point of mooting over this final thought:
“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind." Jiddu Krishnamurti, Philosopher and Thinker
Points for further reflection:
1. How do we identify our self?
2. How are we identified by others?
3. What are the identities thrust upon us that we wish were not thrust upon us?
4. What are the identities we have thrust upon others?
5. How violent have we been establishing and thrusting identities on each other?
6. How long have we been and will continue to obstruct peace by promoting violence for establishing identities?
7. What is the way out for promoting peace and building a brave, new world free from identities?
Title: The Mining of Poverty
Type: Socio-Political-Economic Analysis
Author: Ajith Fredjeev Dinakarlal, Faculty, School of Social Work, Marian College, Kutikanam (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Co-Author: Dr. Lokesha MU, Faculty, Department of Studies and Research in Social Work, Tumkur University, Tumkur (email@example.com)
“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
by Mahatma Gandhi
by Mahatma Gandhi
It is not NEWS that the believers of the ‘divine right’ from the West as well as the pseudo-democratic champions of the East have both been abusing the rights and minority interests of the vulnerable for a very long period of time; yet, it must be realized that the impact thus created, has been quite severe on skewing the identity of the majority living within the barriers of geographical restrictions who end up bearing misrepresentations and its subsequent consequences. Our resistance (as Indians) to global disparities and dialectics of internal and external identities that have emerged as a result of these causes has not altered as the majority still live in a state of complacency of ignorance; if not, apathy. Resistance to forced identities has remained unrevoked and the Indian identity that has been skewed on the parallel to favour some hypocritical agendas set forth by funding and funded organizations in the development sector, can be only set right upon the realization of the fact that this plunder and ruin have been silently and systematically hatched, patched and dispatched, ignoring the identity of the majority and of course, with a certain level of deliberated resistance towards this wrongful depiction and misrepresentation. The following analysis at a socio-political-economic level, aims to disturb the complacency of silence in order to stop manifesting what necessarily does not represent the identity of every Indian and calls for rudimentary, majority response for its reversal.
Keywords: India, Identity, Human Rights, Funding, Development Sector, Violations, Abuse, Resistance, Social Action
Seeding the thought
“Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way,
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit,
where the mind is led forward by thee into
ever widening thought and action,
into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake” Rabindranath Tagore
If one were to draw blind-folded, an image of an Indian, from what is heard and seen about India and its people by others outside its borders, perhaps it should not be surprising to see anyone drawing a dark, skinny and dusty person with a grim face and a turban wrapped several times around the head, standing amidst dark, gloomy clouds of lust and violence, corruption and scams, pollution and population hovering in the backdrop, holding a deep-pitted begging bowl raised towards any leaking place from which foreign funds have the slightest hint of dripping… no matter how demeaning the picture might be.
A few decades back, this is how we too, as global citizens, played a part in painting the whole of Africa as a continent with sick, poor, bony, dusty, dark children; undeniable that we expected every child, woman and man coming out of Africa to fit into boxes and images of our forced imagination seeded by the exploitative colonial powers. To a certain extent, seeding this dark thought of an entire continent into our minds that so stubbornly refuses to leave has been achieved; so much so that we cannot stop seeing Africa and its citizens without sympathy; even if they don't ask for it. Thus remains Africa, a continent with absolute poverty and misery, violence and barbarism, with resent for advancement and justice requiring the saviours from the fair West to be present there all the time for establishing control of biblical proportions over otherwise tagged “barbaric” tendencies-confirmed and affirmed within the limitations of our mind if not anywhere else. With that idea established, is sealed the fate of Africa as an ever-impoverished nation in need of never-ending support in global perspective. Eventually, crossing borders and treading seas, India, seems to have become the new destiny, the new Africa, for the West to muse in the pretext of development.
Historically, the colonial powers enter a particular territory only when there is a promise of economic prosperity and would not leave until the last drop of anything left is drained. Africa, I believe, has still some more fuel, diamond and un-questioning people left for the colonies to optimize and the West would go any length to skew the African identity to make space for them to remain until Africa’s resources are completely exploited. Amidst faith-based, pseudo-justice-based, exploitative colonial powers born out of intentions conceived through the marriage of hypocrisy and greed, it would be interestingly revealing if the following questions are reflected upon: How is this image drawn so conveniently? Who frames these images? What benefit is derived by giving and taking up such an identity?
From the Moral Eye of Democracy
Despite glamour and its commercial side taking on the best centers and corners of the mass media, some remnant gaps do bring highlights of contemporary social issues by chance or by choice and at times articles with NEWS-value do make it through media gate-keepers, that expose racist ideologies and stereotyping of the subaltern collective that indicate the cause of the selective-perception. It is then that the media finds its rightful place as the fourth pillar or rather the moral eye of the democracy that opens to reveal hidden agendas. Instances may be seen as run below.
The Problem of Plenty
For a country which till recently had a weak civil society movement, India is now witnessing a boom in the NGO sector. With a population of 1.2 billion, the country could well be the land of opportunities for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the Central Bureau of Investigation conservatively estimating 20 lakh of them already operating in states and union territories.
The mind-boggling figures boil down to one NGO for every 600 people. Compare this to the latest government data on police. According to the latest figures from the Union home ministry, India has just one policeman for every 943 people.
But there is an accountability deficit among the NGOs. And that's how CBI got into the picture as the Supreme Court responded to a PIL. Many don't submit details of receipt of grant and spending to income tax authorities, the CBI told the apex court.
The Funding Inquisition
Based upon the receipt of previously received, documented and established figures, NGOs operating in the country had received a staggering Rs 11,070 crore during 2013-14, with the US topping the list of donors by providing over Rs 4,491 crore, followed by the UK which contributed Rs 1,347 crore, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Interestingly, the NGOs received donations even from secretive countries like North Korea.
· Malawi, a landlocked country in South East Africa, which is counted among the world’s least developed countries, is mentioned as a donor with over Rs 27 lakh donation to various NGOs during 2013-14.
· Swaziland, one of the smallest countries in Africa, donated over Rs 9.5 crore.
· Donations from Pakistan during the same year were about Rs 50 lakh while Greece, which has been gripped by its worst economic crisis till date, donated Rs 61 lakh.
· People from violence-hit countries like Afghanistan and Bosnia too donated to the Indian NGOs. Rs 1.23 crore came from Bosnia while Afghanistan’s contribution was Rs 1 crore.
These are funds received besides the funding NGOs/NPOs in India receive from the Government of India itself.
· In the last decade, more than Rs 85,000 crore has come in for the NGO sector from global patrons
· Of the 40,000-odd NGOs registered under Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), at least half do not file proper accounts with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)
· As per a report published by the Home Ministry for the year 2011-12, there were 41,844 registered associations under the FCRA and some 22,702 NGOs reportedly received Rs 11,546 crore as foreign contributions
· As compared to 2004-05, the amount received in 2011-12 was up by 85 percent (from Rs 6,257 crore to Rs 11,548 crore) and their number 38 percent (from 30,321 to 41844)
· A total of Rs 1,16,073 crore was received by the NGOs between 1993-94 to 2011-12. Only about 55% NGOs gave audited account
· Among the list of donors, the United States tops the list (Rs 3838.23 crore) followed by the United Kingdom (Rs 1219.02 crore) and Germany (Rs 1096.01 crore)
· A majority of donors, including the top three, are church-based organisations such as Compassion International USA (Rs 183.83 crore) followed by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, USA (Rs 130.77 crore) and the Kindernothilfe e.V. (KNH) Germany (Rs 51.76 crore)
· Of the top 15 donor agencies, 13 are related to some or the other Christian sect. Over 90 percent of the top 30 recipient organizations are engaged in missionary activity
· The highest amount of foreign contribution was received by the following Christian organization namely World Vision India, Chennai (Rs 233.38 crore), followed by the Believers Church India Pathanamthitta, Kerala (Rs 190.05 crore) and Rural Development Trust, Ananthpur, Andhra Pradesh, (Rs 144.39 crore)
· To put this in perspective, India’s total defence allocation (2011-12) was Rs 1,64,000 crore. Thus, foreign-funded NGOs (FFNGOs) in 2011-12 received seven percent of India's then defence budget
The Emerging Thought
Over six decades of freedom later and after millions of dollars raised outside our borders in promised lands by the so called “compassionate” and those living off that money raised in the name of the poor, with a stage set for provider-receiver drama to happen with lakhs of organizations to act as actors, traitors and betrayers (from within and out), nothing much has changed in the socio-economic-political diaspora of our country; we remain still burdened and still plundered and those we claim need help, upon whose needs the welfare-oriented development sector fuels itself, remain deprived, marginalized, excluded and vulnerable till date. Let us take the following statistics available from the past five years for some revelation:
· The Planning Commission of India has accepted the Tendulkar Committee report that says that 37% of people in India live below the poverty line (BPL)
· The Arjun Sengupta Report (from National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector) states that 77% of Indians live on less than INR 20 a day (about $0.50 per day)
· The N.C. Saxena Committee report states that 50% of Indians live below the poverty line
· A study by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative using a Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) found that there were 650 million people (53.7% of population) living in poverty in India, of which 340 million people (28.6% of the population) were living in severe poverty, and that a further 198 million people (16.4% of the population) were vulnerable to poverty
· 421 million of the poor are concentrated in eight North Indian and East Indian states of Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. This number is higher than the 410 million poor living in the 26 poorest African nations
· The World Bank estimates that India is ranked 2nd in the world of the number of children suffering from malnutrition
· The UN estimates that 2.1 million Indian children die before reaching the age of 5 every year – four every minute – mostly from preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, measles and pneumonia
· Every day, 1,000 Indian children die because of diarrhoea alone.
The 2011 Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report ranked India 15th, amongst leading countries with hunger situation and
The 2011 Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report ranked India 15th, amongst leading countries with hunger situation and
· The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative in its Global Multidimensional Poverty Index published in 2015, ranks two North Indian states amongst the five “poorest” sub-national regions in the world
The only thing gained and maintained by us at the end of the day, is the image of an always poor and absolutely needy, ever “developing” nation. As we continue to be abused for the virtue of patience we hold, often we are forced to live in a culture of fear, denial and silence. This attitude of ours to supply to the demand of other nations with our poverty, will always remain and be kept that way for a very long time. The image thus created and along with our identity, just like that of Africa, will be a story of never ending poverty and sorry endings and we shall soon be dressed in rags with Western imagination for the amusement of the rest of the world. This misrepresentation of our identity, (ab)using the vulnerability of select targets, has been the greatest injustice done to the people of India and the greatest damage done to the image of the country… the greatest abuse of our collective patience.
Most funding organizations function nothing more than as the neo-capitalists of the contemporary scenario who see the poor and the vulnerable as nothing more than a Return on Investment (RoI); and their lives, their communities and the problems they deal with in everyday life as their Unique Selling Point (USP) to be optimized and highlighted outside the borders to nurture profits and dividends back in their homes out of which a portion found fitting is thrown at us for which we are busy fighting among ourselves to take a grab.
And up the political front and in government quarters, leave alone finding it difficult to strategically tackle poverty over the years, our topied-babus seem to find it hard enough even to define it. Shifting from per-capita income to kilo-calorie food consumption, we have indeed shifted focus defining poverty rather than focusing on the welfare of the poor. Of late, we have brilliantly figured out that the fastest and immediate way to bring down the poverty level of a country is to just adjust the way we define it. The once Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, submitted new price data that pegged the urban poverty line as consumption of Rs. 32/day per person in urban areas and Rs. 26/day in rural areas, a revision that would immediately lower India’s own measure of its poor from 37% to 32% of its population. Behold! Sixty million people, suddenly are no more poor by definition.
Optimizing on the poor who the government manages to define and the remaining that are left out undefined, at the end of the day, the NGOs from within and out, hover to notice and peck and fill themselves with benefits sought in their names.
Big Fish Eats Smaller Fry
Cracking down on erring NGOs, government has cancelled licenses of 1,142 NGOs belonging to undivided Andhra Pradesh, under which they get foreign funds, for not filing their annual returns for three consecutive years. Earlier, government has said that 69 NGOs have been blacklisted from receiving foreign funds after finding fault in different aspects. Among those NGOs which were prohibited from receiving the foreign funds include 14 from Andhra Pradesh, 12 from Tamil Nadu, five each from Gujarat and Odisha, four each from Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala and three from Delhi. Government had also initiated action against 26 NGOs in current fiscal after finding “irregularities” in receiving foreign contribution while 14 foreign donors have been placed under prior approval category.
On February 25, government told Parliament that more than 31,000 NGOs were served notices for not filing annual returns on their foreign contribution. In 2011-12, notices were sent to 21,493 associations which were found to have not submitted annual returns under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010 for 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 and in 2014, and notices were issued to 10,343 associations which had not filed annual returns for 2009-10 to 2011-12.
In October, the Home Ministry announced that the non-governmental organizations can’t do transactions of over 20,000 in cash—a clause which is applicable to only business enterprises under the Income Tax Act. In December, a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) circular was released, listing NGOs whose funds it said should be monitored by banks. In January, a new circular was released with a list of 10 donor organizations, including Danish International Development Agency (Danida), Mercy Corps, US; Hivos International of the Netherlands; Climate Work Foundation, US; and Greenpeace International.
Any NGO receiving funds from them will now need prior permission of the MHA before they bring in the funds. In fact, starting 1 April, 2015, all organizations registered under the FCRA have to reapply for licence within a year. While licences issued by the MHA in the ongoing year will be applicable for five, those issued before 1 April 2015 will be deemed cancelled from April 2016. Anil Choudhary, senior member with Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), said, “If you are independent and critical of the market and the government, you face the music in the form of regulatory restrictions.” Those working in the development sector are hopeful of alternative funding models emerging, though not necessarily through CSR. Once community-centred funding comes into the picture, the voices of dissent and people’s movements will be harder to stamp out; it is believed.
At the end of the sudden screening and lowering of shutters of NGOs by suddenly vigilant government bodies and the ironical subsequent screaming of “foul-play” by representatives from the civil society who claim this to be a direct attack on democracy to shut voices of dissent and disapproval of activists and nationalists, I wonder why voices of dissent and disapproval over a government’s unjust manifestation of oppressive tendencies to cover-up hideous corporate crimes suddenly stop when financial ties are cut(?!) Do voices of such heightened passion earlier heard require financial assistance to ensure volume?! Is this the junction of hypocrisy?
The painting of M.F. Hussain, titled 'the Rape of Mother India, portrays the image of a woman caught in a struggle to escape from the strangling force of two wild bulls; this painting was heavily criticized for the imagery as well as the titling. Revisit the painting and you get to see the Indian identity suffer a similar accord; torn apart by the betrayer from outside and the traitor from within and it is then that you realize that the painting would find no more contempt yet just absolute relevance in the present context to understand the fate of the poor caught between these two sectors that promise development.
The Mining of Poverty
“The identity of an individual is essentially a function of his/her choices, rather than the discovery of an immutable attribute.” Amartya Sen
India has always been seen as a land of harvest if not by us, at least by the West. As we try to think that gone are those days, when the great whites packed up after reaching our shores and mining us off our riches that they controlled, reaped and shipped to their land to be preserved, wrapped and sold, it is equally pertinent to be a little watchful and realize that today those we believed to be gone, are back in our shores and this time, to mine us off our poverty instead. Their first stop often as they reach our land are the slums, pavements and areas of claimed-underdevelopment, poverty and hunger-their choicest destinations (often with good connectivity through air), where they pull out their point and shoot cameras, to do exactly what it is meant to do-point and shoot-megapixel after megapixel of great whites amidst the poor, vulnerable and unprotected lot in an impoverished nation that will soon get captioned, tagged, uploaded, downloaded and blown up to unimaginable proportions to be presented in slides, posters, brochures, coffee-table stand-alone and anything creative and unimaginable during hair-raising, fund-raising campaigns to a bunch of mesmerized audiences who fill the high-raised bowls of those that seek on behalf of those who are not even aware (nor ever will be.) Thus emerges a breeding ground for forced-need-based communities and strategic-greed-based organizations and the marriage of these two groups have become subsequently complementary for each other’s survival.
In this rights-based-era we live in, with globalization in vogue, it is not just commodities that are traded yet often tags that come with an unstoppable influx of infused culture-new, foreign and distant to us; and as we stand in awe at the conqueror, we despise our own within the boundaries and step across even if it is in the risk of giving up our culture, traditions and freedom. There is a wide difference between these cross-cultural ideas; like the idea of feeling self actualized and satisfied that according to Western philosophy is possible when facilitated through the accumulation of materialistic resources to maximize satisfaction that is directly contradictory to the Indian philosophy that speaks about the idea of giving up materialism to attain nirvana. The solution to many problems in the Indian context cannot lie in plausible formulae that seems to have worked in the West or elsewhere; owing to the fact that there is a serious discrepancy in the way hypothetical assumptions have been made of Indians and India on the basis of flawed conclusions drawn from misrepresentation and ideas drawn from an equally plausible imagination.
Concluding Idea of Justice
India has become a country where a plethora of projects are drafted for the money collected; when ethically it should be the other way around; this is when and where the Indian soil and its people have become testing grounds for launching medical and other researches banned in other sensible parts of the world, where pesticides, bio-modified seeds and pilot projects considered harmful gets conceived, incubated and hatched on our open grounds thus condensing our land to blocks of wasted and barren exploited pieces and our people to mere guinea pigs and lab rats capitalizing on the illiteracy and ignorance of the exploited masses.
Eventually, it is the poor, blanketed under the darkness of poverty, who are being silently and systematically plundered, ruined and tagged and we, as a majority carry these imprints in our represented, presented and misrepresented identity; yet it is not such a rarity that these isolation chambers are what many walk into these days willfully and voluntarily; giving up pride, respect and dignity which some of our earlier Indians refused to exchange. Much of the damage has been partly due to an identity thrust upon us and much more attributed to us for accepting the identity thrust without defending our own.
In The Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen, hints on the need for the concept of ‘open impartiality’ in a global context that cannot be abstracted without the existence of ‘global democracy’. This is one of the weirdest situations where a global dialogue that is imperative for ensuring global justice under the organization of commonalities of identities and institutions in the contemporary world gets dismissed for evoking ‘distracting details’ that shun the purity for exercising fairness while delivering justice. Often, this is the same detailing that is available to understand the global presentations of vulnerable people and communities and their identities that are un-spared and brutalized, very often on global grounds of injustice.
The images of the beggar tapping at car window at a traffic signal, a working child carrying a sack-load of waste in a gunny bag, a pavement dweller living in a pipeline discarded from an unsuccessful project, a pathway seller rushing to hide his commodities when the cops come in, a push-cart monger who yells at the top of his voice right outside the house and everyone else we drive past or possibly just pause to pick a decent bargain or take a moment to pity have been raised to be identified as the symbols of poverty and objectified.
The life that drives these people into who they are, where they are and where they come from and why they do what they do, are interestingly heart-warming stories of endurance and courage if rightly captured and truthfully represented. The stories from the everyday life of these people, true and alive, have a greater significance for living the great Indian philosophy that teaches of artha, kama, dharma and moksha that will help us to understand the essence of breaking barriers of conceived perception by observing their very simple way of life amidst struggles like anyone else’s. The idea to capture their lives, courage and dream amidst their struggle may change our perspective of them and provide a spectrum of understanding of the immense resilience of an ordinary, regular Indian to the rest of the world.
The irony behind these stories of struggles and endurance amidst suffering, tragedies and difficulties is that these issues need not be faced in the first place if policies that run the government, non-government and community systems were functioning as promised and as truthful as told in the first place. Diamonds are rare, beautiful and valuable, but their beginnings were always as humble in form as the common carbon-dark, dirty, and combustible. Through years of withstanding intense heat and high pressure, they become pure, beautiful and strong; this makes the gem a good metaphor for the patient Indian endurance that has historically withstood abuse, chaos and catastrophe. This can be understood through the lives of a few contemporary and lesser known Indians when presented and represented from an un-hideous and positive angle and their misrepresentations get subsequently erased.
Reference [i] , [ii] , [iii] , [iv] , [v] , [vi] , [vii] , [viii] , [ix], [x], [xi], [xii], [xiii], [xiv], [xv]
 Dhananjay Mahapatra, India witnessing NGO boom, there is 1 for every 600 people, Times of India, Feb 23, 2014 retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-witnessing-NGO-boom-there-is-1-for-every-600-people/articleshow/30871406.cms as on 4th April, 2015
 Yatish Yadav, NGOs Got Rs11K Crore Foreign Funds in 2013-14, The New Indian Express, 27th February 2015 retrieved from http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/NGOs-Got-Rs11K-Crore-Foreign-Funds-in-2013-14/2015/02/27/article2689210.ece as on 4th April 2015
 Tarique Anwar, Scrap FCRA, NGOs doing Church work with foreign funds: Experts, Feb 1, 2015 retrieved from http://www.firstpost.com/india/scrap-fcra-ngos-church-work-foreign-funds-experts-2074339.html as on 4th April, 2015
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 NGOs facing a funding challenge: Are funds drying up due to increased scrutiny or because India is now seen as an emerging economic power? Retrieved from http://www.livemint.com/Politics/hTcPwLtj9qU8tvVVudUDMJ/NGOs-facing-a-funding-challenge.html?facet=print as on 4th April, 2015
[i] Amartya Sen, 2005, The Argumentative Indian, Writings on Culture, History and Identity, New Delhi, Penguin Books
[ii] Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice, 2009, New Delhi, Penguin Books
[iii] Ziauddin Sardar and Borin Van Loon, 2000, Media Studies, Malta, Icon Books
[iv] Ziauddin Sardar and Borin Van Loon, 1997, Cultural Studies, Malta, Icon Books
[v] Dave Robinson and Judy Groves, 2003, Political Philosophy, Malta, Icon Books
[vi] Rabindranath Tagore, 1913, Gitanjali, London, Macmillan and Co., Limited
[vii] Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Excerpt from Sabin Alkire and Gisela Robles Aguilar, January 2015, University of Oxford
[viii] "Country Briefing: India, Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) At a Glance". Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative
[ix] "8 Indian states have more poor than 26 poorest African nations". Times of India. July 12, 2010
[x] Quote by Mahatma Gandhi, retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/4694-first-they-ignore-you-then-they-ridicule-you-then-they as on 19th April, 2015
[xi] Rupashree Nanda, It's official: 37 pc live below poverty line, Apr 18, 2010, CNN-IBN, retrieved from http://ibnlive.in.com/news/its-official-37-pc-live-below-poverty-line/113522-3.html as on 19th April, 2015
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[xv] SA Aiyar, Middle class hypocrisy on the poverty line, October 2, 2011, Times of India retrieved from http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Swaminomics/entry/middle-class-hypocrisy-on-the-poverty-line as on 19th April, 2015