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How are NGOs responsible for the slump in India’s GDP? I was recently asked this on Quora and other fora. Probably stems from this discussion.

This question is not new. It is being asked with alarming regularity. Not just by the present government but also the last one. Read (from Feb 2012): Manmohan criticises NGOs for protests in Kudankulam. Also read (from June 2014) Foreign-aided NGOs are actively stalling development, IB tells PMO in a report

I have written about civil society space in India being under threat. This question I was asked is symptomatic of the same process.

This is what I think.

Accusing NGOs of causing slump in Indian GDP is a silly simply because NGOs really do not have so much power. I am sure that they definitely wish they had but they do not. In fact in a globally connected world, recession in Europe is more likely to cause a slump in India’s GDP than any NGO action.

Further, NGOs are not necessarily anti-growth. It is when growth comes at an unacceptable expense that they oppose. I realise that what is unacceptable to one may be acceptable to another and it really depends of who one is. When an NGO opposes injustice, it is merely doing the role it is meant to do. This injustice may include

  • forcible acquisition of land from farmers / tribal peoples and ‘selling’ it to corporate entities for a pittance only for a few business houses to make huge profits.
  • ruining the environment and causing long term damage for very short term extractive gains.

Some may and do feel that growth at any cost is acceptable. If you scratch the surface you will find that the people who think thus are not themselves being affected. They are fine so long as the adverse effects of growth are not in their backyard!  In fact one may find that these people are actually gaining from this ‘development’. It is little wonder that they are willing to sacrifice interests of the others.  Read Reactions to Salman Khan verdict: That ‘eat cake’ moment. Not related to ‘growth’ but the sentiment is the same.

Growth does not mean poverty alleviation and economic justice.  There is no doubt that poverty is deepening amongst the poorest even as growth has lifted some poor out of absolute poverty. The growth over the last 40 years has shown that inequality has increased in leaps and bounds all over the world, and indeed in India since 1991. Those interested in knowing more, please go to Even It Up – Oxfam’s Inequality campaign page.  NGOs are merely calling for responsible growth strategies.

Would you call those asking for responsible growth as being the cause of slump in GDP?  If so, you should check to see

  • If you really understand the issue and the accusation you are making.
  • Whether NGOs are being used as a scapegoat for other failures and others’ failures.

Makarand

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