We must shun generalisation
An individual’s indulgence in criminal activities, which has resulted in the loss of his personal image and all the good work carried out in the past two decades, should not cast a shadow on the working of all non-governmental organisations in the city. Many of these organisations are relentlessly doing commendable work in their chosen fields and making a difference in the lives of many people. Therefore, because of the perversions of one man, the nascent NGO culture should not be looked down upon as a whole.
SC Luthra, Chandigarh
Administration should make NGOs accountable
The arrest of Theatre Age director Zulfiqar Khan for sexually exploiting children has shattered the faith of residents associated with the NGO. The work being done by the NGO was commendable, but the revelations that Zulfiqar for using it for personal gains and indulged in immoral acts has dashed the hopes of the underprivileged. Amassing wealth in the name of the poor is a sin. Eliciting facilities and funds from the government and using them for acquiring property is a criminal act. It is, therefore, necessary to make NGOs accountable. The administration should keep a strict vigil on their functioning.
DP Gautam, via email
Members, beneficiaries should keep vigil
Undergoing a psychological test and a thorough background check is a prerequisite for any person to run an NGO. Rather than giving tax benefits and grants to NGOs, the government should provide infrastructure with pre-installed surveillance devices. Any external body can be fooled. So the only way to make NGOs accountable is to make its beneficiaries and members more aware. Residents should know about NGOs running in their localities and should keep an eye on its activities. People who are associated with NGOs should be taught how to find and report sinister activities, if any. More inter-NGO activities should be conducted, which will allow participants to open up with each other, share their experiences and expose any illegal or immoral activities being carried out in the name of community service.
Amrinder Singh Brar, Chandigarh
Conduct regular public audit
It was shocking to know that children were sexually assaulted at another city-based NGO, after the Bal Niketan episode last year. It is appalling that these registered organisations are functioning in the tricity without any monitoring. However, failure of the administration and police to develop a monitoring mechanism cannot be an excuse to close these NGOs, as they are contributing towards the betterment of society. These organisations help in sustainable and equitable development while recognising and strengthening the role of local individuals. To avoid unfortunate incidents, an independent monitoring mechanism needs to developed under a dynamic academician, supported by the police. NGOs should undergo regular public audit to ensure all funds are being used in community service.
Manjinder Pal Singh, SAS Nagar
Collect feedback from children
There is no denying the fact that many NGOs have sprung up of late owing to many advantages offered to people setting them up, tax remittance being one of the main. Therefore, it becomes imperative to lift the veil and keep a constant vigil on the working of such organisations. Instances of money laundering and fraud can be detected by checking the balance sheets and expenditure incurred by them. However cases of sexual harassment, abuse or exploitation are not easy to investigate, unless the victim comes forward. In such circumstances, especially where NGOs are set up for children, each child should be counselled and heard individually by a child psychologist from the department of child welfare. Quarterly feedback should be taken from children and it should be kept confidential. This will ensure children’s safety and also help to encourage them to freely express themselves as against a general inspection by the department officials.
Nandita Sekhon, Panchkula
Public figures should get involved with NGOs
The arrest of Zulfiqar Khan for sexually assaulting children has eroded the faith of people in NGOs and it will take a long time to rebuild it. Public figures should come forward to take interest in the NGO culture. Heads of prestigious schools and colleges can be directed to visit NGOs allotted to them on monthly or fortnightly basis. Also, regular surprise inspections should be carried out on the premises of these NGOs. Those found guilty should be put behind bars and so heavily penalised that others think twice before indulging in any immoral activity.
Suman Kansal, Panchkula
No NGO should be a one-man show
Each NGO should have a board of management. Stern action should be taken against any member found indulging in unethical practices. However, the organisation and its activities should not be affected by the wrongdoings of an individual. Also, a college principal or senior faculty member should be tasked with keeping an eye on the activities of an NGO. An NGO management course can also be introduced at educational institutes to train those interested in joining NGOs the basic ethics of social service.
Dr AK Agarwal, Chandigarh
Need to catch black sheep
Zulfiqar Khan’s arrest has yet again exposed the shallowness of some of these “honourable good samaritans”. It is a fact that a large number of NGOs are self-serving. These turn out to be personal fiefdoms of some big names -- Teesta Setalvad is already in the news. These NGOs collect huge funds from India and abroad in the name of poor children or rehabilitation of the destitute. But, on the ground, there is little work and more of swindling. Some heads of NGOs are stinking rich, and wield undue power. When exposed, they get angry and pretend to be “holy cows”? Banning NGOs is not the answer, as many of these are doing a noble job. So, what is required is proper monitoring. The authorities must ensure transparency of these organisations, and seek accountability. An independent authority should check their accounts at regular intervals, and forward the report to the government. They must also be visited regularly, and feedback taken from the inmates. It must be a sincere effort and not a lip service. Then alone, corruption in NGOs will be checked and the mask from the faces of black sheep removed.
Colonel RD Singh (retd), Ambala Cantt
Residents are disillusioned
Zulfiqar Khan not only sexually exploited children but also duped 5,000 tricity residents of `3 lakh every month, as brought to light by newspaper reports. In the garb of protecting homeless children, he exploited them. He has brought a bad name to genuine NGOs too. People are disillusioned; they are bound to think twice before making donations to such organisations.
Usha Verma, Chandigarh
Put all NGOs under the scanner
Although the role of foreign-funded NGOs was already under the scanner at the national level, the Zulfiqar episode has shaken the very foundations of the idea of NGOs. As such, an NGO is a sacred entity, with its roots in philanthropic spirit and espoused by all religions. With the passage of time, however, human greed and lust has tarnished the institution. It has become essential, in the larger interest of society, that all NGOs be put under the scanner, without any discrimination, whatsoever, so that the scum of society can be weeded out and sacredness of NGOs and faith of people in them can be maintained.
AK Sharma, Chandigarh
Enforcement authorities should be more vigilant
Ethical degradation has reached such an ebb that criminality prospers even in the name of humanitarianism and philanthropy. We must allow humanity to be so crippled. Making enforcement authorities more vigilant and imposition of stricter regulations and punishments for offenders is the key to make NGOs accountable.
MPS Chadha, SAS Nagar
NGOs must have management committees comprising experts
Society is to be blamed for having blind faith in NGOs. Every aspect of the NGO must be scrutinised before giving any donation to it. Also, it is the government’s duty to ensure that NGOs associated with children are safe. Children should be taught how to protect themselves. There must be CCTV cameras installed on the premises and children should have an easy access to toll-free telephone service. Every NGO must be run by a management committee, not just one person. The chairperson should be person of eminence in the field of child development. The members should be experts in the field of childcare and development, juvenile justice and child psychology. Women members and staff are a must.
Opinder Kaur Sekhon, Chandigarh
Check antecedents of people associated with NGOs
Theatre Age might be one amongst several similar organisations -- registered and unregistered -- that are exploiting the youth in the garb of community service. One thing is certain: these organisations can’t survive without the patronage of influential people, whether in the government or outside. The immediate need is to verify the antecedents of people behind all NGOs based in the tricity, so as to nip evil in the bud.
Manjeet Singh Ishar, SAS Nagar
Govt must save society from cheats
Were the incidents at Bal Niketan and Snehalaya not sufficient to wake up the Chandigarh Administration? Many influential people had been visiting Theatre Age and donating to it generously. Our society and the administration are as much responsible for such heinous deeds of Zulfiqar. It’s high time that the government saves society from such cheats. There should be an external monitoring mechanism. Regular audits must be conducted.
Paras R Kalotra, SAS Nagar
Corrupt people tarnishing image of noble institution
NGOs are required to fill the vacuum left by the government due to various constraints. Zulfiqar Khan has not only shamed himself but tarnished the name of this noble institution. The main problem is the lack of accountability. Many greedy and corrupt persons in power have been misusing NGOs for their selfish motives. Working of all NGOs must be made transparent and their accounts should be audited.
Capt Amar Jeet Kumar, SAS Nagar
Regulatory authority needed
NGOs are working with enthusiasm and sharing a lot of burden of the government to strengthen the weaker sections of society. Just like a rotten apple spoils the whole fruit basket, one bad element has tarnished the image of this well-meaning institution. Many honest people are putting in their efforts to render services to the needy. To ensure, questions are not raised on their motives, government monitoring of NGOs is a must. While, NGOs must be allowed to work independently and democratically, they must be made answerable to some regulating authority.
Devinder Garg, Chandigarh
NGOs not justifying their purpose
Philanthropy means “love of fellow humans”. It is different from charity. Many big NGOs spend majority of the donations on advertisements, posh offices and huge salary packages. There are no real volunteers in these organisations, just publicity-hungry people justifying their place in garb of helping the needy. It is human nature to help others and most of the time it is seen as material and monetary help. However, philanthropy encompasses generosity and care for others. Giving should not create arrogance in the givers. It is wrongly assumed that it is only the rich who can give; in fact, most donations come from ordinary people.
Mahavir Jagdev, Chandigarh
Panel comprising trustees of major NGOs’ must oversee working
It is beyond doubt that all NGOs are doing a good job within their means and capacity. Cases of exploitation are just an aberration and these should not hamper the good work being done by others. Of course, such incidents do put a question mark on the credibility of NGOs. Small NGOs, with little funding, need all the encouragement and support. Only NGOs with huge funding at their disposal and not organised democratically need external checks and transparency. At times, new members with vested interests and inflated egos take over the management of an NGO. It is here that the problem starts. Yet the government need not have control over the working of an NGO, lest its members lose interest and start withdrawing. The working of big NGOs can be monitored by a committee comprising trustees of all major NGOs. Any irregularity can be looked into by the government.
DS Banati, SAS Nagar