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Its Raining NGOs in India, 31 Lakhs and counting

August,1,2015: The first-ever exercise by the CBI to map registered NGOs has disclosed that India has at least 31 lakh NGOs — more than double the number of schools in the country, 250 times the number of government hospitals, one NGO for 400 people as against one policeman for 709 people.

Way too many NGOs
Way too many NGOs

These statistics, indicating the relative status of education and healthcare infrastructure apart from policing, have come to light after the CBI collated information from all states and Union Territories to list NGOs registered under the Societies Registration Act.

The CBI has been directed by the Supreme Court to collect information about NGOs and inform whether these NGOs have filed balance sheets, including income-expenditure statements, to ascertain compliance with accountability norms. 

According to the affidavit filed by the CBI in the Supreme Court Friday, there are a total of around 31 lakh NGOs in 26 states. Karnataka, Odisha and Telangana are still to adduce information about the number of NGOs, so the total number of NGOs will be more than 31 lakh. Besides, more than 82,000 NGOs are registered in seven Union Territories.

The total number of schools in the country is around 15 lakh, as per the data compiled by the Planning Commission of India in 2011. The commission had calculated the number of schools, classifying them as primary, upper primary, secondary, lower secondary and higher secondary. The number inheres the peril of duplication since one school building may have primary as well as upper primary schooling — more than one level of education in the same building.

In March 2011, total number of government hospitals in the country was 11,993, with 7.84 lakh beds. Of these, 7,347 hospitals were in rural areas with 1.60 lakh beds and 4,146 hospitals in urban areas with 6.18 lakh beds. The number of NGOs also exceed the number of policemen in the country.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau data in 2014, there were 17.3 lakh policemen across the country, as against a sanctioned India has 31 lakh NGOs, twice the number of schools, 250 times number of govt hospitals strength of 22 lakh. This accounts for one policeman for 709 people. Add 13 lakh armed forces personnel to the number of policemen, and the total number of NGOs will be equal to the combined strength of both.

Among the states, Uttar Pradesh tops the list with more than 5.48 lakh NGOs, followed by Maharashtra which has 5.18 lakh NGOs. Kerala comes third with 3.7 lakh NGOs, followed by West Bengal with 2.34 lakh NGOs. Of the 82,250 NGOs in the Union Territories, Delhi alone has more than 76,000 NGOs.

Less than 10 per cent of the NGOs have complied with the requirement of submitting balance sheets and income-expenditure statements with the Registrar of Societies. Of around 30 lakh NGOs, 2.9 lakh have submitted financial statements. In Kerala, none of the 3.7 lakh NGOs have filed details since the state law does not mandate it. In Maharashtra and West Bengal, only around 7 per cent of NGOs have been filing such details. Other states also had poor records. The CBI has told the court it will complete its exercise in the next two months after Karnataka, Odisha and Telangana also furnish the requisite data. Next week, the court will take up the PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma who has sought a CBI inquiry into affairs of all the NGOs lacking accountability. 

Basic facts about NGOs –

What is a Non-Governmental Organisation?

Worldwide, the term ‘NGO’ is used to describe a body that is neither part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business organisation. NGOs are typically set up by groups of ordinary citizens, and are involved in a wide range of activities that may have charitable, social, political, religious or other interests. In India, NGOs can be registered under a plethora of Acts such as the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, Religious Endowments Act,1863, Indian Trusts Act, etc.

How did the Supreme Court come to examine them?

Advocate M L Sharma filed a public interest lawsuit in 2013, requesting an inquiry against Hind Swaraj Trust, an NGO run by social activist Anna Hazare. The court widened its scope and ordered an inquiry into all registered NGOs in India.

How many NGOs are there in India?

India has possibly the largest number of active NGOs in the world, but no specific number is available. A study commissioned by the government put the number of NGOs in 2009 at 33 lakh. That was one NGO for fewer than 400 Indians, and many times the number of primary schools and primary health centres.

Do they receive government funds?

Worldwide, NGOs are helpful in implementing government schemes at the grassroots. In India, ministries such as Health and Family Welfare, HRD,  WCD and MoEF have separate sections to deal with NGOs. They are flooded with requests for grants but only a handful of NGOs linked to politicians, bureaucrats or other high-profile individuals get hefty government funds.

Do they receive funds from abroad?

They may, if they are registered with the Home Ministry under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). Without this, no NGO can receive cash or anything of value higher than Rs 25,000. Last year, the Home Ministry served showcause notices on 10,331 FCRA-registered NGOs for not filing mandatory contribution reports for 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Why have NGOs been recently controversial?

An IB report, submitted to the PMO and National Security Adviser in June, alleged that several foreign-funded NGOs were stalling India’s economic growth by their obstructionist activism. The report accused Greenpeace of attempting to destabilise India’s energy mix in collusion with a US-based anti-coal lobbying group. The IB subsequently advised the government to cancel Greenpeace’s FCRA registration.

What has CBI told the Supreme Court?

That fewer than 10 per cent (only 2,23,428) of 22,39,971 NGOs in 20 states have filed balance sheets with the authorities. Details from Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Delhi are awaited.

Are there tax benefits in donating to NGOs?

Charitable donations are eligible for exemption, with the condition that it should not be for benefit of any religious community or caste, among other conditions. As per the I-T department website, 1,50,217 institutions have got approval under Sec 12A of the Income-Tax Act to receive donations under Sec 80G.


Links to relevant Bare Acts at LatestLaws.in-

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