Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Whose money is it, honey?

Despite foreign direct investment driving the stock market, the issue of foreign funding to the civil society organizations is seen at a tangent. Not long ago, foreign funding was used as the basis to question the credibility of Narmada Bacchao Andolan. In effect, the petitioner's hidden intention has been to tarnish the pro-public image of the two-decade old social movement, with an aim to establish that NBA's anti-dam agenda was driven by the donors. NBA had come out unscathed but popular perception about foreign funding was nevertheless reiterated.

With three decades of experience in the field of development, Pushpa Sundar traces the history of developmental assistance and the emergence of civil society as its formidable exponent. Interestingly, over the years the levels of overseas development assistance to the government has become insignificant while the amounts going to the civil society has increased significantly. The recipients of foreign funds may have come under the home ministry's scanner; the quantum of development assistance remains miniscule in comparison to government's development portfolio.

Why does the government feel threatened and why is popular perception on foreign funded organizations' tainted? The answers to such questions are hard to come by because there are shades of grey in the developmental picture. The lure for foreign funds is of government's own making; its support mechanism smells of nepotism and its monitoring mechanism is increasingly laced with corruption. If the government's development support mechanism to civil society could clear itself of such ambiguities and be more liberal in its outlook, there is little doubt that the dependence on foreign funds and the ideological baggage it brings along would decline....more

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