The Planning Commission's efforts to network voluntary agencies has received a lot of flak from the non-government sector.
Voluntary agencies, at their September meet organised by the Voluntary Action Network of India (VANI), have declaimed the government's attempts to network NGOs as "a strategy to suppress the growing voluntary sector in India".
In April this year, the Planning Commission got together 50 voluntary agencies to discuss "mechanisms to create a national network of NGOs for accelerated rural development". The commission allocated Rs 10 crore to N K Singh of the Foundation for Organisational Research and Education (FORE), a Delhi-based management agency with no record of voluntary developmental work.
Addressing the VANI-sponsored meeting of federations and voluntary organisations from all parts of the country, former Planning Commission member, L C Jain said, "In my days, the Planning Commission could not ever conceptualise handing over arbitrarily such large amounts of money directly to an organisation in the name of rural development.
Many speakers decried networking as part of the government's efforts to "privatise everything under its World Bank led new economic policy." A C Sen from the New Delhi-based Association of Voluntary Agencies For Rural Development (AVARD), while reiterating the need for introspection among voluntary groups said, " The government would like to see voluntary organisations as mere charity institutions, giving and receiving doles."
The voluntary groups formed a coordination committee to follow up the issue and initiate action at the tehsil and district levels to increase awareness. It also plans to file a public interest litigation against the commission.
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