Jim O’Neil and the Trials and Tribulations of the Not-for-Profit Sector in India

Jim O’Neill can be blamed for the rising sea of woes of the voluntary sector in India. He put I (for India) in BRIC leading to great expectations from the largest democracy in the world. And India, as indeed some other countries, did rise to the challenge and this they did so spectacularly that they are referred by many as Emerged rather than Emerging markets. Paradoxically, India has the largest number of poor along with possibly the fastest growing number of millionaires and billionaires. It has become a rich nation of poor people. This has not gone unnoticed in the West. Many believe that India does not need any aid and ask why the rich in India do not give for the poor .The debate has gained momentum in government and civil society. The UK government declared its intention of stopping all aid to India. Not surprisingly, India has responded by declaring they do not want any aid. (Does it have anything to do with a seat in the Security Council?)

This has put a huge stress on the limited resources of the voluntary sector. A friend from the sector explained to me that if all the money of all the billionaires in India was to be distributed, each person would get £500 and that would also mark the end of the billionaire resource. The image of the sector is very poor abroad as it is not a regulated industry and clubbing institutions like the BCCI with a charity for the underprivileged or the homeless makes standardisation or any sort of benchmarking very difficult. Rampant malpractice in the area of tax avoidance keeps donors away from making a difference in the lives of the needy and destitute. India is not a welfare state and the government is unable to provide basic services like health and education to a vast majority of the people. The generosity of the private sector and individual donors play a big role in the lives of the poor in India. It is said that it is easier to raise money in India than to find a good charity to give it to. The culture of giving and sharing is strong as it would be in all collective societies, but the beneficiary of choice is often a temple, local deities or family. It is time for some reformulation of policy and keeping the scorecard on the Indian billionaires updated.

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