Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NGO activism in Orissa: Boon or bane?

Orissa is the land of NGOs. The presence of a large number of NGOs should ideally lead to greater awareness about public causes and significant reduction in government's burden as far as organising campaigns on issues of general importance is concerned.

But the NGOs in the state have been a mixed blessing at best. Their intervention in several instances has been so aggressive that it can be compared with activism of the political kind. There have been allegations that these voluntary sector members have been inciting people to take to the streets, organise
dharnas and demonstrations to achieve their objectives instead of engaging in productive social work.

This aspect as come into sharp focus following the industrialisation drive launched by the State government. The behaviour of some of these NGOs creates the impression that industry by its very nature is anti-people. Whereever a new industry comes up trouble erupts with NGOs taking up cudgels on behalf of the people either in the name of protecting environment or saving people from alleged exploitation by the government and private entrepreneurs.

There is no denying that industrialisation should not be allowed at the cost of environment and the livelihood of people, but raising the bogey by displacement and destruction of environment every time the proposal for a new industry comes up is not fair either. The agitation against some of the projects have continued for too long for the comfort of the government and the industry without benefiting the people involved, too, in any manner.

The agitation against an alumina project in Rayagada has been going on for the last several years. It has also turned violent in phases with at least two people losing their lives in police firing. Some of the biggest names in the voluntary sector have lent their support to the movement which, though, has failed to prevent the project from coming up.

But the agitation has no doubt slowed down the progress of the project with the locals unable to reap its fruits. The fact is that even among the tribals, whose champion the NGO leaders claim themselves to be, the majority wants the industry to come up because it promises to change of face of the area by ushering in an era of prosperity.

Agitations of this kind were alien to these tribals but they appear to have been brainwashed. The voluntary sector leaders keep egging them on. It is not the industry but NGO activism which is responsible for Orissa's tribesfolk losing their innocence. Unfortunately what the tribals fail to realise is that when violence erupts, it is not the NGO leaders but they who lose their lives and sustain injuries.

Almost in the same manner, the intervention of the voluntary sector has led to a war like situation in faraway Koraput where battle lines have been drawn between the local cashew growers and the Cashew Development Corporation.

Only a few months ago, the NGO-inspired men and women in several villages of the district were not putting up blockades to prevent the entry of leaseholders authorised by the Corporation to reap the crop. The villagers, the majority of them without any pattas to support their claim, claimed that the crop belonged to them as the land had once belonged to their ancestors. This is what they had been told.

Thanks to NGO activism many more flashpoints may be emerging in the state soon. However, while this neither helps the state nor its people, it also reflects badly on the voluntary sector as a whole.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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