RSS NGOs and Foreign Funding
Recently, the IB came out with a report questioning the motives and agenda of the foreign funded NGOs operating in India. It alleged that they have an anti-development agenda which has caused serious loss in terms of economic growth in India.
Analysts, including journalists, have used various stratagems to divert the attention from the main charge of the IB. One point they made is that there is foreign funding of NGOs that are set up by volunteers of RSS. There is a malicious intention of linking that the work done by these NGOs is similar to the ones that the IB has made allegations against. Some of the NGOs set-up by the volunteers of the RSS do receive funds from abroad, for which they have the necessary permissions, and the accounts are regularly filed. These NGOs are involved in service activities of different types all over the country.
One of the important service activities of the RSS affiliated NGOs is Ekal Vidyalaya – single teacher school. Nearly 50,000 schools are operating in the Vanvasi areas, providing education up till the fourth standard. The students are instructed in the three Rs – read, write and arithmetic. Additionally, they are informed about their own history as well as of the country, so that they develop a sense of belonging to the nation. These schools have imparted the necessary skills to the students to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the State to improve their lives. One such case is of Kavita Raut. She got education at an Ekal Vidyalaya school near Nashik. She then came to stay at a hostel for girls in Harsul – another project of RSS related NGO. Here, her running skills came to the notice of Sports Authority of India, who then started to give her coaching in long distance races. She went on to win the Bronze medal in 10,000 meters at the Commonwealth Games 2010, and Silver in 10,000 meters and Bronze in 5,000 meters at the Asian Games 2010.
Other Vanvasi boys and girls have been able to lead lives better than what they otherwise would have been forced to do. In turn, these youngsters have gone back to their Vanvasi areas to help their community members in various ways. One such way is to be a teacher in the Ekal Vidyalaya schools. This programme is funded by donations primarily from individuals. The teachers are also equipped to dispense first-aid, and be counsellors to the elders, making them social leaders in their areas. About 25 per cent of the schools are funded by Indians living abroad. This has provided them satisfaction that they are able to make some contribution, however small, in improving lives of people in India.
There is another example of the Dr Hedgewar Hospital at Aurangabad. In 1989 seven swayamsevaks, who were fresh medical graduates, started this project. They decided to work with a meager salary instead of going for private or corporate medical practice. High quality medical service is provided at minimal cost to those can afford, and at zero cost those who are unfortunate. The Hospital also runs projects in 150 villages not just on health, but also on poverty alleviation and skills development.
For India, another RSS affiliated NGO, Sewa International’s Indian and UK units organise the treatment, with the help of a hospital in Nashik, also run by swayamsevaks. About 20 doctors and 15 support staff, consisting of Indian origin and British doctors and nurses, come to India at their own cost. In India, Sewa International locates the patients that need treatment and provide them with the facilities of operation theatre, and post-operation treatment.
In contrast, the ones mentioned by the IB are those involved in agitations, and ensuring the projects of various types, involving large investments, are held up. There have been allegations made by groups, belonging to the communist ideology, that some of the funding goes to organisations that are alleged to be involved in violence against minorities. One correspondent in India belonging to a supposedly reputed financial daily in UK almost made it a mission to put the RSS-affiliated organisations on the defensive. The foreign funding agencies against whom the allegations have been made have been investigated by the authorities in their respective countries but failed to produce any evidence against them. Repeated allegations only indicate that a political agenda is at play, and not propagation of truth.
The RSS believes in doing positive work for the nation and its people. Where the funds come from abroad, it is almost always from people of Indian origin, and not the multi-national corporations or the charities started by the founders of some of these MNCs. All the RSS-affiliated NGOs run on minimal budgets and on voluntary basis. This is in contrast to the corporate style salaries in the other NGOs.
-Ashok Chowgule (The writer is the Working President (External) of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, India.)