THE HISTORY OF NGO'S IN INDIA
The changing face of volunteering in India 26 September 2006 by Patralekha Chatterjee
Stepping carefully around the pits and mounds, four men approached the only source of light to be seen - a small kerosene lantern burning inside a mud and grass hut. There were four residents inside - a couple and their two children, 10 and eight. They dug the pits, cut the rock and hauled it to the trucks, all without salary. They were bonded labourers, bonded for life and for generations to the owner of the pit because some ancestor sometime had borrowed money and had been unable to pay it back. Two of the four men who visited the hut that night in 1985 were from a nongovernmental organization called Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labour Liberation Front). The other two were journalists brought by the NGO to prove that bonded labour - a form of slavery - did exist right in the nation's capital. After the visit, the men from the NGO went to the police station to lodge a complaint, because bonded labour is illegal in India, and so is child labour in a profession as hazardous as this. The complaints, and the articles written by the journalists after the visit, were part of the NGO campaign to make the government implement the law. Every day, different NGOs all over India are doing things like this. Sometime it may be taking a sample of water from a well that has been polluted by a nearby factory, getting the water analysed and then filing a "public interest petition" in a court to force the factory to follow anti-pollution laws. Another time, it may be a heated debate with a bureaucrat on why all citizens should have the right to be informed about all government decisions that affect their lives. Though the term NGO became popular in India only in the 1980s, the voluntary sector has an older tradition. Since independence from the British in 1947, the voluntary sector had a lot of respect in the minds of people - first, because the father of the...
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