Non-governmental organisations, more commonly known as NGOs, are typically non-profit groups that are engaged in humanitarian, educational, health care, public policy, social, human rights, and environmental issues. NGOs play a vital role in today’s society and development. For years, portions of the world’s population have been ignored and neglected, and this has certainly been the case in our country. Women, scheduled castes, the differently abled, the underprivileged… the list is sadly long and the neglect is undeniably tangible.
Throughout history, there have been individuals, some of very high social stature, who have dedicated their lives to helping those in need, financially and otherwise. Entire communities lending a helping hand to a fellow human in times of trouble was mostly spontaneous and transitory, usually in cases of natural calamities such as earthquakes or floods.The only real organisations that would help those in need tended to be religious organisations such as temples, churches, or mosques. It wasn’t until the late 18th and early 19th century that groups of people came together in organised associations to help those who were in need.
During one of India’s darkest periods, in the 19th century, the caste system, untouchability, child marriage, sati, and other social evils flourished. Individuals who strongly opposed these practices formed voluntary organisations to launch reform movements. These organisations were mostly liberal and secular, and paved the path to making those schools of thought more acceptable in Indian society. The birth of the Servants of India Society in the 20th century, alongside Mahatma Gandhi’s fervour against social evils, laid the foundation for several voluntary organisations (VOs). Once India achieved independence from British rule, a large population of socially aware and active individuals surfaced, ready to help those who had been put down for centuries. The establishment of democracy and better understanding of freedom of speech and equality helped create a sense of brotherhood among the national population. As the number of people who joined and volunteered with such organisations increased, so did the number of people who contributed to them, until NGOs gradually grew to become an integral part of modern society.
The main role of NGOs is to fill the gaps that are overlooked by the state. In many cases, they fulfil this role almost completely. Although there have been laws passed prohibiting many of the social evils that were once prevalent in our country, there are several by-products of those evils and other newer issues caused by over-urbanisation and the rise of industrialisation. There are also issues that simply cannot be solved by the government setting rules and regulations, such as the treatment and education of differently-abled children. But when the average citizen comes forward to help, it can not only change the situation for individuals, but increases awareness and improves the morale of society. NGOs help create a healthy counter point to the increasing consumerism and selfishness of modern society. In a world that’s caught up in the rat race, where progress and success are every individual’s goal, where developing the self always takes top priority, it’s these organisations that encourage us to give back. In a world where Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest is disturbingly evident, it’s a breath of fresh air to see people dedicating their lives to helping those less fortunate.
There will always be cut-throat competition, especially with India’s growing urbanisation. There will also always be those who get left behind because circumstances don’t allow them to keep up. The NGOs are like medics who tend to those who have fallen behind. These organisations are the nurturers and caregivers of our society as a whole. So in a way, they are the mothers of our time. Increasing awareness and empathy in the nation has led to almost every earning individual actively donating to a cause they hold close to their hearts. This week we speak to a range of individuals who are actively involved with a number of NGOs, and who have been working tirelessly towards creating a better future for the less fortunate individuals in our society. Read on for a closer look at the workings of these remarkable NGOs! --- Tanya