“After PM announced Rs 500 per month will be deposited in Jan Dhan accounts, both individuals as well as corporates started questioning the need for further funds. When PM Cares was announced, the fund constraints worsened as close to Rs 7,000 crore went it that fund. Some corporate entities are still supporting us. However, some are adding riders like Aadhar details of all the individual beneficiaries, a demand which we turned down,” says Arun Kumar, CEO of Apnalaya, which is working in Mumbai's worst affected slums.
Kumar says, his NGO has ration just enough to support close to 6,000 more families over the next eight to ten days.
In addition, the reporting pressure on NGOs has increased as they are now required to furnish monthly details of foreign funding to the government. For smaller NGOs the problem is more acute.
“The question is with so many funding constraints how do we survive?” asks ElsaMarie DSilva, Founder & CEO of Red Dot Foundation, an NGO working for women safety.
“If the government can allocate some money from PM Cares for NGOs, that would be a good initiative,” said Ingrid Srinath, Director of the Centre for Social Impact & Philanthropy at Ashoka University.
NGOs working in the face of all odds to fight Covid-19
About a week back, in a remote village called Mawlai in Meghalaya, eight families ran out of money to buy ration. Cashrelief, an NGO, acted swiftly to mobilise its field team to send Rs 1,000 to each of the families. Almost a month before people in slums in Mumbai started getting ration from government, Apnalaya, an NGO had already started distributing food. Coro India, an NGO, while distributing aid in rural areas is printing a helpline number for women and children on the packets to help victims of domestic violence. These are only a few instance of how NGOs are leading from the front to fight Covid-19. Interestingly, most of the funds of NGOs are being raised from individuals rather than corporate entities.
Apart from fund crunch, operational problems faced by NGOs include buying food grains and transportation.
“Why should NGOs need to buy food grains from Food Corporation of India (FCI)? Ideally FCI or government should give it. It's a complicated task to raise money from public to fill up these gaps. As we are more needed in the field. NGOs must get more respect and cooperation. NGOs are the best possible last mile connects. And this nationwide disaster has proved the importance and significant role of the sector, ”says Asnhu Gupta of Goonj.
“Procurement of relief material in bulk, especially when there is a paucity of goods available in the market, is a constant hurdle for the NGOs. Also, the cost of transportation is high and the donation is generally for relief materials and seldom covers the transportation costs. One of the most challenging parts of distributing relief material and reaching out to people in distress is how the NGO volunteers are keeping themselves safe. They are at the frontline and at risk of infecting themselves and others with the virus,” according to the spokesperson of GiveIndia.
If the Covid-19 lockdown continues for long, NGOs might also run out of resources soon, and along with that the much needed last mile connectivity might also be lost for good.
Perhaps, a more draconian act for NGOs is still in the making. Recently the government published the Draft Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Amendment Rules, 2020. Under this, CSR spend has to be channeled to Section 8 companies. Money spent on trusts and societies would not qualify as CSR spend for companies. More than 90 per cent of NGOs work as trusts or societies. They would not get any CSR fund under the proposed law.
“If the NGOs start shutting, not only will many people be unemployed, we will also be at the risk of destroying the ground level capacity, something which will be difficult to build again,” says Srinath.