Home Flashback Ascent of the Third Sector in the Indian Socio-Economic Grid

Ascent of the Third Sector in the Indian Socio-Economic Grid


The 27th of February has been declared as the World NGO Day by the European Union External Service Action. “This is to celebrate the key Civil Society’s contribution to public space and their unique ability to give voice  to those who would otherwise have gone unheard.”

These words speak volumes of the acclivity of the NGOs, the world over. The Lokpal Bill Crusade by Anna Hazare is an evidence of the constructive role of the Civil Society and the wide dimensions, the Third Sector has assumed in India today. Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation’s Rally for Rivers was supported by people across the length and breadth of India. The Triple Talaq Ban plea by Ishrat Jahan’s Muslim Women’s Quest for Equality is the latest success story of NGOs in our nation.

NGO is a concomitant of the fast emerging and articulate Civil Society which is a resultant of the over-burdened and less-performing government.”Civil Sector or social sectors are other terms for the sector, emphasizing its relationship to civil society”.

The term “Non-governmental Organisation” was coined when the United Nations Organisation came into existence in 1945. “Today, according to the United Nations, any kind of private organisation that is independent from government control can be termed an NGO, provided it is not for profit and simply not an opposition political party.”

“NGO is any non-profit, voluntary citizens group which is organised on a local, national or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest ,NGOs perform a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bring citizens’ concerns to governments, advocate and monitor policies and encourage political participation through provision of information,” according to sources.

Some of the acronyms acquired by the NGO are:TSO-Third Sector Organisation;INGO-Internationational NGO;SBO-Social Benefit Organisation;CSO-Civil Society Organisation;ENGO-Environmental NGO;

The essential features of NGOs are: A.)They are Voluntary associations created by people having a common interest; B.)They are Autonomous bodies regulated by their own policies and procedure, free from government control; C.)They are created with a Non-Profit/Non-Business and Service motive; D.)They largely raise their Own Funds by way of donations from public, members and/or Corporates while some also are funded partially by the government.

In India, the NGOs have begun playing a predominant role in the socio-economic scenario since the 1970s and thus acquired the status of Third Sector after the Government Sector and Private Sector. As per statistics, India has around 3.2 million non-government organizations (NGOs).Their work spans a wide spectrum, from judiciary to legislatures to media and to the socio-economic and the cultural. There is hardly any ministry that does not support or engage an NGO. This wide reach has aptly given it the name Third Sector.

In India Voluntary organisations should mandatorily be registered under Central or State law on the basis of Legal Status, as Societies, or as Charitable Trusts(Public/Private),or as Non-profit Companies;  and on the basis of Functioning, as Co-op.Societies, or Multi State Co-op. Societies, Trade Unions and Religious Bodies.

Indian history is replete with examples of the people and rulers extending charity to the needy at all times and to the people displaced during natural calamities such as cyclone, floods, earthquakes etc. though largely motivated  by religious sentiments such as Salvation and Atonement for sins.

Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for freedom and the launch of social reforms against child marriage, sati, untouchability, landlord domination, polygamy and advocating girls’ education and widow marriage is a brilliant example of voluntary and non-government organisation. The numerous social and liberal organisations such as The Servants of India Society, Arya Samaj, Sewa, Eklavya, Disha etc. were the precursors of the present NGOs.

According to reports, the Government of India, has given a boost to NGOs in the process of nation building during the period of 6th Five Year Plan, to the current  12th F.Y.Plan ,in Garibi Hatao ; developing “self reliant communities” in the rural areas; as an inherent part of PPP; and the Panchayati Raj System introduced in 1992.

“Civil Society has three functions –to inform, empower and ensure accountability whenever the government gets distracted”, in the words of a Parliamentarian. Numerous NGOs have won international acclaim for their pioneering efforts in various arenas in India. The numero uno is Kailash Satyarthi and his Bachpan Bachao Andolan,the Nobel Laureate for championing the cause of Child Labour in India and many other countries.

Some of the others to win international awards are:

1 Acharya Vinoba Bhave Bhoodan Movement Ramon Magsaysay Award
2. Kurien Amul Milk Co-op.Movement -do-
3. Prema Goplalan Swayam Shikshan Prayog UN Climate Award
4. Dara N.Khurody Kaira District Milk Producers’Union Ramon Magsaysay Award
5. M.S.Swaminathan Green Revolutin -do-

The list of Indian NGOs who are international awardees is a long one. These multitudinous Voluntary Organisations which constitute the major arm of our Civil Society, have successfully placed India on the rails of all round progress.

They have cast their spell of development in the following areas:
1.Education for the hitherto backward and neglected groups such as girls, tribes and poor communities;
2.Women Empowerment;
3.Child Labour;
4.Immoral Trafficking of women;
5.Child Trafficking;
6.Waste Managers/Rag  Pickers;
7.Environmental Protection;
8.Toilets in public places;
9.Self Defence for girls;
10.Casual Labour;
11.Rights of Organised Labour;
12.Savings Schemes and Life Insurance Schemes;
13.Right to Information;
15.Food for the starving;
16.Mid-day Meals for the school children;
17.Orphan Protection and Adoption;
18.Juvenile Justice;
19.Laws for protection against sexual misdemeanor; and  in legislations such as the Right to Information.

However, there is a detrimental side of Voluntary Organisations. According to reports, some foreign funded NGOs are “negatively impacting economic development” by fostering anti-nuclear, anti-coal and anti-genetically modified food (GMO) activism. Some have proved to aid terrorist activities and religious conversions.

The safeguards against NGOs which instigate negative activism and derail progress are transparency of allocation of funds, accountability and punitive measures enforceable by way of legislation. Likewise, strict monitoring of NGOs’activities is mandatory to counter attempts to camouflage money laundering and terrorist activities behind the façade of Altruism. As per sources, foreign funding is under the scanner of FCRA.

The beneficence and constructive role of the copious Voluntary Organisations will definitely build a splendid India.

Jaya-ChandrashekhaThe author Jaya Chandrashekhar was an Income-tax Officer and recently quit after decades of service. She also compered for the Yuva Vani English, AIR for a short while. Jaya has a keen interest in socio-economic issues and contributes to the GOI Portal, Indian Express amongst several others. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga and cooking.

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.

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The CSR Journal Team



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