Washington State Organizations Play Leading Role in India

When India became independent in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first Prime Minister, stressed the importance of ending poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality. In recent years, India has enjoyed consistently high rates of growth and steady improvement in human development. But a critical challenge remains for the world’s largest democracy. Despite growth and steady development, persistent poverty and inequality remain.

Millennium Development Goal (MDG) reporting reveals that India is on track to achieve target goals on poverty reduction, education and HIV at aggregate levels. However, much work remains to be done to reduce hunger, improve maternal mortality rates and enable greater access to clean water and sanitation. India must reduce social and geographic inequalities to make these goals achievable. As rising gender inequality continues to hamper progress, women are regularly excluded from social, economic and political domains. With 1.21 billion people, India’s lack of progress drastically impacts the overall success of the MDGs.

India’s relationship with NGOs

The Indian government has been applauded for their collaboration and partnerships with non-governmental organizations. The government provides funds, contracts and training opportunities for NGO activities in priority areas without undermining the NGOs’ autonomy and independence. This cross-sector collaboration enables more sustainable development with lasting impact.

Since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister in 2014, the government-NGO relationship has been tested. While Modi launched large and aggressive development projects in India, he is suspicious of the influence of foreign NGO’s. Greenpeace and Amnesty International had their finances frozen when the Indian government suspected the organizations were funding environmental activists who were working against nuclear power, GMO and coal mining initiatives. The government has since lifted the restrictions, but it’s now clear that development organizations that work outside Modi’s economic and industrial goals have an uphill battle.

Corporate social responsibility

India is the first country in the world to mandate corporate social responsibility. In 2014, the Indian government implemented new CSR guidelines requiring companies to spend 2% of their net profit on social development. While it sounds like a victory for development work, does it go far enough? Some ask if 2% is enough to make a difference while others worry that another tax will harm growing Indian corporations. Time will tell if this legislation will have real impact on poor people’s lives.

Today’s world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before and it is in the interest of all nations to help India shape their own economic and social development. The eradication of poverty, disease and obstacles to education would ensure greater global security. While poverty, ill-health and lack of economic opportunity may not lead directly to conflict, crime or terrorism, they do create conditions that are hostile to peace and stability, leaving fragile countries vulnerable to conflict and other destabilizing forces.

GlobalWA members working in India