Here’s a situation.
Meena and her husband, along with their 3 daughters and 1 son travel all the way from a village in UP to Mumbai in search of a job. They come to Mumbai where even a kholi in a slum is expensive. So they go to the slums of Malvani near Malad and negotiate for a place. The land all around on which the slum is built is illegal, grabbed by some muscle-man and then sold to these hapless migrants for as much as Rs. 3 lakhs. The worst areas in the slum are given at a rate of Rs. 90000/- for a 10ft by 12ft plot. The kholis are built with bamboo and tin sheets so that if razed by police, they can be rebuilt. Needless to say, there is no drinking water, sanitation, education etc.
In comes an NGO who works with the urban poor and moved by their plight decides to fight for their basic rights. So they are told about their rights, taught some slogans (zindabad being the most used), rallies and meetings held etc. With the success that most families get ration card, identity proof, ICDS (Integrated Child Development Service) in schools, and perhaps water too (thus beginning the process of institutionalising an illegal slum...which anyway is a different story)
Then a few foreign delegates come to see the NGO’s work and ‘poverty’ in the cities. There’s an interactive session, where these slum members asks the delegates about the benefits they get from their government. Post which a leader from the slum community rises and matter of factly declares “Your government gives you so much. Our government is bad.” All NGO people proudly clap...their job is done.
Nothing wrong, you might say but this kind of situation always gets my goat. I end up fuming. NGOs and government works in the same space. Yet what I have never understood is why the flow of information is only one way. Yes, I know that our government is corrupt, inept, inefficient and now suppressive. But some of our laws (whatever little I understand of them) are great. So if at one hand you want to avail of all these rights and laws, don’t you in return need to give some things back to the government? Most NGOs fail to tell people what their basic duties are and should be.
So, after getting water in the slums, taps are left open. Garbage is thrown everywhere except the dustbins, people will have 5 children when the government asks you to have 2. Even an NGO working for pure conservation fails to tell villagers the harms of using too many plastics.
Who then will show them the whole picture? Of rights and duties, of give and take, of use and misuse. That the governments of other countries can provide for them because people in turn also help the government achieve the goals.
If you give the people a full picture, then they will be able to take an educated decision. And that’s what will lead to real progress.