A stitch in time saves nine

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By: Tariq Rather

Where there is a will, there is a way, is the famous saying that fits for doing something against traditions and routine. Voluntarily working for a cause, without any remuneration by dedicating time, energy and resources is appreciable and a great contribution when generally people prefer their personal priorities. To serve humanity and people irrespective of caste, colour, creed, religion or region is what is described as one of the virtuous deeds and greatly loved by Almighty Allah.

The ‘boom’ in social work in Kashmir is seen as a result of countless sufferings and difficulties that cropped up particularly during around past three decades due to conditions out of untoward situation.

A good number of voluntary groups and organizations are working in this sector that have been contributing towards socio economic development and rehabilitation of the orphans, widows, destitute, poor and needy. This indeed is appreciable and needs due acknowledgement.

Orphans in Srinagar breaking their fast in hold month of Ramdhan (File Photo: Bilal Bahadur)

However, several issues and challenges remained to be seen and analysed to ensure free, fair, transparent, accountable and principled system and vibrant culture of social service. Certain undesirable practices and culture has crept into this volunteerism sector that needs to be tackled in a fair, democratic and decent manner.

Primarily, the cross section of people have responsibility to be conscious about the fate of contributions, donations and the resultant yield in terms of human resource development being catered within orphanages or under various ‘welfare programmes’ pursued by these organizations.

In addition, the establishment (read employee structure) set ups in various NGOs or voluntary organizations need to be cross checked in terms of financial expenditures on salaries, overtime & other allowances, pay hikes, etc; creation of movable and immovable assets and also expenditure on public outreach activities.

Almost all such organizations profess to be pro poor and pledge to be transparent and accountable. However, there has been no proper social audit mechanism that could gauge and establish the transparency, accountability and scope to make redressal in view of possible lacunae or loopholes that reportedly have crept into the structures of such public institutions and authorities.

Here, the foremost question remains that is there any proper, systematic and methodical survey with statistics about the number and categories of prospective beneficiaries?

Who is there to tell us about the actual figures of orphans, widows, destitute and unmarried poor and orphan girls?
What needs to be done to formulate structured and professional system wherein the institutionalization of social service could be established on ground?

How the social service NGOs and Organizations could be made to work under transparent and accountable system?

Challenges & Concerns: Some Questions?

Does setting up of orphanages serve as ‘Ideal Solution’ in a situation in which over 2.14 lakh orphans (Save The Children Survey) are calling for attention. In total, 2000 orphans (both boys & girls) are roughly said to be taken care of by various orphanages in the Valley. The paradox is that no one is talking about the welfare and rehabilitation of rest of the left out orphans (out of 2.14 lakh) or other destitute.

Yateem Khana Bemina-Photo:Bilal Bahadur

Yateem Khana Bemina-Photo( KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Many social scientists and opinion makers say that Orphanage is not any match to Home and the wardens cannot be the parents, therefore no match to the parental love and care. But, where would the orphaned children go?

The paradox is that no one is talking about the welfare and rehabilitation of rest of the left out orphans (out of 2.14 lakh) or other destitute.

There is a serious issue of seizure of the properties of the orphaned children by their nearest relatives or guardians. Is lawyer section sensitized about the same?

How many families have adopted or are ready to adopt all such underprivileged children and take care of them in the light of Prophet’s (PBUH) saying that “the best home amongst muslims is the one where an orphan is treated and nurtured well.”

Who are the people or families that visit orphanages regularly to spend some moments with the orphan inmates? Such children are a secluded lot who have no connection with our mainstream society.

Ailments & Diseases

There are reported instances wherein donations and funds collected out of public contributions are diverted towards those sectors that betray the objective and appeal for “generating monetary resources”.

There are reported cases wherein salaries of employees in voluntary or NGOs remain at par or sometimes surpassing those in Public Sector Enterprises. The work culture has almost become equivalent to that what is perceived like in the government sector. Paradoxically, there are reported cases wherein NGO employees work almost without any spirit of volunteerism. There remains a dire need to make Employee Strength public alongwith their salaries & allowances drawn out of public funds.

There are reported instances wherein the resources are spent on unproductive asset creation while there remains no need of the same.

There are reported instances where non professionals are handling educational matters of unfortunate children who have been orphaned or are destitute.

There are reported instances of utilization of resources such as Zakat is expended in those sectors that are not permissible under Shariah. There are reported instances where favouritism and nepotism are practiced.

There are reported cases wherein vote bank and blackmailing politics under the guise of democratic set up is practiced thereby making mockery of democratic principles.

There are reported instances wherein persons have occupied executive seats without actually working as volunteers on ground but for mere votes and deciding “important matters” in “special meetings” or “in times of need”.

Therefore, the “policy making by deadwood vote bank” is impacting the overall social sector.

There are reported instances where voice of dissent on crucial public interest issues is described as “treason” with the organization.

There are reported cases wherein authoritarianism prevails and sincere grass root volunteers are discouraged not to raise their heads on crucial matters of concern.

There are reported instances where non professionals are handling educational matters of unfortunate children who have been orphaned or are destitute.

There are reported instances wherein certain people have been able to carve out niche in generating international contacts for serving their own personal interests in the name of cause of destitute.

There are reported instances wherein call for self introspection and self accountability is described as “anti cause” activities.

Social Audit Commission?

There is a feeling among concerned people that there must be some kind of voluntary mechanism that will help to keep corruption and influence of bad elements at bay. Some say absence of accountability could cause great damage to the established institutions or public authorities as has been witnessed earlier in the cases of several credible organizations.

A mechanism is needed to curb any probable misappropriation and swindling of public funds. There must be an arrangement wherein genuine voices raised from within these Organizations are heard and appropriate response issued to the same in the larger public interest. There have been reported instances wherein the accused have utilized the outside influence and clout (of different organizations) allegedly to cover up their wrongdoings and follies.

Tariq Rather, Author

Besides, the Commission must focus on engagement of Ombudsmen preferably from DONORS to work as watchdog.
The related modalities, structure and involvement of more stakeholders and opinion makers could be worked out through open, transparent and legitimate process.

Tailpiece

The society, the capable and people with heart around shouldn’t ideally sleep in view of the magnitude of the grave issues confronting thousands of orphans, widows and other destitute.

The picture is not so rosy. Poor people die for medicines, poor widow is restless and helpless to feed her children, poor children have no access to education leave aside quality education while as unmarried girls are crossing 40.

The widows who could marry, are not able to do so because of non availability of dignified proposals (along with rehabilitation package for their children) of solemnizing the simple marriages. It seems distant dream for those women also who were divorced and have crossed even 40 years.

A bunch of voluntary organizations doing something good than nothing, is not the complete remedy. A full fledged vibrant, transparent and accountable social reformation movement at grass root level across nook & corner with both men and women working shoulder to shoulder, seems to be the need of the hour as a palliative solution to the painful problem. A stitch in time saves nine.

(Author is Senior Grade Indian Information Service Officer presently working as AIR Correspondent covering Kashmir region. Ideas expressed are his own. Feedback at tariqrather786@gmail.com)

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