Why Kashmir Charities Require Social Audit?

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by Tariq A Rather

All the governments have moral and constitutional obligation to work for the safety, security, welfare and socio-economic development of all the people. So, the government setups need to ensure their constitutional preamble and their oath is respected and practically implemented.

There may be some individuals who do argue that common people should not become volunteers to do those activities that should ideally be undertaken by the particular departments of the civil administration.

Likewise, some individuals contend that when Health Department runs hospitals why should there be voluntary work like that is being undertaken by some credible voluntary organizations at various Kashmir based government hospitals providing a wheelchair, trolleys, urine/sputum collection containers and ambulance service to the needy patients.

Similarly, some others say orphanages should not be established at all. Similarly, there are people who talk and comment on those issues where they remain practically away from the ground.

On the ground, we may see myriad issues concerning different sections of people ranging from poor, destitute to needy orphans, widows, half widows, divorcees and, of course, poor and needy patients afflicted with various ailments that demand access to affordable and accurate health care.  Issues of elders and senior citizens at our homes is another black spot on our social fabric.

While knowing about certain ground issues pertaining to the government working, I feel those who have initiated voluntary social service work particularly after the outbreak of militancy in the early 90s, have really done a great job. Their social intervention through mohalla committees, Baitul Maal (Islamic Charity Units), full-fledged bigger voluntary organizations, non-profit trust units and all such similar small institutions, has substantially helped, supported and safeguarded the basic socio-economic fabric of Kashmir during past nearly three decades. So, to me, the sincere, deep-rooted and timely action and intervention could be described as a watershed in the overall evolution of the Kashmiri nation.

Those who practically work know the nuances, impediments and hassles in the way of any work or assignment. So, to create and develop institutions of social strength should be ideally taken up as a prioritized work by each one of us. The reason is simple. If we don’t do it today, tomorrow our next generation would fail to be like a human society.

A dental surgeon cum social activist who often visits his children in the United States (almost six months in a year) says that majority of the citizens in America and Western countries commit their time, energy and resources for social service activities through a well-structured pattern while ensuring balance in their day to day life.

So, we as individuals need to think, prioritize and take apt and feasible steps to do something that is required while keeping in view the fundamental structural components to put in place for overall harmonious socio-economic structure.

Those who observe from the distance cannot fully understand the practical issues, inhibitions, hassles, problems, taboos and the solutions. Those who practically work without “politics of sorts” perhaps know better than those who shamelessly remain mute spectators.

However, certain issues, ailments or the crevices have crept in the overall voluntary social service structure. By this, I mean the systems in place in various voluntary social organizations currently in Kashmir region, do lack robust, vibrant and accountable social audit mechanism. This voluntary mechanism could act as a watchdog to undertake regular servicing and ensure overhauling and rejuvenation of the voluntary social service system.

Those who contribute and donate their hard earned monetary and material resources have primary obligation to check the Expenditure System within a particular Organization even if it has earned fame and name over a period of time.

There is a need to check and analyse the head wise expenditure and its percentage for actual beneficiaries.

The donors must ask for the Educational Report Card of orphan children/adults (both boys & girls) in whose name the donations are made.

The details must also include success stories like how many inmates of the particular orphanage were enrolled in professional courses or how many got good jobs in government, corporate, private sector or in entrepreneurship.

The donors have obligation to ask for details about the beneficiaries like widows, destitute who are named and listed under various “welfare programmes” of these organizations.

The NGOs and Voluntary Organizations have set up fatty employee establishments with maximum non-professional workforce thereby monetary resources seem to be squandered without any accountability. The employees mostly remain apathetic towards the issues and matters of the beneficiaries in whose name the people make donations. These employees, as in government and private sector, have been seen focusing on salaries, overtime and other allowances, pay hikes, soft interest-free loans, and other privileges. In addition, the employees have also created a unionism network and lobbyist to influence the volunteer functionaries at the helm of affairs to serve their interests.

This ‘disease’ is damaging the edifice of the voluntary and accountable character of public charities.

Tariq A Rather

These organizations have created immovable assets in the form of buildings, offices and other infrastructure to carry on their activities. There is a need to probe the requirement and purpose of creating such an infrastructure. The ownership needs to checked and made public. Similarly, the requirement of movable assets like vehicles /cars /SUVs needs to be seen. Whether there is an eco-friendly and comfortable transport facility for the inmates in an orphanage or there are vehicles for the functionaries only. This needs to be checked and audited by the donors.

There should be serious steps to ensure professional workforce available takes various responsibilities ranging from managing offices, creating databases, public relations and public outreach and media strategy to reach out to more probable donors as well as the prospective beneficiaries.

(Author is Assistant Director News, (Senior Grade) Indian Information Service Officer, presently working as AIR Correspondent covering Kashmir region. Ideas expressed in this article are personal.)

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