There are NGOs and then there are NGOs in India. In fact according to some estimates, there are anywhere between 2 to 3 million NGOs in India. There seems to be a problem of plenty here. A news item in Times of India in the year 2015 had a compelling point to make – India has just 1 cop for every 943 people but has 1 NGO for every 600 people. Just the state of Uttar Pradesh has about half a million NGOs at work. Impressive numbers. But just a small fraction of the above numbers file their Income Tax returns annually. The Supreme Court of India has ordered CBI to collect information from the states and union territories about NGOs operating in their respective territories. As of the end of 2015, majority of the big states such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu are yet to provide the details. But these NGOs put together get donations annually ranging between Rs. 10000 to Rs. 30000 crores as per various guesstimates. There is very little transparency and accountability amongst NGOs about not just the money received but also about where the money goes.
This kind of a situation presents a tough scenario for many of the genuine NGOs and most of the donors. Genuine NGOs doing outstanding work, especially in the hinterland, have no way of demonstrating their work to a larger audience as they don’t have the required marketing muscle, thus limiting their scope. Donors, especially after the CSR Act has come into the picture recently, have challenges in separating the wheat from the chaff. The new CSR Act has brought in about Rs. 20,000 crores additionally to be spent on broadly identified areas and activities every year. Donors don’t have answers to the questions of what, when, where, who and why.
The ShikshaDaan Yatra that we began in March 2015 is aimed precisely to solve this vexatious problem. Through the Yatra, we intend to visit all the 676 districts in India and meet stakeholders connected with higher education in India – students, parents, schools, colleges, skill development institutions, NGOs, government officials, donors, and others. In about a year since we began the Yatra, we have met a number of our stakeholders and in the process have got tremendous insights about our target group. We realise that India is a complex country with huge variations and hence needs to be treated differently with different approaches. What works in Himachal Pradesh need not and will not work in a state like Tamil Nadu. And vice versa. We have so far covered 25 districts across Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and of course, Delhi. Besides funding about 200 students pursuing higher education or skill development programs, we have facilitated several partnerships that add value to each one of our partners, spread across India.
We constantly meet people who have a number of questions to ask about our Yatra, its objectives, outcomes, unique experiences, insights etc. We share our experiences and insights, and they are surprised that there is a world much beyond what they have seen and imagined.
To the question ‘Why ShikshaDaan’ and why not the million others, our reply is:
- Every single partner of ShikshaDaan has been personally vetted and validated by us
- All of them in turn are validated by validating institutions such as CAF or Give India or asked to be validated
- Our partners are not just located in and around the cities but in the deep hinterland making a huge difference in the lives of their target groups
- We add distinct and unique value to our partners by connecting them to other support organizations
- Our unique partnership model and lean and mean infrastructure ensures that nearly 100% of donations received are transferred to the beneficiaries.
- Our focus is on providing scholarships to talented students pursuing higher education or skill development programs leading to more and better employment opportunities. We don’t operate outside of this focus area.
- We have an advisory council that provides extraordinary strategic inputs, consistently
- We have filed our income tax returns since inception in the year 2012 for four years in a row and are getting ready for the fifth.
- All our receipts and payments till date are only through proper instruments such as cheque, demand draft or online transfers and not a single penny through cash.
We are confident that in this year we would be able to cover lot more districts through our Yatra and with the insights thereof, will continue to make a huge difference in the lives of our stakeholders….