5 things we learned from Noshir Dadrawala and Ajit Dayal

HelpYourNGO was proud to host Noshir Dadrawala, CEO, Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy and Ajit Dayal, fund manager and philanthropist for a Fireside chat in January 2021. The talk covered everything from history, law, economics, social change and justice to fundraising and what the new world of Indian NGOs looks like. Here are five things we learnt from the Fireside Chat:

  1. The old and the new: “India has a very rich tradition of giving” said Noshir. “Our tradition goes back into looking at giving in three parts…it can be satvik giving, rajasik giving, tamasik giving…meaning it is rightleously given, it is probably given for your own personal aggrandization, or it may even be for a destructive purposes. Your giving can even lead to certain destructions, and this is something for some of us to ponder over.”
  2. Two centuries and going strong! Noshir pointed out that at present it’s a two-hundred year old law governing NGOs: “Institutionalised philanthropy as we know has come from colonial times. In fact, the first law that you will see is 199 years old, and that is the Societies Registration Act of 1860. Think about it, it’s a two century old law.” The Societies Registration Act today is an Act of Parliament and comes under the Right to Information Act.
  3. A legacy of suspicion towards NGOs?: “It was voluntary organizations who played a leading role in the freedom struggle, but they were seen as terrorists by the government” at the time, Noshir Dadrawala pointed out. An Asian Development Bank report corroborates that “during the second half of the 19th century nationalist consciousness spread across India and self-help emerged as the primary focus of sociopolitical movements. Numerous organizations were established during this period, including the Friend-in-Need Society (1858), Prathana Samaj (1864), Satya Shodhan Samaj (1873), Arya Samaj (1875), the National Council for Women in India (1875), and the Indian National Conference (1887)”. It’s not hard to see why the British government at the time was suspicious of these organizations’ efforts to spearhead social change. The suspicion towards NGOs seems to be a legacy of colonial times, echoing the British Government’s mistrust of Indians’ efforts to organize for change. As Ajit said, ‘the attitude towards NGOs, the attitude towards foreign money is…you’re going to take over my society, because the last guys who came – the British Empire, the East India Company..they’re going to rule India.
  4. Head over heart?: Noshir felt that “Earlier organizations were service driven, and not necessarily money driven. It’s a personal observation. They were driven by heart and a bit of the head. I think it’s now it’s all the head… Forget the heart side I think somewhere even the soul has gone out of giving organizations. It was driven more by passion than by policy.”
  5. Ease of Doing Good: We know what an Ease of Doing Business indicator looks like. Noshir Dadrawala has something to add – “How about a time when we can have ease of doing good in this country?” He said, “Let’s view NGOs in a better lightNGOs also contribute to the GDP of this country. We provide livelihoods, we provide jobs, we provide education, we provide healthcare systems…” He would like to more enabling laws for NGOs than there are present.

Watch the whole Fireside Chat on our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IkwGSn7UJE

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