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II.9.1 Role of N.G.O.s in tribal development

NGOs are defined by the World Bank as “private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development”

Apart from Voluntary Sector alternative terms like Non governmental organisations, Independent Sector, Civil Society, Grassroots Organisation, Self Help Groups, transnational social movement organizations, private voluntary organizations, self-help organizations and Non-State Actors are used.

Types of NGOs

The types of Non-Governmental Organizations are defined on the basis of –

(i) orientation and (ii) level of co-operation.

  • NGO type by orientation:-
    1. Charitable orientation;
    2. Service orientation;
    3. Participatory orientation;
    4. Empowering orientation;
  • NGO type by level of co-operation
    1. Community- Based Organization;
    2. City Wide Organization;
    3. National NGOs;
    4. International NGOs;
  1. In the pre-independence India, conventional volunteerism was aimed primarily at charitable works, ushering in social reforms, providing relief and rehabilitation for the people who became the victims of natural calamities like drought, flood, cyclones, etc.
  2. in post-independence India modern volunteerism has become an issue-based approach, an ideology which aimed at income generating programmes, welfare services (like providing education and health service for the underprivileged), protecting human rights (advocacy for women empowerment and the marginalised), creating awareness about environmental protection, AIDS, launching crusade against child labour, assisting the displaced who are the products of development-induced programmes, etc.

NGOs are often known as the “harbingers of change”.  They play multifarious roles like that of advocates, educators, catalysts, lobbyists, conscientisers, protectors of human rights and mass mobilisers who work incessantly for development. They have come forward with a human face to serve a human cause. They have emerged as the universal “Third Force” striving for empowerment as well as social transformation.

The activities of the NGOs in Tribal affairs are of two types:

  1. To supplement the effort of the Government in such fields where the government is unable to reach the outreached;
  2. To launch a crusade against the policies and actions of the Government which result in injustice and exploitation;

In the age of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation where the state is withdrawing its authority from many of the development sectors and market is not much willing to share the burden of development, NGOs have emerged as a liberator to protector of  the society from the onslaught and challenges of consumerism coupled with an urge for an equitable distribution of the fruits of development.

The NGOs are known for their virtues of human touch, dedication, great initiatives, flexibility, positive orientation, bonding with the society to reach the masses in a very effective manner. They are often regarded as the partners of development. They make an honest endeavour to empower the marginalised people in such a way so that they can stand on their own feet with self reliance and depend less on charity and concessions provided by others.


  • Care and Welfare
    1. Service and delivery
    2. Mobilizing resources
    3. Research and innovation
    4. Human resource development
    5. Public information
  • Change and Development:
    1. Welfare organisations
    2. Development organisations
    3. Environmental organisations
    4. Indigenous people’s organisations
    5. Women’s organisations
    6. Youth organisations
    7. Human right organisations
    8. Environmental groups
    9. Income generating projects
    10. Job creation programmes
    11. Children organisations
    12. Disabilities organisations
    13. Workers organisations


  1. The Christian missionaries are perhaps the oldest among the various agencies responsible for the development of tribes through welfare schemes such as opening schools, dispensaries, hospitals to the people were undertaken. The intensity of their voluntary services can be traced out in the tribal belts of Assam, Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
  2. Inspired by Gandhian values, a seva kendra was established for the first time in Ranchi in 1940. It formulated two categories of programs the first to implement plans on tribal education and the second to encourage the scheme of Khadi production, Cottage industries, crusade against alcoholism, and distribution of ayurvedic medicines and to form Gram panchayat and cooperative societies.
  3. Bharatiya Adimjati Sevak Sangh under the Presidentship of Dr. Rajendra Prasad focused in publishing tribal problems
  4. Nagaland Gandhi Ashram focused in establishing health centres.
  5. Ramakrishna mission has done excellent work by various activities, such as relief and rehabilitation, medical services, educational work etc.
  6. Green Peace is working in field of promotion of good governance by seeing that the tribal rights are safeguarded.

NGOs can add thrust in following fields-

  • NGOs can contribute in a positive note to the development of tribal health and in the protection of their indigenous knowledge base. They have a profound knowledge of the flora and fauna, the appropriate plant species with medical importance, their location, the parts to be used, time of collection, preparation and administration of the same.
  • To start the sale counter of Minor Forest Product (MFP) of Women.
  • Education – put tribal children to school.
  • Improving the economic, social, environmental etc. standard of the people.
  • To stimulate self-help and self-reliance through various field training programmes.
  • To provide health and education to women
    and children.
  • To carry out environment promotion programme through safe drinking water
    among the needy, establishment of latrine in the school campus and in common
  • Publishing of news, letters, booklets, periodicals, leaflets, etc. with the aims of
    creating awareness among the people.
  • To facilitate free boarding and lodging to the SCs and STs School children for higher
  • To organize sports competition among the school children and the village youths to represent in the state, national and international level.
  • To provide employment guarantee by implementing various income generating
  • To organize work committees, to fight against dowry deaths and women
  • To bring out the community wastelands and individual lands under plantation
    programmes to make land green and ecologically balanced.
  • To arrange irrigation facilities and other facilities to the lands of small and marginal farmers for production of more food grains.
  • To take up infrastructure development like construction of village connection roads,
  • excavation of tanks for pisciculture, construction of ring bond, etc. for the
    development of the people.
  • Strengthening local governance at grassroots through PRI initiatives.
  • Sustainable development of livelihood of under-privileged marginalized oppressed
  • Women’s empowerment,promotion and strengthening of Selp-Help Groups.
  • To provide environment education and promote village sanitation.
  • To develop human resource and literacy.
  • Provide employment through establishment of technical, non-technical and vocational training institute.
  • To provide awareness programme on STDs/HIV/AIDS.
  • Handicraft promotion and development of rural artisans.
  • Revamping of culture for better living.
  • Marketing of rural agricultural and handicraft products.
  • Land development and natural resource management activities.

Concerns –

  1. It is an astonishing fact that sometimes there are no linkage and coordination among the different NGOs that are working in the same geographical area and for a nearly identical purpose.
  2. There should be more transparency in the function of the NGOs so that they may garner the support and faith of the ordinary people.
  3. There is a need for closer interactions and exchange of ideas between the beneficiaries and volunteers of the project. They should explain their programmes to the beneficiaries and involve them in the decision-making process. The NGOs should try to apply indigenous knowledge base.
  4. The work should be of a sustainable nature.
  5. Fragmentation, powerlessness, corruption, nepotism, and internal weaknesses are some of the negative traits of the NGOs.
  6. The NGOs hardly disclose their funding source and expenditure pattern. They refuse to reveal the names of their funding partners and reasons for tying up with them.
  7. The NGOs are often alleged of using foreign money to undermine the state’s authority. In a free market economy, the donor agencies are often found scouting around the philanthropic houses. A proliferation of easy money often alters the operation style, the cost calculus, basic ethos, motivations, idealism and ideological underpinning of the sector.
  8. NGOs are in a need of a regularised code of ethics and conduct. Flamboyant attitude of the NGO professionals are definitely not encouraging.
  9. With the easy availability of foreign aids, working for an NGO has become a very good career option. Many retired bureaucrats take interest nowadays in opening up an NGO both as a pastime and a financially viable alternative. Therefore, the idealism with which the NGOs appeared in the social panorama is declining now.
  10. There are allegations against the NGOs for large scale bungling, cheating and forgery.
  11. Lack of accountability and commitment to the welfare of the masses are often witnessed.
  12. They bring temporary solution to the problem and often fail to address the root cause of it and eradicate it.
  13. The NGOs fail to scale or successfully transplant their lessons and experiences into large organisations and programmes for they fail to take into account the socio-cultural and area specific realities.
  14. The NGOs are themselves entrenched between the welfare state on one hand and economy driven by globalisation on the other.


NGOs with profound knowledge about the community adopt a culturally sensitive approach to bring the desired change. Such approach builds a trustworthy relationship with the people. This is fundamental to educate the people on the expected outcomes of an intervention. The volunteers of NGOs live with the prospective beneficiaries and interact with them in formal and informal situations.  They should also act as a bridge between the government organization and the people by playing an active advocacy role. This would be helpful not only for the people but also to the NGO for the successful implementation of the programs. An agency to streamline the activities of NGOs will be very productive. But, such agency should not kill the autonomy of any NGO. Despite the loopholes, the NGOs are undoubtedly acting as a safety net and playing a vital role in the development of tribal communities. They do not have magical powers to solve all the problems, but they can effectively work as catalysts in the development process.

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