In a large developing country like India, Non – Governmental Organizations act as alternative or complementary service providers and try to bridge the numerous gaps in the developmental processes between reach and requirement of services. These alternative service providers play an important role by helping governments through advocating, partnering and complementing the works of the state in order to ensure that all those who are excluded, enjoy their right of equality in society.
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Governments are legally, morally and socially responsible that the entire population enjoys their human rights including the right to education and health. These responsibilities are reinforced by most national constitutions and laws and various international conventions like WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF etc., which are ratified by states and are binding to all future administrators. Yet after so many efforts and promises to implement the laws and constitutions the weaker section of the society, not only in India but in all parts of the world, is still denied the human rights of quality education, health and equality.
Healthy and erudite people are the core of any development. Lack of access to the education, securely acquired knowledge, skills and good health is a means for its diminution. Sustainable development is possible only through the access to meaningful learning which in turn is crucial for improved productivity, lessened poverty, improved and preventive health care, empowered women and enhanced equality.
NGOs, as development partners, have the main harmonizing role to play in countries where governments have failed or are unable to fulfill their customary role. In the health and education sectors, there are many success stories that not only created the required physical infrastructure but also developed the academic and caring environment for those who are still left – out.
NGOs as carriers of inclusive growth
Government of India is focusing on the financial inclusion of the society at large. But still there is a greater need for the inclusive society so as the underserved must not feel left out. Here NGOs can play a better role for the integration of this weaker section with the society where government’s efforts are not able to fulfill the gaps and the aspirations.
Access to basic education and health care facilities are basically considered as the prime responsibilities of governments. Governments try to be in line with the internationally – agreed goals of “Education for All” which state that primary education should be free and compulsory. The main objective behind these targets was on augmenting access of children to basic formal education provided by governments. Role of governments as a facilitator of basic education is pertinent as a literate society can take an advantage in building nation’s identity and can also amass benefits of social and economic development. Not only the society at large but individuals can also be benefited in terms of lifestyle, lifecycle and across generations. In developing countries like India, the imperative for educated people is even greater, as it is not only about exercising the right to be learned and a duty to contribution towards the nation for its development, but it is also important for ensuring security.
Health care and education are the primary service sectors given these are the largest, the most prevalent and perceptible institutions in the country, visible even in the secluded regions. Due to their cultural, social and economic dimensions of health and education sectors, these are the most complex institutions to administer and manage. Thus, irrespective of all the efforts and money put in for the fulfillment of constitutional pledge of “Education for All” and “Healthy Citizens”, India is still struggling with the serious issues of poor quality, lack of motivation, disorganization and inadequate access in the schooling and health system. Moreover, where the government’s provision to realize the objectives of universal primary education and healthy citizens has been inadequate to fulfill demand, the sustainable and long-term partnership of government and NGOs can bridge this gap. NGOs as stakeholders in the governance act as driving force behind greater cooperation through the active mobilization of public support for a particular cause.
With transformed focus on expanding the facilities of quality health care and education and to be in sync with the goals of international agencies, greater attention is being paid on role of non – government stakeholders that they are playing and could play in supporting benefactors and government in achieving targets, while government being the main provider. This attracts consideration of the changing role of the government needs to play in supporting the demands of improved health care facilities and quality primary education in cases where it is not the direct provider. The government’s role differs according to the type of the NGO and the extent to which they compliment the public delivery of the services.
NGOs advocate their role towards the achievement of goals of inclusive growth either by putting pressure on the government agencies or by involving directly as care takers. The underserved may take many forms including those “hard – to – reach” in terms of gender, street children, orphans, disbanded children in post conflict areas, children with disabilities, refugees, child labourers etc. These underserved are not able to avail their basic necessities of education and health and hence cannot be a part of inclusive growth because of poverty, and or because of socio – cultural and other demand related reasons. Inadequate supply of resources in isolated and rural areas can further aggravate these constrictions.
NGOs and Orphan’s need for Education and Health
As per a study conducted by SOS Children’s village based on third National Health Survey, there are about 20 million children (about 4% of the total population) are orphan. According to this, 0.3% children were orphaned because of death of their parents and rest 99.7% have been abandoned. The main reasons for such high figures are ascribed to poverty as the main contributor while social unrest and terrorism in some states, as revealed by this survey of SOS Children’s village.
Poverty, disability, disagreements, and lack of awareness are noteworthy constrictions to many children getting into schools. Economic hardships and society’s lack of interest and protection mean that orphans may lose the opportunity to the avail the facilities provided by the public health system as well. Children who have been orphaned by the death of parents or the single surviving parent is not able to take care, are commonly discarded by society, denied affection and care and left with few resources to live on. For social and economic reasons these children often drop out from schools. Sometimes these children are undernourished and suffer from ill – health and are at a risk of mistreatment and negligence. In many situations these children are pushed into illicit activities and sexual activities in case of girl child.
India is leaving no stones unturned with the objective to bring orphan into the mainstream. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Ministry, Health Ministry and Education Ministry of Indian government have implemented various welfare and health schemes for the underprivileged. Also there are more than 800 orphanages across India for the upliftment of this underserved section of society.
The government’s endeavor to improve the access of primary education and health care facilities for orphans is rooted in the importance of basic human rights for all children. This effort of government’s can ensure a status of equality and social security among all sections of society. The benefits of social incorporation, psychological development, secure and structured environment etc. can be leveraged by conferring knowledge and life skills.
Vishwa Nirmal Prem Ashram – The NGO
According to the official statistics, the orphans in India are 4% (nearly 20 million) of the total population, which is significant figure and should be looked into very seriously. Legislation to combat the child health and education in India is both disproportionate and inadequately enforced. Despite existing legislation, these are the children who constitute the never – been – to – school category, posing a serious challenge to the uiversalisation of primary education and to the goals of WHO. Irrespective of allocation of considerable funds for the education and health to all, government strategies to combat the problem have not been very effective.
The Vishwa Nirmal Prem Ashram is a Non – Government Charitable Organisation in Greater NOIDA, U.P., has developed a model that uses health care and education as a means of tackling the problems of orphan, with the main focus on girl child and destitute women without any differentiation of caste, religion, region, race or colour. The ashram is a project of H. H. Shri Mataji Devi Foundation. The organization is registered under the Trust Registration Act and Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The organization is funded by the members of the Sahaj Yoga Organization and there are some international donors as well. Seminars and workshops are conducted as fund raising activities. NGO does not get any financial assistance from the government agencies. Mrs. Giesla Matzer, the Executive Director told that the ashram is controlled but not sponsored by the state government.
The Ashram is managed and run by the chairman Sir C. P. Srivastava and the trustees. The day – to – day activities are administered by Austrian Citizen Mrs. Gisela Matzer, the Executive Director. She is very affectionately being called Oma by the residents and is like grandmother who always showers them with her motherly love. Mrs. Darshi Gursharan, the beloved granny, has many years of experience as a school principal.
The NGO has two branches namely the Vishwa Nirmal Prem Ashram and Sahaja Yoga Health and Research Centre. The Ashram spreads over 10,120 square meters. The building is swarming with lush green gardens and ponds, thus one is always in nature’s lap. The garden has many trees, bushes and flowers. Thus one feels completely in tune with Mother Nature throughout the year. Building of ashram encompasses four well furnished big halls, well – equipped kitchen, dining hall, doctor’s room, two guests rooms, computer room, a small beauty parlour, and library.
A woman, being the mother, is the creator and preserver of all humankind. However, i
n our society the number of needy, abandoned women and girls is extremely large and this is the most helpless section of the society. The main thrust of Vishwa Nirmal Prem Ashram has been to work for this miserable section of society by providing them shelter, making them capable to acquire skill sets through vocational training for sustained life and thus helping them to integrate into society. Starting its work in 2003 in Greater NOIDA city of Uttar Pradesh, Vishwa Nirmal Prem Ashram is founded with the vision “have pure motherly love for every human, every animal, and the whole earth. Develop inner balance and peace; be collective, tolerant and respectful to everyone.”
This NGO has provided shelter to 54 girls who have been unfortunate to lose their parents at a very young age. Girls with single parent are also provided shelter under extraordinary circumstances when that single parent is not capable of providing a good environment because of unfortunate such as being physically challenged or illness. The age group of children varies from the very young to adolescents.
The second branch Sahaja Yoga Health and Research Centre was started in the year 2011 with the notion to provide free health care facilities to the residents of ashram and outdoor patients. The Health Centre is situated in picturesque, green surroundings and is a unique Health Centre of its kind in the world. At the Health Centre treatment for diseases is done by vibratory awareness, developed through Sahaja Yoga meditation. Since its inception, the health centre is has witnessed an increasing number of patients and has attracted many overseas visitors and many Indians. Cases of Hypertension, Bronchial Asthma, Diabetes, Migraine, Epilepsy, Depression and Cancer have been cured at the Health Centre.
Access to education for the hard-to-reach children – The Formal Education System
Government initiatives to reform the educational service sector by concentrating on pedagogy and teaching and training processes as a means of increasing quality of education have not been adequate to bring about an effective and transformation in the quality of education. The idea of the NGO was conceived by Mata Nirmala Devi, which is developing strategies for educational inclusion of orphans and offering help to destitute women. The Vishwa Nirmal Prem Ashram started with the notion to put children in formal schooling system. The VNPA has developed and introduced systematic and innovative pedagogic approaches like multi – level teaching, child – centered teaching, development of cognitive and non – cognitive skills among children and integrated learning.
The girls of ashram are sent to attend nearby English medium schools. In – campus computer coaching is provided to the residents. The main reason behind the formal schooling is that the girls would be associated with positive images of a more professionally developed, and regulated system. This would help girls to find jobs in formal sector and would have a sustained and secure future. As per the information provided by Mrs. Gisela Matzer (Oma), the managing director, two of the girls of ashram are pursuing their career in hotel management.
Girls are assisted in their homework by professional teachers and they have special tuition classes for students as well. Depending upon the interests and talents they are trained in various art forms and skill sets from young age. Financial assistance and other helps are provided to the grown-up girls for their higher studies. These are provided with requisite support to find suitable jobs and many are also helped in matrimony based upon their will. In matrimonial cases, the Sahaj Yogis are preferred and there is a system of proper checking of backgrounds in such situations. In few cases persons outside their community are allowed to marry women or girls of ashram.
Vocational Training – The Non – formal Education System
Only reading and writing skills are not sufficient for children, they should be equipped with life skills as a mean for their sustained future. There must be provisions for development of cognitive and non – cognitive skills. The curriculum and teaching methodologies should be pertinent and meaningful for the life situations of underprivileged. To meet out such expectations, innovation and quality improvement is demanded in the areas of education. NGO provision often intends to bring benefits in terms of the alternative forms of pedagogy and accountability it aims to offer is trough non – formal education system. Non – formal educational system may be defined as any systematic and organized educational activity, different from formal schooling system, used to provide selected types of learning and skills to particular subgroups of the population, adults as well as children. Non – formal education includes trainings in the areas like farming and occupational skills, adult literacy programmes and various community programmes of instruction in health, family planning and the like.
In this regard Vishwa Nirmal Prem Ashram along with formal schooling to its children is aimed at providing training in various non – mainstream courses like music, painting, cooking, embroidery tailoring, fashion designing, beauty care, handicrafts, and Indian classical/folk dance. These training are carried out with the main focus on equipping the residents with employability skills and developing residents to be shareholders of the growing society. Also the non – formal education is a shortcut and cost effective way of providing basic education. These non – mainstream trainings also are the fund raising activities for the organization by selling art and craft items.
Seminars, Excursions and other activities
To make them feel as an integral part of the society, the residents of NGO are involved in various programs and festivals inside and outside the Ashram. All the festivals like Holi, Diwali, Christmas, and Raksha Bandhan are celebrated by the family members of Ashram. These girls are also appreciated by the community and the society members for their participation in various cultural activities. Sahaja Yoga seminars and programmes are attended by the residents across India.
NGO Involvement in Health Research and Development
In developing countries, NGOs have pivotal role in addressing health issues. These organizations are known for developing and implementing innovative and strategic programmes that address health issues. Being in the vicinity of local conditions, these NGOs have requisite data on health infrastructure and personnel and major obstacles to improvement. With these possessions, NGOs often are able to reach those segments of society that are either neglected by society or are not targeted as priority. These non – government organizations try hard to meet the basic needs of unserved by ensuring access to health services, creating a clean and safe environment and promoting community participation.
In ashram every new entrant has to undergo extensive medical checkup in order to ensure that she is not suffering from communicable diseases. Every resident has to make a health checkup on regular basis. For minor illness of residents in – house medical facilities are there. In case of unremitting ailments the girls are resident ladies are taken to nearby hospitals in Greater Noida, NOIDA or Delhi. As per the information provided by the Executive Director, Mrs. Gisela Matzer, some hospitals provide free beds to the patients of NGO whereas other expenses like medicine etc. are to be borne by the ashram itself. Time – to – time dental camps and health checkup camps are organized with the help of medical agencies.
Since the residents of the Ashram come from very depressed life situations, the inner strength and peace is essential. Yoga, meditation and other skills are taught to women and girls that help them trounce trauma and hence have inner balance and peace. These practices are based on the principles of Sahaj Yoga meditation to achieve the highest state of awareness. This gives them a feeling of being loved and respected and also gives them a feeling of social security. Because of her empathy and concern to alleviate human torments, Shri Mataji has created a Health and Research Centre in the premises of ashram to solve the most pressing problems of the society like health and also to help them become better individuals through the process of Sahaj Yoga.
While access to state schooling has grown in many countries in recent years, a hardcore of marginalised children continue to be excluded from this. The objectives to include these marginalized children into mainstream to some extent are realized by NGOs. The endeavors put in by The Vishwa Nirmala Prem Ashram to gain access to the primary education are worth appreciating. The influences engendered by the NGO can be summarized as follows:
Teaching, guiding, counseling and nurturing children to make them responsible and productive citizens of India.
For a sustained and secure future and to be a part of mainstream equipping these children with life skills by providing and assisting with education and training.
Sponsorship for school fees and higher technical education as the case may be.
Providing safe haven for those children and women who are homeless and children who are unfortunate not having parents.
To provide healthcare facilities for orphan and destitute women with the help of in – house doctors as well as multispecialty hospitals.
By establishing projects and activities that generate income for the girls and women of the ashram.
Helping adult girls in matrimony if these girls wish to.
Assisting women and adult girls of the ashram in jobs and placement activities for subsistence.
Assisting residents to cope up with the dilemma of life through meditation using principle of Sahaj Yoga and thus giving a positive and thoughtful approach towards life.
In the light of these points, it may be concluded that unless NGOs make significant contribution in the promotion and implementation of scientific, innovative and culturally suitable approaches to improve the conditions of underprivileged in the fields of health care and education, their best efforts may not prove sufficient for ending various problems faced by this section of society. The role of NGOs in sensitizing underprivileged and make them demand their entitlements for basic rights is very significant.
Table 1: Governing Body of NGO
Sir C.P. Srivastava
Prof. Kiran Walia
Mrs. Gisela Matzer
Mrs. Sadhana Varma
Mrs. Vineeta Shanker
Mrs. Neeta Rai
Mrs. Malini Khanna
Mrs. Malti Prasad
Ms Darshi Gurdarshan
Table 2: The core activities of the NGO Surveyed
Name of the Organisation
Vishwa Nirmala Prem Ashram
rehabilitation of destitute women and orphan children