Essay on the concept of Voluntary Organisations



Official agencies admittedly form an essential constituent of the governmental set-up in every country, but nowhere can they perform at the functions and tasks, which the people expect of them. The role which such agencies play has to be supplemented by non-official or voluntary organizations comprising workers inspired by the spirit of social am national service, without any expectations of regular salaries or other material rewards and Perquisite.

Such agencies make a substantial contribution to positive and constructive activity, filling in the gaps and carrying on other useful activity the importance of which is being increasingly recognized in the modern State.

For several decades the Government of India was indifferent to voluntary organizations. The vital impact of volunteers' work during the country's freedom struggle was forgotten. Most of the national activity in those years was conducted on a voluntary basis; at best some of the workers received a petty subsistence allowance to keep their body and soul together.

In these connections we may recall the work done in the rural areas, caste-ridden societies, the tribal regions, and among women to facilitate their social transformation, by voluntary organization! established by G.K. Gokhale, Mahadev Ranade, Bal Gangadhar Tilal and Lala Lajpat Rai.

As a matter of fact, India has for decades been famous for its voluntary agencies, their mechanism and methods of collaboration. Some of the well-known voluntary organizations currently doing valuable public service are the Harijan Sevak Sangh, the Bharatiya Depressed Classes League, the Indian Red Cross Society, the Ramakrishna Mission, the Servants of India Society and the Social Work Centre (Rajasthan).

Official recognition of the vital role, which non-official agencies can play, was indicated recently through the Central Government's policy clarification. The Government now seeks the widest possible participation of voluntary organizations in the whole range of nation-building and development activity.

The Government has called for voluntary action for women's uplift, child welfare, family planning, and in health, sanitation, educational, social and economic fields. This alone can involve massive involvement in programmers; in fact, such schemes are ineffective unless mass participation and community action are assured.

In the area of rural reconstruction and poverty eradication, in particular, the contribution of voluntary organizations has been considerable. These workers command the local people's confidence while officials of various categories are regarded as outsiders merely carrying on their prescribed duties and then disappearing like birds of passage.

Voluntary bodies, especially those working at the grassroots level, can render service of which official agencies and their staff is incapable. Unfortunately, many high officials, for reasons, which smack of prejudice and mistrust, dislike voluntary organizations. During the Emergency (1975-77), for instance, most of the voluntary agencies became suspect.

Very often there is lack of encouragement by the Government and the necessary atmosphere conducive to voluntary work is lacking. As a result, according to a recent study, substantial funds sanctioned under various schemes for voluntary work have remained unutilized.

It is now officially conceded that the selection of intended beneficiaries (the individuals and groups for whom certain economic assistance and constructive employment programmes are drawn up) is better in every way and the people's genuine participation is also greater if voluntary agencies are brought into the picture in a planned manner.

Implementation of Government programmes implemented through officials suffers from various shortcomings and deficiencies bureaucratic attitudes, red tapism, delays, complacency, lack of earnestness and of sincerity among the workers, waste and leakage of funds, corruption. No wonder the overall results are poor despite the heavy expenditure.

Human beings are nowhere perfect, but experience has shown that voluntary workers, especially when they are given certain incentives, provided with the requisite facilities and are not looked upon with disfavour by officials, can ensure better results in the social and economic arenas. They have shown initiative as well as enterprise. They have adopted new paths and motivated large sections of the masses while officials are able to create only temporary fervour and enthusiasm.

The tragedy is that many voluntary organizations, except those, which enjoy the patronage of high-ups at the Central or State levels, have been compelled to fold up owing to several adverse circumstances, including intense rivalries and lack of adequate funds and workers.

Unless, they are regarded as partners in progress and accorded their due place (just as the role of the private sector in the planned economy is described as vital), they cannot function without let or hindrance. Since the field is now wide open for voluntary organizations, the prospects of expediting national reconstruction are brighter.