Tuesday, October 24, 2006


This is a picture of the Trioon peak that my colleague snapped from our hotel, beautiful ain't it? Click through for a larger view.
The sun came out today morning, so the cold, depressing feel of yesterday is gone. The conference I'm attending has too many NGO's who somehow refuse to realise that sometimes things need to be commercially viable. Maybe I've become to spoiled or too cynnical, but I really hate the 'Holier than Thou' attitude that some people from Western NGO's still have towards India. Maybe the fact that they see cows, camels and elephants on the road and attach the 'backward' tag. Fair enough, we have a long way to go in income equality and even quality of living, but spare me the attitude. I still believe that NGO's can have a crucial role to play in the upliftment of India, a vital role in fact, but doing 'projects' especially on the technology front for free without any commercial viability does not always work. Well, it never works. What would happen if the people providing the free or subsidised service pull out. Talking about things are fine, but I haven't heard the term 'viable' spoken as yet. I think some Western NGO's need a serious reality check about 'India', a step towards that is to comprehend the concept of 'India'.
Maybe I'm growing too old and too cynical.


f-cubed said...

"Commercial viability" is blasphemy as far as the jholawallaas (and their firang sponsors) are concerned.

There are times when I seriously believce that this concept of "doing something without looking for rewards" is one of the reasons why we as a country have not progressed at a better rate.

Like for basic and higher education we still expect the institutions to be run as "Charity causes".

As a result we expect all our teachers to be satisfied with being seen as part of an "honourable profession" and as a consequence depriving them of a reasonable salary.


thalassa_mikra said...

Viraf, as a person with a degree in social work, and having worked in a part of the voluntary sector in India for 5 years, I would say that your assertion is incorrect.

The voluntary sectors thinks about commercial viability all the time, at least the ones who work on local economic development and income generation. Now translating that thought into a viable self-sustaining project is the difficult part, and I'd attribute it to the lack of marketing and organizational skills in the voluntary sector.

And what exactly is so unacceptable about firang sponsors? Are you one of those who is opposed to foreign investment in the Indian economy as well?

K, I don't know the NGO you were dealing with, but I think at least donor agencies that have worked in India for a long time, like HIVOS, SIDA, Ford Foundation, etc. don't have this attitude.

Even Christian agencies like Plan and World Vision are fairly empathetic, though I personally think their programmes are very flawed.

f-cubed said...

I am sure there are agencies that do do good work. It is just that so often I see these harebrained schemes being plugged that do not have a chance of surviving that I tend to be cynical about the whole lot.

Perhaps the successfull ones do not need to create a furore in the media and that is why only the rotten apples gets publicity.

And no. I am not opposed to Global money flowinng into the country in any form.

What am I opposed to is that very often the global funds coming in to the chraity sector tend to have a tag of "oh you poor needy darlings.. let me try and redeem my soul by sending you some money".

That attitude I think we can do without.


PS I warned you I am Cynical and if that is not enough I am a Baawaa. Trust me it does not get worse.

K said...

A cynical bawa, as if we needed more of those in the world.
But Thallassa, I think Viraf gets my point, there are several really good NGO's doing Grade-A work which is improving the lives of people. But, I've always (maybe because of my work) espoused capitalism, charity is well and good in times of natural disaster, but to really help people, teach them a profession, help them communicate. The summit I was attending was talking about Wi-Fi and yada yada, but missed the point that in the Indian context, mobiles work better.
Anyway, my anger towards the summit wasn't mainly confined to idiots who think they can change the world by putting up a wi-fi network where people can't use a computer. I still believe that if HDR mobile networks come to India by 2007 and spread out by 2008 it will be better than having Wi-Fi networkd and VoIP phones particularly given our population density.
Anyway, thats all technical talk. AsI was saying, I got rather pissed that the entire conference became an exercise for the Free Tibet movement instead of technology.