India Uncut

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Friday, February 04, 2005

The politics of social work

In all the writing that I did while travelling through the tsunami-affected areas of Tamil Nadu about a month ago (archived here), I had plenty of occasion to praise AID India, a relief organisation that did excellent, focussed work amid the devastation. Unfortunately, though, the social work that they do has got mired in politics. They’ve been criticised by a handful of their donors in the US for associating with a leftist organisation called The Democratic Youth Forum of India (DYFI).

Now, here’s what the situation is. AID India have relatively good funding, and their relief and rehabilitation planning is excellent – but while they have no shortage of urban volunteers, they don’t have as many volunteers in the villages as they would like. DYFI, on the other hand, lacks the resources of AID India, but has plenty of local volunteers to offer in the villages of Tamil Nadu. The synergy is obvious, and the two organisations did some wonderful work together after the tsunami struck.

I had written about this in a number of posts, and a sentence in this one (also archived here, and published on rediff here) is now at the center of a controversy. I had written: “DYFI suffers from the drawback of not having a high profile and, consequently, having rather low funds. But AID India takes care of that.”

This was taken by many people to indicate that AID India funds DYFI, which is not true. AID India does not fund and has never funded DYFI, which was something that A Ravishankar, one of their key functionaries in Chennai, had told me during my trip. Instead, by including DYFI volunteers in their relief umbrella, AID India enables DYFI to play a more productive role in the relief work than they otherwise would have been able to.

I felt the need to clarify this because there’s been too much controversy recently about AID India’s relationship with DYFI. Frankly, I think it is all a fuss about nothing. AID India have set certain objectives for themselves in terms of socal work, and using DYFI’s manpower can help their achieve those goals. I am strongly opposed to communist parties like DYFI in the political and economic spheres, where I believe their naïve and misguided ideas can cause a lot of damage. But in terms of social work, they do a fantastic job. That is the only sphere in which AID India associate with them.

Please do read my earlier post on this subject: “Separating politics from social work” (also archived here). Also read AID India’s clarifications on this issue, here and here.
amit varma, 4:41 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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